KENNESAW — Residents of a Kennesaw mobile home park have until the end of this year to move after the City Council approved a rezoning and annexation that will enable new residential development on the property.
Miami-based Related Development plans to build nearly 400 homes — 332 apartments and 63 townhomes — at the site, which is located off Old 41 Highway. The $120 million project is the second phase of the Kennesaw Marketplace development at the nexus of Cobb Parkway and Barrett Parkway. The rezoning and annexation were unanimously approved by the council Monday night.
The nearly 33-acre lot that was rezoned is currently occupied by Castle Lake Mobile Home Park — the 61 mostly Latino households there are being relocated by the developer.
Kennesaw Marketplace, built in 2015 on 54 acres, replaced what was then part of the mobile home park. The mostly commercial development now includes a Whole Foods, Hobby Lobby, Academy Sports, a host of restaurants and 180 senior housing units.
The remaining portion of the mobile home park is located west of the development area, across Noonday Creek.
“Tonight, you’re presented with a unique opportunity to complete this mixed-use development, to provide the rooftops that are needed to sustain the mixed-use development,” Garvis Sams, an attorney for Related, told the council Monday.
The lot was originally in unincorporated Cobb County. The developer pointed out that state law mandates that unincorporated “islands” should, over time, be annexed into a surrounding city, hence the need for annexation in addition to the rezoning.
The Cobb Board of Commissioners approved a notice of non-objection to the city’s annexation in August, signaling their approval of the annexation.
The development plans are also in line with the city’s master plan, the developer pointed out.
The new residential units will include trails and pedestrian access across the creek to Kennesaw Marketplace and also connect to the Noonday Creek trail system and Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. Plans for the development show nine apartment buildings, the townhomes, a leasing office, pool and other amenities.
Relocation plansRelated Development’s relocation plans for residents in the mobile home park include providing assistance of $3,500 to households with single-wide homes and $5,000 to households with double-wide homes.
According to a spreadsheet provided by the developer to the city, as of Sept. 1, eight residents had sold their mobile homes, eight wanted to move their mobile homes, 12 were weighing offers to sell their mobile home, four had scheduled a move and 29 were unsure of their plans.
The Kennesaw Planning Commission, an advisory board which makes recommendations to the City Council, recommended the rezoning and annexation 3-0 earlier this month.
The Planning Commission originally considered the project in August. At that meeting however, it became clear that many Latino residents attending the meeting did not speak English and could not follow the discussion. The Planning Commission tabled the issue and reconsidered it in September, when Related brought in a translator.
A translator was also present at Monday’s council meeting to inform the attendees of what was being said. The rezoning required a public hearing, but no residents spoke in favor or against the project.
At the September meeting, Related’s Daniel Harari, who is overseeing the relocation, told the commission he had been meeting with the residents individually to assist them with moving. All of the residents had been informed of the situation and had been told they must move by Dec. 31, he said.
Related’s plan is to release half of the assistance funds this week, and the rest of the money the week before tenants leave the park.
Related has brought in companies that purchase mobile homes to set up negotiations with residents who own their trailers, Harari said. The company also is providing legal assistance for residents who have title issues or liens on their property, and has plans to work with moving companies to assist residents who want to move their trailers to a new mobile home park.
“We understand that $3,500 and $5,000 may not be sufficient,” Harari told the commission. “So, we’re trying to make sure we know the right number of residents who definitely want to move their home. And we’ve already been talking to a few different moving companies about working with them on bulk contracts, to obviously get some economies of scale, again, with the goal being that the residents don’t have to come out of pocket.”
Harari began meeting with residents in August. He told the Planning Commission that the sellers of the property did not grant Related permission to speak with tenants until July.
“One of our hopes is that with the funds that they get from selling their mobile homes, and the funds that they will receive from us, they’ll have enough money to potentially buy a starter home, rent a single-family home, rent an apartment. And, you know, somewhat of an upgrade,” Harari told the commission.
‘Nothing you can do’Lorenzo Guerrero lives in a mobile home that he rents from the park’s owners. The husband and father of five has worked as a cook at a local IHOP for 13 years and has lived in the park for about 10 years.
Guerrero’s been looking for a new home but hasn’t had much luck yet. He likes living in Kennesaw, but figures it’s too expensive to stay. Guerrero said he pays $1,000 a month for his double-wide trailer. Three-bedroom apartments he’s looked at cost twice as much. He’s worried about his kids having to switch schools.
Having to leave has left Guerrero and his neighbors nervous and scared, he said.
“Everybody is sad … You say, ‘Oh, wow.’ You live (here) for a long time, and he says you got maybe only four or five months (to leave),” Guerrero said.
Helver Zelada Jr. has also lived in the park for about 10 years with his two siblings and parents. The Zeladas own their double-wide trailer but aren’t sure yet what they plan to do with it — sell or move. He and his father work as landscapers. Zelada echoed Guerrero’s regret that children may have to change schools in the middle of the school year.
“My little brother goes to Kennesaw Mountain High School, which is a pretty good high school. We grew up here. I mean it (stinks), yeah, but, beyond our control,” Zelada told the MDJ.
Helver Zelada Sr., the father, said the park’s management has been a “nightmare,” so they won’t miss that aspect of living there.
In 2015, 12 residents of the park filed a class action lawsuit against the park’s management alleging the park inflated water bills and gave out unlawful fines of $100 to $500 for minor parking violations, playing music or hosting a party, the MDJ reported at the time. The suit was settled in 2018, when the plaintiffs were paid $1,500 each. The park is owned by Masal Partners and Amak Partners, per Cobb property records.
Zelada Sr. understands why the city rezoned the property.
“I guess it’s better for the city,” he said. “But the bad thing is for the people that live here … it’s not a good time to be getting another place.” He also said Related has been nice in providing the assistance.
The father and son agreed that people probably didn’t oppose the project at government meetings because they didn’t think they’d have any effect. They remember seeing residents removed to make way for the first phase several years ago.
“Even if people said ‘Hey, we don’t want to move,’ they still want to sell it,” Zelada Sr. said. “They still want to, you know, kick us out.”
“Nothing you can do,” he added. “So, we got to try to find somewhere else.”