The Planning Commission on Tuesday voted 5-0 to postpone a proposed 195-home, $80-million development set to be built on a 137-acre tract off Paul Samuel and Acworth Due West roads in Acworth.
The board also voted 5-0 to approve a 10-home development to be built on a 6.5-acre tract near the intersection of Shallowford Road and Westfield Walk east Cobb.
The Acworth development, which would build homes priced in the $500,000 to $700,000 range, will be reconsidered at the Planning Commission’s Sept. 4 meeting. The $12 million east Cobb development advances for final action before the Cobb Board of Commissioners on Aug. 12.
Acworth residents say they are concerned about the 195-home development’s impact on the area’s roads and schools, and neighbors of the east Cobb development are worried about construction’s effect on their property.
The rezoning request for the Acworth property drew a large number of critics. The request to rezone the property fwould allow the developers — JW Homes LLC, a division of Smyrna-based John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods — to build a larger number of homes on the site by setting them on smaller lots, provided the developer includes a certain amount of open space on the tract.
A site of this size would require 48 acres of open space to be considered for rezoning, according to John Pederson, zoning division manager for the county. The site plan for the Acworth development includes about 53 acres, he added.
The rezoning request on behalf of Marietta-based Traton Homes LLC for a property in east Cobb on Shallowford Road near Westfield Walk was opposed by the site’s neighbors, who claimed the construction would destroy a tree line separating the properties.
Kevin Moore, the attorney representing both developers, said these kinds of issues are common when a new development is proposed.
“We do find it to be common, but … when you’re representing the quality of development and home builders that we are, with Traton Homes or with John Wieland Homes, we always believe we can address those concerns,” he said.
According to Moore, the current site plan for the $70 to $80 million development in Acworth calls for 195 single-family homes on a 137-acre property, 53 acres of which will be dedicated open space. The homes will average about 4,000 square feet and the lots will average about 17,000 square feet, Moore said.
Some residents say the development is too dense and would like to see the zoning request denied.
Opponents of the development filled the audience; some brought signs with Z-46, the zoning request’s identifying number on the agenda, depicted inside the universal symbol for opposition — a red circle with a line through it. After the matter was voted on by the commissioners, about half the seats in the room were emptied.
Melissa O’Brien, an Acworth resident and stay-at-home parent, spoke at Tuesday’s meeting and shared her concerns the development will have on the area.
O’Brien said the county’s transportation officials are working from traffic studies conducted in 2005 and 2009, which do not reflect the current state of the city’s roads.
“For the DOT person to say that not much has changed is really not true because there are a number of subdivisions that have been built since 2009 that have increased traffic on (Acworth Due West Road),” she said.
She is also worried about the strain 195 new families will have on schools in the area. O’Brien said she contacted Randy Scamihorn and Brad Wheeler of the Cobb County Board of Education to discuss the development’s impact on the school system; she said neither had been contacted about the rezoning application.
“Even though the schools aren’t at capacity, the school system is at capacity in terms of what it’s able to pay for. And so, when it doesn’t even hear from the Planning Commission (about) what developers have for future planning and they’re not made aware of these things, these have huge implications on the future of our schools,” she said.
Additionally, O’Brien said the development is “not in character” for the area, which she said was the reason she was there in the first place.
“We moved to west Cobb for our wide open spaces. And we moved because we wanted larger lots. And because we didn’t want what exists in east Cobb, which is the traffic and smaller lot sizes,” she said.
At the meeting, O’Brien presented the commissioners with a petition signed by 167 residents of her neighborhood expressing opposition to the development.
Skip Gunther, a retired entrepreneur from Kennesaw, was also at the meeting. Afterward, he said he has no problem with new development, but he believes developers should act with more forethought regarding their impact on the community.
“When you build a new development of some sort, there’s an impact on the local infrastructure, and there’s sort of a step-wise impact. It just ratchets up, just like that. The developer typically doesn’t have to pay any kind of a fee to accomplish the incremental expansion of whatever the infrastructure is, whether it’s sewer, or electricity, or water, or schools, or highways, or traffic or whatever,” he said.
Despite the opposition present at the meeting, Moore remains optimistic.
“We plan to continue our discussions with the neighbors and we’ll be making … revisions to the site plan, which will likely result in some reduction in the total number of homes,” he said. “But we remain very positive about the outcome and about being able to address the neighbors’ concerns, as well as the concerns expressed by the Planning Commission.”
Though the rezoning request was held, Moore said the developers hope to begin construction of the homes in early 2015, with the first batch of homes ready for sale about a year later.
Opponents of the $12-million east Cobb development, which is planned to contain 10 single-family homes on 6.5 acres, have more specific concerns — namely, the effect it may have on their yards.
Paul Lamb of Roswell addressed the commissioners as a representative of homeowners in the Coventry Green neighborhood adjacent to the site of the new development.
Lamb’s concern was the tree line separating his neighborhood from the new development. The distance between the property line and the beginning of the new development, called a setback, is too small, he said.
“We need that additional setback back there to prevent any damage to those trees. They’re over three foot in diameter oaks. They’re huge trees; they’re beautiful,” Lamb said. “I don’t want them being trimmed back significantly. I don’t want them trimmed back at all. And I don’t want the root structure underneath to be damaged at all, as well.”
Moore addressed the issue during the meeting, and said the developers will work with the neighbors to find a solution.
“We’ll get with him individually and … maybe we can go tree by tree and work through that,” he said.
Because the rezoning request was approved, Moore said the developers will break ground this fall and put the first homes up for sale in the spring of 2015. The homes will average about 3,600 square feet, be built on lots averaging about 19,000 square feet and cost between $450,000 and $700,000, he added.