Kennesaw considering zoning changes for student housing

Screenshot of zoom meeting in which Kennesaw officials are once again considering code amendments for purpose-built student housing.Screenshot of Kennesaw City Council zoom meeting

After several COVID-19 related delays, Kennesaw officials are once again considering code amendments for purpose-built student housing.

The proposed new zoning district would apply to any student housing built inside city limits, an increasing need due to Kennesaw State University’s program expansion. A public hearing is planned for the June 1 city council meeting.

One of the key concerns raised at previous council meetings was the potential high density of such a development. With the help of Croy Engineering, Zoning Administrator Darryl Simmons said they created several design scenarios which led to his recommendation of a cap of 50 bedrooms per acre.

All of the scenarios created by Croy depicted student housing surrounded by commercial property to show maximum possible densities. If any part of the property borders on a residentially-zoned area, the height of the structure would be capped at 35 feet, with requirements for landscaping buffers. The commercial property height limit is 55 feet. The zoning district also has security and amenity requirements and a minimum of five percent greenspace.

Developers will be required to work with local post-secondary colleges and universities to provide shuttle service, as well as create pick up and drop off lanes for transportation services. However, parking was still under debate at Monday’s work session. Whereas Simmons’ original proposal provided incentives for developers to encourage alternative transportation by reducing the number of parking spaces they are required to provide, some council members strongly advocated keeping the requirement at a minimum of one parking spot per bedroom plus visitor spots.

Also under debate: whether to require a standard minimum square footage and a one bathroom per bedroom mandate. The revised plan will be presented Monday night.

Reopening the city

City officials are considering options to reopen meetings to the public while still recognizing the need for social distancing. According to assistant city manager Marty Hughes, council chambers can only accommodate 14 people with those requirements in place.

The city has already spent $7,000 to enhance the current sound and video system for Zoom and Facebook Live capability. Officials are now considering how to let people attend and speak at public hearings safely. Hughes said they have been looking at how to effectively use the Ben Robertson Community Center at 2753 Watts Dr.

The first option is for the council to continue to meet at City Hall, while overflow attendance is directed to the community center’s banquet hall. The cost of equipping the hall so that attendees could address the council from a distance was estimated at $8,000. The second option is to move the meetings to the community center, but it would cost approximately $80,000 to replicate the audio/visual system from City Hall.

“It seems kind of obvious to me. Eight grand versus eighty grand? I think we go for the $8,000 option,” said Councilman Chris Henderson. “I’d love to be in the same room as people, but if it’s not going to work, it sounds like a great, relatively inexpensive option and gets us where we need to go.”

Councilman Pat Ferris questioned the high cost of the second option, calling it a “cadillac” and asking if it was possible to get that cost down so the meetings could be moved.

Council members Tracey Viars, David Blinkhorn and Doc Eaton echoed support for the cost effective option.

“I would go with the eight unless we thought this was going to have to be a long-term solution. Obviously we have to get back to business, but eighty sounds a bit out of the way to me,” Viars said.

*Due to COVID-19, meetings are being conducted via Zoom and being streamed on the city’s Facebook page Mondays at 6:30 p.m. Citizens can offer public comment on agenda items and any other topics by emailing kennesawcouncil@kennesaw-ga.gov no later than 6:00 p.m. the night of the regular meeting.

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.

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