New construction is a sign of improving times
by Jon Gillooly
March 06, 2013 12:29 AM | 3862 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Construction workers build a foundation and frame a house at a Traton Home development on Davis Road in east Cobb. Traton Senior Vice President Chris Poston says the housing market is ‘getting better slowly but surely.’<br>Staff/Emily Barnes
Construction workers build a foundation and frame a house at a Traton Home development on Davis Road in east Cobb. Traton Senior Vice President Chris Poston says the housing market is ‘getting better slowly but surely.’
Staff/Emily Barnes
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Anyone who has attended a Cobb Planning Commission meeting lately can see that developers are regaining confidence as they bring homebuilding projects forward for approval.

The commission Tuesday recommended approval of a development of 43 townhomes on a 5.1 acre tract near the Cumberland Galleria. The homes are projected to sell in the $350,000 to $450,000 range.

Assuming approval by the Board of Commissioners, construction on the townhomes, which will range in size from 2,200 to 2,600 square feet, is expected to begin this summer, said attorney Garvis Sams.

Sams, who represents the applicant, Arrowhead Real Estate Partners, said the homes would be a mix of brick, stacked stone and HardiePlank.

The townhomes would be located on the west side of Stillhouse Lane, south of Cumberland Boulevard.

Planning Commission member Mike Terry said the fact that the homes will be for sale rather than for lease shows the economy is beginning to recover.

The Planning Commission also approved a 16 home development on 7.2 acres located on the west side of Steinhauer Road north of Dover Crossing Drive near Mabry Middle School.

Those homes are expected to range in size from 2,800 to 3,600 square feet and sell in the $400,000 to $500,000 range, said attorney John Moore, representing applicant KM Homes, LLC.

Those homes will also be constructed using a mix of brick, stacked stone and HardiePlank. Construction is expected to begin as soon as the Board of Commissioners grants approval, Moore said.

Michael Hughes, the county’s economic development director, said he views the planning commission activity as a good sign for the economy.

“I think the level of development activity you have seen recently is probably the result of a combination of factors to include improved or stable unemployment figures, banks appearing to be willing to lend, and increased demand for housing,” Hughes said.

Developer Chris Poston, senior vice president with Traton Homes, said he’s beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

“It is getting better slowly but surely, so I think there will be continued improvements,” Poston said.

Banks are still heavily regulated, although Poston sees them beginning to loosen up as one bank makes its way through the regulations and other banks see how it’s done and follow.

“It gives them the ability to say, ‘they’re doing it now, we can try to do it. We’re not stepping out on a limb so far by ourselves,’” Poston said.

Poston said in “the good areas,” such as east Cobb, Marietta, north Fulton and parts of DeKalb, most of the stalled developments are now gone.

“In the last 60 to 90 days, it was like somebody flipped a switch and said, ‘all right you’ve got to start buying land to develop,’” Poston said.

Poston said his firm is staying out of the cheaper areas of metro Atlanta, such as Clayton County.

“At this point, we are more of an A, B-plus location person, and we’re willing to try higher price point versus trying to go fight with your production builders who are fighting it out on the lower price points on those cheaper lots,” he said.

Developers on the move

Commissioner Bob Ott said the southeast part of the county he represents is seeing an uptick in development. Speaking from Argentina, Ott, a Delta pilot, said when he returns on Thursday, he has a full day of meetings with developers who want to pitch to him various projects.

“Where I’m seeing the most activity, at least in District 2, is the areas that we have master plans, so I think some of it the development community knows what the community is willing to support, so there’s not as much risk if you want to say from that perspective,” Ott said. “There’s tremendous dialogue between the development community and the people who live in the area. I think that’s kind of made the whole process a little bit more easy for the developers to move forward.”

A development on hold

The Planning Commission didn’t say yes to every proposal on Tuesday.

A proposed 23 home development on 10.5 acres off Roswell Road near the McCleskey-East Cobb Family YMCA was placed on hold until the April meeting.

Sams, who represents the applicant, Arrowhead Real Estate Partners, said the homes would range from 2,400 to 4,000 square feet in size.

“This is the only piece of property in this part of the corridor that has not been developed, and there’s a good reason for that, and I think it has to do with the stream which traverses it,” Sams said. “It’s a huge development obstacle, a 150 foot wide swath that cuts across the property taking approximately three and a half to four of the 10.5 acres, but it’s a physical feature which we can master plan around.”

A number of residents spoke out against the development.

Michael Hayes of Sterling Ridge Chase said the stream means much of the property cannot be used for construction.

“Therefore, the proposed 2.17 lots per acre will look and function more like a development of 3.6 lots per acre. Let’s be careful not to kid ourselves,” Hayes said.

Jill Flamm, president of the East Cobb Civic Association, a group that represents about 10,000 homeowners, asked that the project be held until the next meeting.
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