Kennesaw zoning change raises density questions with regard to student housing

Architect Ryan Lee explains his concerns about the 1465 Shiloh Rd. property at the June 15 council meeting.Architect Ryan Lee explains his concerns about the 1465 Shiloh Rd. property at the June 15 council meeting.

The rezoning of the 4.4-acre property at 1465 Shiloh Rd. from single-family to multi-family residential is causing friction in Kennesaw.

Fountain Residential Partners submitted the rezoning request from R-30 to RM-12 for a proposed student housing development to serve the growing population at Kennesaw State University. The RM-12 multi-family housing designation restricts more than three unrelated people from living together. However, the plan to lease to individuals by the bedroom, rather than by the unit, appears to offer a workaround to the law since the proposal includes up to five-bedroom units.

Architect Ryan Lee works out of an office that neighbors the property and says the rezoning is “in direct violation of the UDC [unified development code] and non-comforming to the RM-12 zoning.” He addressed the Kennesaw City Council on June 15 on that issue, as well as his concerns about how the density of the project will adversely affect the water and sewer infrastructure.

Lee is also worried the city is setting a precedent for any property owner in any residential area to start leasing individual bedrooms to students.

Attorney Doug Dillard, counsel for Fountain, told the council on June 15, “My client’s unique individual lease structure exempts the proposed development and site plan from the application of the definition of family. Because the individual student tenants do not operate as a single housekeeping unit under the city’s code definition, the designation of family does not apply to the proposed development so as to limit the number of units to three bedrooms.”

The planning commission approved the rezoning on March 4 after adding several conditions, including the requirement of traffic impact study, parking, security and height requirements, as well as buffers and privacy fences. The maximum number of units allowed is 52 with 241 beds. After COVID-19-related delays, the Kennesaw City Council approved the rezoning on June 15, with the recommendation of Zoning Administrator Darryl Simmons. The rezoning passed 3-1, with Councilmember Tracey Viars recused and Councilmember Pat Ferris opposed.

During his presentation at the June 15 meeting, Trevor Tollett of Fountain Residential said, “If you do not address the problem [lack of suitable student housing], you’re gonna have that infiltration into those single family homes in the neighborhoods that you do not want the students living in, where there is no control. There are no stipulations like we have in our application about security, about gating, about working with the Kennesaw Police department.”

But Lee said he believes that if Fountain is permitted to lease out units of up to five-bedrooms without applying for a variance to the RM-12 zoning, then the door has been opened to more of exactly what Tollett said they are trying to prevent. He filed a letter of appeal to the city, received June 25, regarding the zoning change. From the appeal:

There was no vote from Mayor and Council regarding the statement from the applicant’s attorney that “Because the individual student tenants do not operate as a “single housekeeping unit” under the City’s code of definitions, the definition of “family” does not apply to the proposed development so as to limit the units to three bedroom…if confirmed this will cause every home owner in city limits, who owns property of either single family or multifamily units, to be able to rent out to more than three persons not related if they rent out by the bedroom to students. I ask that the decision for the enforcement by the zoning administrator be appealed and be enforced as written in the code, that for a RM-12 zoning, a unit cannot be designed to house more than three people not related, which would cause a maximum unit type of three people for RM-12 zonings for student housing, unless a specific variance has been approved by Mayor and Council.”

City Council voted to dismiss the appeal 4-1, with Councilmember Tracey Viars recused, at the July 25 meeting. Attorney Sam Hensley, Jr. spoke on behalf of Zoning Administrator Daryl Simmons, proposing legal objections to Lee’s appeal, saying it’s premature.

“There’s been no development plan submitted to the city for formal review and approval for any kind of development on the property in question. Now, the developer may submit a plan for housing featuring units more than three bedrooms but that is mere speculation at this point. We have no idea what, if anything, may come from this developer or any other developer…so until or unless that happens, under Georgia law, there is no ripeness, as it is called for this appeal to come forward,” Hensley said.

He also said that there was no evidence in the record showing Fountain Residential Partners was notified of the appeal, nor does Mr. Lee have standing to appeal since “he has not shown any special damages as a result of the city’s approval of this application.”

“I believe, again, that the conditions speak for themselves in the ordinance and all Mr. Simmons has done is to advise the apellant that the city staff and legal counsel have indicated that if there was a student housing development presented as it was proposed at the rezoning hearing, and specifically, that is a plan whereby individual bedrooms would be leased individually and the unit would not be leased as a unit…in that situation, the definition of family in the UDC would not apply,” Hensley said.

