JOSH Plan adopted to guide development of area centered on Johnson Ferry Road

JOSH Plan area from openstreetmapsJOSH Plan area (photo from Open Street Maps)

A plan aimed at guiding future land use and infrastructure development in Northeast Cobb is now in place-but it comes with the understanding that the document is, as an old saying goes, “guidance not gospel.”

The so-called “JOSH Plan” approved by the Board of Commissioners on a 5-0 vote focuses on the mainly residential area bounded by the Fulton-Cobb County line, Wesley Chapel and Sandy Plains roads and a line roughly one-half mile south of Post Oak-Tritt  Road.

The plan is so named because it centers around the Johnson Ferry-Shallowford roads intersection. It was developed over the last year-and-a-half by county planning staff and was refined through multiple rounds of public input.

It’s the fourth such Small Area Plan covering areas of East and South Cobb  fostered by District Two Commissioner Bob Ott, who said they were developed “to give residents a voice in saying what they wanted instead of a developer coming in and saying ‘this is what we’re going to do.’”

While the JOSH document is aimed at preserving the primarily suburban residential character of the area-about 85 percent of the total-it also paints some possibilities for redevelopment in nodes along near and along both Johnson Ferry and Shallowford.

Commissioner JoAnn Birrell raised questions about one redevelopment target, the area around a now-drained lake southwest of the JOSH intersection. The plan outlines scenarios that include re-establishing the lake, incorporating storm water management and trails, and tucking in commercial and residential uses.

The county’s planning commission recommended removal of that facet following objections from the current property owner. Birrell said she didn’t understand how such elements as a park and trails could be spelled out for a swatch of private property, but Ott said that the guidelines would stay.

“This is what the community said they wanted,” said Ott. “They suggested various options. This was not a consultant coming in… I don’t want to remove anything from what the community said they were interested in.”

He stressed that the plan contained only possibilities not mandates, and that no funding had been tied to any potential course of action. He added that a proposed redevelopment plan for the aforementioned “Maddox Lake” area may come before county officials for consideration next month.

JOSH suggests that such commercial uses as restaurants, retail, grocery stores and gas stations be focused close to the existing commercial centers along and near the two arterials as part of any redevelopment, with office uses serving as a buffer between those and strictly residential neighborhoods. It also suggests where properties could be aggregated to form new mixed-used developments.

Traffic guidelines include potential intersection improvements at Johnson Ferry and Shallowford roads, Shallowford and Wesley Chapel and several other junctures. Also recommended is the acquisition of floodplain property in the Willeo Creek watershed for future storm water management and  that such items as decorative streetlights, street furniture and widened sidewalks be used to create a “sense of place” in the covered area that contains some 26,500 residents.

In addition to stressing that the area’s dominant single-family residential character be maintained, it notes that community members expressed a desire for more senior citizen-oriented living units, with an emphasis on aging in place.

Also getting a mention was the possible creation of a stakeholder group that would garner and collaborate input on more specific development and design ideas going forward.

Ott, who is leaving the commission at the end of the year, said that “JOSH will let my successor know what the community wants.”

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