Both a residential subdivision and a student housing project saw a unanimous denial.
A 21-acre proposed development with 30 lots did not fit the feel of west Cobb, which is less intensely developed than east Cobb, commission members said. The site is on the west side of West Sandtown Road southwest of Dallas Highway across from Old Dallas Road and neighbors the Stonebridge and Stillwater subdivisions.
Planning commission members said the impact on existing homeowners would be too negative to approve.
“The proposal diminishes the purchase of every resident who has moved to west Cobb for the rural nature,” said Keli Gambill of the People Looking After Neighborhoods civic group.
The planning commission’s word isn’t the final say. The Cobb Board of Commissioners will hear the case at its meeting 9 a.m. Aug. 20 at 100 Cherokee St.
The 29 opposing residents at the hearing Tuesday excitedly whispered in agreement after the commission voted 4-0, with Judy Williams absent, to deny the proposal to construct the 2,700- to 4,500-square foot homes ranging in price from $400,000 to $550,000.
“If you want a big lot, and not everyone wants a big lot, but if you do, this is the place in Cobb County you do it,” said Bob Hovey, planning commission member.
Under its current zoning designation, the developer, Marietta-based Blake Properties Inc., could build 20 lots which is 10 less than what it asked for.
Garvis Sams, an attorney who represents the developer, says county staff recommended approval of the development, and the Board of Commissioners will face conflicting opinions when it takes on the case in two weeks.
“It’s unusual for a planning commission, or for that matter the Board of Commissioners, to take a position that’s in opposition to their staff’s recommendation,” Sams said.
Concerns rise over density, storm water
At issue is the site’s proximity to land considered to be “very low density residential” which allows zero to two units on each acre and land designated as “rural residential” allowing zero to one unit on an acre in the county’s future land-use plan. That plan is a non-binding guideline for how Cobb will be developed in the future.
“When you drive down that road, it’s going to feel like somebody dropped this piece of medium residential (homes) in the middle of the country side,” said Michael Terry, planning commission chairman.
Todd Rice, who owns property in the Stonebridge subdivision, doesn’t want to see that happen.
“We have big lots and big trees, and we would like to keep it that way,” Rice said.
Goreham has concerns
Helen Goreham, who represents the area on the Board of Commissioners, didn’t say how she will vote when the issue comes before her, but said when a similar zoning case was introduced after she entered office, she upheld the land-use plan that calls for lower density housing.
“I’m very concerned regarding the fact that there is a request to create much smaller lots in an area that’s very low density,” Goreham said.
How storm water will travel from the subdivision also brought concerns.
The Stillwater Homeowners’ Association won a lawsuit in October 2012 against the developer of a neighboring subdivision over storm water. In the suit that awarded the group $5.2 million, the judge said the developer destroyed Stillwater Lake by essentially dumping the equivalent of 336 dump-truck loads of sediment into the 11-acre lake since 2004.
That doubled the volume of storm water on the properties.
Still, the concern over what happens to storm water hasn’t gone away.
“The thing that we worry about most as a community is with the increased sediment flow into our downstream lake and additional pressures on our dam, we could endanger folks downstream if it should ever fail,” said Lisa Gunn, who lives in Stillwater.
Sams said 8.2 acres, 39 percent of the property, was to be set aside for preserving green space, but critics argued that wasn’t enough.
Rice says 90-foot high pine trees and wetlands are on the property and though the developer says there are intentions to save those features, the language in the application is not strong enough to protect them in their natural state.
Land for student housing or industrial site?
A proposed 173-unit apartment complex targeting Kennesaw State University students also got the thumbs down from the commission.
Members say it would be located in the center of industrial sites, but attorney John Moore, who represented Charlotte, N.C.-based Campus Crest Development, disagrees.
The property at the intersection of Barrett Lakes Boulevard and Big Shanty Road, west of Interstate 75, hasn’t sold for 23 years, Moore said, and it’s because the uneven terrain on the site that doesn’t lend itself to industry.
“If you look at an aerial view of that, clearly Noonday Creek separates the industrial and there are all kinds of buffers around it,” Moore said.
The site is near industrial businesses like Vulcan Material’s Co.’s rock quarry on Duncan Road near McCollum Parkway.
“I think with it being right next to heavy industrial I just can’t see that it’s ever appropriate to put residential butted up to heavy industrial,” said Galt Porter, commission member.
Goreham, who represents the area, says residential and industrial don’t mix well and, again, did not say how she will vote.
“As the county gets more and more developed, we have less and less appropriate land for industrial (use), and I think it’s critical that the county address needs to industrial property,” she said.
The 13.9-acre site has about 9.8 acres that could be developed, with the rest either in a floodplain or limited by Big Shanty Road. It would contain flats and townhomes beginning at 1,800 square feet featuring two-, three- and four- bedroom apartments.
County staff recommended the denial, but the board of commissioners will hear it in two weeks.
“It’s just simply asking for problems,” said Hovey.