The Cobb Board of Commissioners postponed on Tuesday making a decision on two special land-use permit applications from owners seeking permission to rent out a portion of their home to someone who is not related to them.
A county ordinance prohibits a family from living with anyone who is unrelated, regardless of the size of the home, if it is a single-family dwelling.
But some commissioners are taking a second look at the ordinance and plan to loosen the law in February when the county adopts code amendments.
Cynthia Webster is a single mother of an 18-year-old son who makes ends meet by renting out two of the rooms in her home, but complaints by neighbors sent her before the commission on Tuesday requesting a land-use permit to have more adults in her home than the code allows.
“I have never had one complaint or problem from neighbors until now,” said Webster who lives on Allpoint Drive near Wesley Chapel Road.
One of her tenants has lived in her home for eight months and the other, who is a police officer, has lived with her for two years.
Diane Weissman has been Webster’s next door neighbor for 11 years and says she wants to keep some “semblance of beauty in the neighborhood.”
“I have a deck, a pool and a grill. What more could I ask for?” Weissman said during a public hearing on Tuesday. “Well, I could ask to not live next to a boarding house.”
Weissman says her issue is that she doesn’t “know who’s coming or going.”
“This is not what I signed up for,” Weissman said. “I signed up to move into a single-family home with my child and have some peace.”
Scott Olschansky, who lives on Holcomb Lake Road near Scufflegrit Road, also petitioned the commission on Tuesday to allow him to have an unrelated person live in his home. He lives with his wife, brother and best friend in a 4,000-square foot home.
Both homeowners will be allowed to continue their current living arrangements until February when the ordinance is taken up the commission. They will then have to appear before the commission to get a final ruling.
Commissioner JoAnn Birrell represents the area the two requests originated from and thinks the ordinance needs a second glance. If the commission changes the code in the way Birrell suggested, Weissman and Olschansky will be allowed to have one unrelated roommate but no more.
“You have circumstances, like a caregiver … they wouldn’t be allowed to do that under current code,” Birrell said.
Commissioner Helen Goreham, who represents northwest Cobb, also pointed to situations where a homeowner wants to have a caregiver, nanny or live-in housekeeper but is prohibited under the county’s ordinance.
“That’s kind of triggering our re-investigation of the code,” Goreham said.
Commissioner Bob Ott of southeast Cobb and Commissioner Lisa Cupid of southwest Cobb have also expressed desire to see the ordinance changed.
Students also impacted
Goreham represents the majority of the area around Kennesaw State University and has had another aspect of the ordinance come before her several times. The ordinance also prevents more than two unrelated adults from living in a single-family home.
Unrelated to the two applications postponed on Tuesday, another three applications seeking to let three unrelated tenants live in rental homes were denied unanimously.
But that’s not a portion of the ordinance the county plans to revisit.
In one case, a homeowner who moved out of state after a job transfer was denied the ability to rent a home to three unrelated students.
Another application from a Southern Polytechnic State University student, Brandon Rich, who owns a home on Fay Road near Shallowford Road, and shares the home with unrelated classmates was denied permission to continue sharing the home with his tenants.
“We don’t think that we’ve caused any trouble to anybody in the community,” Rich said at a public hearing on Tuesday.
Both of those cases were given until May 2014 to come into compliance with the code.
Lisa Hodges, who lives in the Lake Mist neighborhood of Kennesaw, urged the commission not to approve another application for a land use permit in her community. The applicant for that case was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.
She said her neighborhood of 106 single-family duplex townhomes is threatened by rental homes that house multiple tenants.
“We will lose the sense of community that we have worked hard to maintain,” Hodges said.