According to Hensley, an appeal of a rezoning must be appealed within 30 days to the Superior Court of Cobb County.

After speaking privately with Hensley at the meeting, Lee offered to withdraw his appeal with an agreement to sit down with the planning commission to try and reach an understanding. He would also retain the ability to refile his appeal in 30 days. However, Dillard, attorney for Fountain Residential objected, saying none of his appeal had any merit.

“We want this matter dismissed. The idea of withdrawing and letting him refile what is otherwise a spurious, invalid, incorrect appeal doesn’t make any sense to me,” Dillard said.

Lee responded, “My contention is this: the appeal is being brought forth because I feel like there is not clarity between what was done at the rezoning for 1465 and that in order to make a decision on to file appeal against the rezoning, this needed to be resolved…I would argue it is not premature, it’s actually in time, because I wanted to get in within the timelines of the rezoning filing of the appeal.”

Lee is not alone in his concerns about the property. While the city has received letters and emails in support of the proposed project, it has also received many emails objecting, citing the zoning issues raised by Lee, as well as traffic, safety, infrastructure and noise concerns.

Lee spoke with the Courier after the dismissal, saying he doesn’t necessarily object to student housing on the property, but the developers either need to be required to get a variance or limit plans to three bedroom units.

“I have no intention of trying to appeal the rezoning. I am only trying to appeal the ability to get heard…how this was set up, I feel like it was not right,” Lee said. “I’ve got 125 emails from people in the community that have been trying to support me.”

The city did not respond to a request for comment.

The meetings are available to be viewed on the City of Kennesaw Government Facebook page.

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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8 Comments on "Kennesaw zoning change raises density questions with regard to student housing"

  1. Dianne McPherson | July 31, 2020 at 11:05 am | Reply

    I fully am opposed to the zoning of the Fountain Residential Partners project on Shiloh Road in Kennesaw. I live in the adjoining Pinetree neighborhood and the student traffic, noise and litter is out of control. I am actually an Alum of KSU and support the University both financially and thru volunteer efforts. Please do not allow this project to ruin our great neighborhood.

  2. Nancy Dowling | July 31, 2020 at 11:16 am | Reply

    I don’t know how they can say there is a housing shortage when they are building student housing on every inch of land they can find between Cherokee Street and Town Center Mall. I don’t know how many units are in the enormous complex nearing completion on Busbee Pkwy but it is HUGE! I live on Frey Lake Road and I love my home. We have spent the last two years updating with the plan of retiring there on the golf course. The traffic on Frey Lake is horrible when students are in session as they use McCollum to Club Drive to Frey Lake Rd. as a cut thru to campus. Adding this other development will add thousands more cars cutting thru from campus via Campus Loop Rd to Frey Lake Rd. to Club Dr. to Shiloh East to Ayers which will dump them just feet away from the entrance to the development. I have poured tons of money into my property and I’m not the only one in this situation. If the City of Kennesaw wants to just bow down to KSU then the least they could do is close the road at Frey Lake Rd and Campus Loop Rd. We all pay our taxes and obey the laws. There are plenty of other ways for emergency vehicles to access everything. KSU has grown enough! Quit giving them our homes and quality of life!

  3. George Whitman | July 31, 2020 at 2:07 pm | Reply

    Our neighborhood is already inundated with KSU traffic. Students are speeding through our neighborhoods. Our quiet streets are now seeing more and more traffic. Several retired couples have already left due to the traffic. I hope mayor and council will keep our neighborhood safe and quiet.

  4. Jim Musgrave | July 31, 2020 at 2:55 pm | Reply

    I and 18 neighbors have discussed the overdevelopment and attendant traffic, speeding, and reckless driving taking place in and around Pinetree neighborhoods. We are fully opposed to the zoning of the Fountain Residential Partners project on Shiloh Road in Kennesaw. It has taken less than 10 years for Kennesaw to lose 80 percent of its charm and small town appeal — how much more are we willing to lose? Ever lived in Los Angeles? I have. It is not pretty, nor charming, nor desirable due to overdevelopment and too much traffic. The Mayor and Council need to think more about quality of life and less about developing more real estate ventures. Our votes will add up come elections.

