No angry shouting took place during the hour and a half meeting as residents politely asked Ott questions at the Smyrna Community Center.
“No one left mad,” Ott said after the meeting. “There was no yelling and screaming, and I’ve been lucky that a lot of the town halls are like that.”
Ott said he tries to hold town hall meetings at least once a quarter, if not more often.
Among those in the attendance was Larry Savage of east Cobb.
“I’ve been to all the commissioners’ meetings, at least the ones that have them, and Bob’s the only one who answers all the questions himself,” Savage said. “The other commissioners, one in particular just assigns every question to a staffer to answer. Mrs. Goreham, when she has a town hall meeting, I don’t think she ever answers a question. I think (Ott’s) well liked because of things like that.”
Several residents raised concerns over a zoning case that has been postponed to next month that would allow a RaceTrac to be built on the site of the T.G.I. Friday’s located on Powers Ferry Road and Windy Ridge. The residents expressed opposition to the proposal, fearing it would increase traffic. Ott said he couldn’t take a position until the zoning case came before him.
Another resident asked about the Cumberland CID’s plans to expand its boundaries. Ott said it was he who had encouraged the CID’s board to move forward in expanding north.
“I think what you have there is right now we have this area between the northern boundary of the CID which is at Wildwood Parkway and Delk Road, and it’s kind of no-man’s land because it’s not residential, and it’s commercial, but it’s not part of the CID, and the reality is the character of the area, the Cumberland Galleria area, the transition areas outside of it really are kind of all part of that urban core, and so that area I’ve asked them to look into expanding into is out there by itself,” Ott said.
The expansion wouldn’t impact the rest of the county since the CID generates its revenue by taxing the commercial property owners in its district an extra five mills, Ott said.
At least that’s how the CID generates some of its revenue. As CID Chairman Tad Leithead says, the CID prefers to leverage the revenue from its property taxes to bring in far more revenue in federal funding.
Ott said there is no established timeline for the CID expansion.
Last week the county’s transportation director, Faye DiMassimo, unveiled the findings of a $1.8 million “alternatives analysis” study that recommended a $1.1 billion Kennesaw State University to Midtown bus program. The study was conducted by Jim Croy and others. But it doesn’t end there. Before the county can apply for federal funds to help pay for the program, it needs to complete a $3 million environmental study of the project, which is being conducted by Kimley — Horn & Associates. That study should be complete in 18 to 24 months.
Ott, who opposes funding either study, has dismissed the $1.1 billion KSU to Midtown bus program as a pipe dream, arguing that there is no money to pay for it. He also argues that it puts in too many bus stops, which ends up making the bus commute longer. Lengthening the commute will cause people to use their cars to get to where they need to go quicker, he said.
One transportation proposal he does favor is creating alternative routes between “fortress subdivisions” and the workplace.
“What happens is a fortress subdivision comes out into a local road or a collector and then that collector feeds into a little bit bigger road, which feeds into a little bit bigger road and so what happens is you end up with only one way to get from A to B,” Ott said.
That means whenever there’s a traffic accident occurs the entire system shuts down, he said.
“So my philosophy is what we need to do is look for opportunities with redevelopment or new development when stuff comes in to try and work on creating some alternatives working toward getting a grid pattern,” he said. “What you look for, for example, is Powers Ferry that goes between Akers Mill Road and say, Delk Road. Can you find another road that with some expansion or extension of it can run parallel to that road, so then if you connect Windy Hill with Terrell Mill and Delk road you’ve now, if there’s people with local traffic that are not passing through to go to east Cobb, they can go on this other road and everybody can get around the area.”
One way to achieve such connectivity is offering incentives to a developer.
“You might take an older apartment complex, if it happens to be in the right location, and put an offer out there, ‘hey, if you come in and you buy this apartment, and you redevelop it, and you put the road through it, we may consider making it into commercial instead of residential,” Ott said.
Another question from the audience was what to do about the rising crime rate, particularly with the stealing of air conditioners for their copper wire.
“We do see that certain roads that border Fulton County or the city of Atlanta, we do have some increased crime levels that we have tracked some of the criminals coming across into the county and then trying to go back,” Ott said.
State Sen. Doug Stoner (D-Smyrna), who was in the audience along with his Republican challenger, Hunter Hill, pointed out that that the state legislature passed a bill that went into effect in July that targets the problem by requiring recycling centers to identify who they’re purchasing materials like copper wire from.
One resident also inquired about having chickens in his backyard, noting in such tough economic times, eggs cut down on grocery bills.
Ott said the current code requires a property owner to have two acres for chickens. And while Ott said he would be willing to revisit this restriction, it requires a second commissioner to do so.
“Without a second commissioner, it’s not going to happen,” he said.