Cobb BOC rejects controversial mixed-use development on Chastain Road

Neigbors holding signs at BOC meeting about Chastain Road developmentOpponents of Z-71 stand to be counted at November Cobb County Board of Commissioners zoning hearing (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

At the November 19 zoning hearing of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners, the BOC denied an application for a mixed-use development on Chastain Road that was heavily opposed by community organizations surrounding the property.

The vote was 4-1. Cobb County BOC Chairman Mike Boyce was the sole vote against the motion to deny.

Sixty residents opposed to the development showed up at the hearing. Twenty-two supporters were present.

Pope and Land Enterprises was the applicant, represented at the hearing by attorney Kevin Moore.

The property is located on the southwest corner of Chastain Road and Chastain Meadows Parkway, east of the ramp from I-575.

Currently the property is under a patchwork of different zoning categories, including single-family residential, general commercial, office and institutional and neighborhood shopping.

The case number is Z-71-2018 and you can view the documents for the application at this link.

Presentation for the applicant

Kevin Moore in suit and tie speaking at lecturn
Kevin Moore (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Attorney Kevin Moore took the lectern to make the case for approval.

After describing the site plan, which included a hotel, apartments, townhomes, offices, restaurants and retail, he showed renderings of the greenspace component of the plan, which included an extension of Noonday Creek Trail into the property.

“When we’ve been criticized for the density of this project,” he said, “which you’ll actually see is the vision of Pope & Land to create a truly integrated mixed-use community, where that trail is extended throughout, where you don’t see the dominance of buildings projecting over this entire area.”

“This does not change the character of the area,” he said. “What it does is build the character of the area into the future.” 

“And as we go through these perspectives of what this project will look like and that central park, that continues each and every time you look through these renderings the perspective you are gaining is one of a project that truly belongs on this 62 acre parcel,” said Moore.

He listed, in his slide presentation, what he described as five critical reasons to support the application:

  • We believe the plan presented is the highest and best use of the land.
  • Apartments are critical to successful suburban mixed-use development as demonstrated by numerous projects throughout the Metro area.
  • The proposed rezoning to PVC is consistent with the property’s current land use designation, Community Activity Center (CAC), and the project has received broad approval and support for Z-71.
  • After meetings with Cobb County and various homeowner’s associations, the density of the development has been reduced by 45%
Tracy Rathbone Styf at lectern
Tracy Rathbone Styf (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Tracy Rathbone Styf, executive director of the Town Center CID, spoke in support of the project.

“We are the voice of the commercial property owners in our district,” she said. “These 275 owners are our primary stakeholder  They represent 494 properties totaling more than $1.8 billion in value.  Our owners pay more than $25,3 million in property taxes, to the county and CID each year.”

“We have worked closely with each of you, and your predecessors on various initiatives over our 20-plus-year history. And together, we’ve made significant improvements for our community,” she said.

“The Town Center district is ripe for redevelopment,” Rathbone said. “The shifting demographics of the dynamic submarket have resulted in a necessity for quality integrated development, that includes diverse housing to keep pace with competitive markets and maintain a healthy submarket, the CID must add new housing options with direct proximity to jobs, infrastructure, amenities and services.”

“The Z-71 project achieves this mix of uses, including townhomes, apartments office, upscale retail and dining, greenspace, a dog park and the extension of the Noonday Creek Trail,” she said.

“This type of mixed-use interconnected development is vital to our district and our county’s economic sustainability,” Rathbone said.

Opposition to Z-71

Erin Mulgrew at lectern
Erin Mulgrew (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Erin Mulgrew, of the Bells Ferry Civic Association, asked that the request to rezone the property to PVC be denied. She said over 1400 neighbors of the property had signed a petition opposing the development.

“As the density of this project remains 10.5 units per acre, double the maximum allowable, the petitions stand. The developer is asking for more commercial footage than exists at Cumberland Mall,” she said.

Even though the developer has requested a change to PVC, it still does not fit this category, which requires commercial on the interior. Instead, a 4-story, 200 room hotel and retail are exterior, fronting Chastain Road and across from neighborhoods,” she said.

“If the commissioners approve Z-71, they are obligated to fund the road improvements in the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority Notice of Decision,” she said.

Jessica Berry at lectern
Jessica Berry (photo my Larry Felton Johnson)

Jessica Berry, speaking on behalf of the community organizations for Chastain Lakes and the Brookhaven of East Cobb subdivisions, said, “Since the majority of both subdivisions lie within 1,000 feet of the proposed development, we have standing to be heard today, to appeal, and to file suit in this matter, and we strenuously urge you to deny this zoning proposal.

She said that the three main areas of concern were suitability, traffic and safety.

“Personally, I did not move from New Jersey to this neighborhood to live literally across the street from what is effectively a megamall and densely packed apartment buildings,” she said.

She said that KSU already brought 45,000 cars into the area on weekdays, and the the proposed development would bring in an additional 25,000.

“Last, this proposal raises major safety concerns,” she said. “Our police force is severely understaffed, and Fire Station 16 is one of the busiest in the area.”

Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who represents the district were the development is proposed, called Amy Diaz of the Cobb County Department of Transportation to the podium.

Diaz outlined the traffic improvements that would be necessary to reach acceptable levels of service, and said that the developer had only agreed to help fund one of them.

Referring to a letter from the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, she said, “If this development goes in and those roadway improvements or level of service is not achieved, then we are in violation of the GRTA Notice of Decision, and that could affect future funding for the county.”

“As all of you know, this case has been continued literally for a year. It was first filed in August of ’18, and was scheduled to come before the Planning Commission November ’18, and it’s been continued ever since.”

She listed the neighborhood organizations in the immediately surrounding area, and said they had been working diligently on the case.

“The intensity and density of this proposed development is too high and inconsistent with the character of the surrounding area,” she said.

“The DRI and GRTA report advised that off-site road improvements were required prior to the project’s completion,” she said.  “The developer is reluctant to pay for this, and the county cannot, nor should we for a private development.”

“As you know, the Planning Commission has recommended denial of this at their November meeting, staff has recommended denial … so I will make a motion to deny Z-71,” Birrell said.

After board discussion the motion to deny passed 4-1.

Vote on JoAnn Birrell’s motion to deny Z-71 (photo by Cecilia Hart — used with permission)

Video of Z-71 Hearing