    • At every turn of fighting this illegal housing development, residents of the neighborhood get voted down even though EVERY residential homeowner in the community strongly OPPOSES it. How do the leaders not represent their constituents?! There seems to be back door, good ‘ole boy deals happening. We are all disgusted and disappointed with Cobb County and City of Kennesaw officials. You are supposed to represent your community and not line the pockets of developers. Someone needs to look into this a little deeper.

  5. I was a professor/Administrator for 15 years at KSU so I’m all for the university. What is at stake here is they are trying to push the limit up so you can cram even more students into a room, which overloads the proposed complex and will increase the already horrid traffic through the neighborhood.
    It also opens the door for anyone who rents “by the bedroom” to a student, in a multifamily or single family home, as many individuals as they want, as long as they rent by the bedroom.

    The Pinetree neighborhood is not supposed to be overloaded student housing but there are many students renting homes and the number of cars, parties etc is causing problems. The county does no seem interested in enforcing the code. Sad to see your property values and quality of life being degraded because of an out of town developer.

  6. Steve Zambito | July 31, 2020 at 4:39 pm | Reply

    Here we go again with Pinetree Community getting the raw end of the deal. I can only bet that Frey Lake Road will gain 241 more cars driving down its street, if this complex (1465) gets built. The students will learn that driving thru Pinetree will be the fastest way (no traffic lights) back to (1465). Unless something is done to prevent access thru Pinetree, the amount of cars constantly driving thru our subdivision will only increase. I have no problem with that as long as we can create a TOLL payable to each household for the loss of property values. Keep in mind, we see the same cars over and over during the course of the day and night. We can pick them out by their noisy mufflers alone (Hint: Yes you Mr. Red Corvette). If the STATE can create “Toll Roads” so can we. I have lived here 20 years – survived the Cobb County – Close Frey Lake Road debacle, and Frey Lake Road ended up exactly what we were concerned about back then, what a disaster – weekends and nights don’t even give us a break from the traffic. You should watch me edge my yard – with car after car going by, I predict that one day I will be killed by a KSU car driving by while I am trying to maintain my yard. So, I might as well speak up now, I might not have long to live. I have not seen any Traffic Counters in the road, last time it was done was what 10 years ago. When KSU is fully functioning again – the Traffic Counters numbers will probably shock the community compared to 10 years ago and not in a good way.

    Since we were correct on what would happened if “Close Frey Lake Road” failed during our last attempt 10 years ago with Cobb County. That traffic would increase tremendously. Lets make another prediction for 10 years into the future if (1465) gets approved.
    Prediction: 10 years into the Future year 2030
    – More Traffic coming thru Frey Lake Road and adjoining streets.
    – PineTree house values start or have been on a steady decline.
    – Everyone sells out and most houses become illegal FRAT houses with as many students and parties. Might want to add a Police Precinct at one of the corner lots if that happens.
    – Side walks are added to Shiloh Trail East and Ayers Drive – not a bad idea (Hint).
    – I was run over while mowing my yard.
    – Pinetree becomes a eye sore with nothing but rental homes maintained by college kids. (You know what I mean) See current rental homes for examples.

    Been thru this before, Here we go again – I do like the Toll Road idea for anyone who doesn’t have a sticker on their windshield. Proceeds going to home owners and prices change during peak times – I am gonna be rich 🙂

    See you in 10 years – I hope…

  7. This whole thing is NOT about student housing—there is PLENTY all around Kennesaw. This is about the TAX BASE TO THE CITY—Plain & Simple. Notice there are no city council members who live in Pinetree Country Club (which by the way is NOT in the city limits & therefore residents are ineligible to vote in Kennesaw city elections). Does anyone really think the city council cares about what we the residents of PCC really think—-I DON’TTHINK SO!!! I’ve lived in PCC for over 40 years & each time a zoning request which was to the DISADVANTAGE of PCC residents, the Kennesaw City Council has ALWAYS voted for the increase in the tax base—-look at those stupid Condo’s and all the Townhouse’s (sure don’t look like anything they promised) just a boost to the City’s tax base & a decrease to PCC home values. Lastly, if anyone thinks they care about any lawsuits, think again (by time it gets to court, development is already built). VERY FRUSTRATING & THINK I‘M FINALLY READY TO MOVE OUT !!!!

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