Cobb’s Planning Commission recommended denial of a proposal to build a 116-unit senior living development in the northwest corner of Cobb County at its Tuesday meeting.

The proposal called for building the units on about 26 acres of a 65-acre property, according to attorney Kevin Moore, who represented the developer, the Wasserman Group, at the meeting.

The remaining 39 acres would house single-family homes in the future, but the developer was not requesting the zoning category for that tract be changed, Moore said.

The 116 units would be a mixture of single units, duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes, Moore said.

County staff recommended denial of the proposal, and 20 people attended Tuesday’s meeting to express opposition compared to the four who showed up in support of the project.

The commission voted 3-2 to deny the rezoning request, with commission members Andy Smith and Skip Gunther opposed to the denial.

One of the issues cited by members of the planning commission was a request by the developer to allow 40 of the 116 units — or about 35 percent — to be available for lease, which is above the 10 percent cap the county imposes on the residential senior living zoning category.

Moore said there is a demand for having senior living homes available to rent, rather than own.

“We think that the market is unbelievably strong,” Moore said, adding, “I get constant requests just in my office for it. We had originally thought it needed to be at least 50 percent, but in looking at and hearing the concerns that have been expressed, what we did is try to minimize it down as much as possible.”

Commission member Skip Gunther, who opposed the motion to deny, agreed with Moore.

“I firmly believe that there is a strong, unmet marketplace in Cobb County for leased — high-end leased RSL units. My understanding is that your client is attempting to meet that demand. And I don’t think anybody really knows how high that demand is,” he said.

Commission member Galt Porter said the county has approved several senior living projects over the years, but this one was “one of the least attractive-looking plans” for such a project he’s seen.

“Overall, I think it still needs work,” he said. “I don’t mind (residential senior living) in this location, but not too wild about the rental cap, so I’d like that to be explored.”

Former Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham spoke against the project on Tuesday, asking that the Planning Commission recommend denial. Goreham said the proposal does not follow the county’s comprehensive plan or its 2014 Northwest Cobb Land Vulnerability Study.

She also said the project does not fit in with the requested residential senior living zoning category because the developer was asking for so many variances from the rules governing that category, including smaller setbacks and the leasing cap.

“Is this the direction where zoning decisions are headed, as formal plans, studies and codes are devalued and ignored? I certainly hope not,” Goreham said.

A majority of commission members seemed to agree and recommended denial. The Planning Commission’s decisions are advisory in nature, however. The Board of Commissioners has final say over zoning decisions and has its next zoning meeting on March 19.


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