The Cobb County Board of Commissioners at its monthly zoning meeting approved a request to rezone property between Lidl Grocery and the Willowcrest community on Floyd Road in Mableton.
The rezoning changed the property from single-family residential to multifamily, allowing the construction of 160 townhomes and 20 detached homes.
The applicant presents its case
The applicant, Meritage Homes, was represented by attorney Parks Huff at the hearing.
Huff said, “We’re before you today with a Planning Commission unanimous recommendation for approval of this case.”
“The property is on Floyd Road. It is the property that is situated between a commercially zoned Lidl Grocery store and an existing development known as Willowcrest,” he said. “Meritage developed Willowcrest over the last couple of years and it has been very successful community in the Mableton area.”
“This property is the property that fills in between that commercial node and the existing Willowcrest neighborhood,” he said.
“It’s always been a question how you do that transition between those two uses, and this property does that well,” he said.
Huff referred to the map of the site.
“This is the property showing that it is medium density residential,” Huff said. “And we are in compliance with the MDR land use plan when you consider Willowcrest as one development as a whole, which is the way it should be considered because it’s one development, one developer, and it is basically one community once it’s fully developed out.”
“One of the other key features of this development is one of the things that we held the case a couple of times with the Planning Commission to work on how the road structure would work,” he said. “So we actually connect from the existing community all the way down to White Boulevard. And there’s a signalized intersection at White Boulevard and Floyd Road.”
Huff said that one of the issues involved in the proposal was a “very old home” on the site near Floyd Road. Originally the plan was to removed the house, but it was decided to preserve it in its current location.
Opposition to the project
Two people spoke in opposition to the development.
The first was Charles Sprayberry, representing the Cobb County School District, which often opposes new residential development out of concern over the impact over local schools.
“Approval of this petition will cause concern for the Cobb County School District, as it also has an impact on enrollment in the schools already over capacity,” Sprayberry said, “specifically Mableton Elementary School. They will become over overcapacity by 40 students if it’s approved.”
Cosette Fahning, a resident of the existing Willowcrest community also spoke against the zoning request, stating that the addition of a large number of new townhomes would change the character of the community.
“Our current community has about 35 percent townhomes, 19 percent bungalows and 46 percent single family homes,” she said. “So with this addition, it would drastically change the aesthetics of our neighborhood, taking it from a single family home community to a townhome community.”
“Our concerns as the neighborhood is that it would over-densify our neighborhood,” she said. “We also have concerns about the traffic going through the neighborhood as we don’t currently have speed bumps or anything to alleviate speeding.”
“The road that would connect would create traffic right in front of our amenities, which is cause for a safety concern,” she said. “And we’re just asking that you consider those safety concerns with traffic connecting White and Floyd road through our community.
She also said the new development would “completely change the aesthetics of our community.”
“We do feel blindsided by Meritage, as it wasn’t brought to our attention when we were buying our properties that this was going to change from a single-family community to townhome community,” Fahning said.
MIC support for the project
Robin Meyer of the Mableton Improvement Coalition then spoke in favor of approving the request.
“My name is Robin Meyer, and I’m the chairman of the zoning committee for the Mableton Improvement Coalition,” she said.
“We appreciate very much the work that has gone into improving this application since it was first filed, especially the access to White Boulevard, the better street layout within the community,” she said. “We also appreciate the upgrades to architecture related to the to the townhomes and some some of the items related to the bungalows as well.”
“We strongly believe that residential development of this parcel is in the best interest of the community as a whole,” said Meyer. “There have been pressures over time to develop this property commercially, which we feel would not be in the best interest of either the current residents of our community or the current businesses in our community, as we have far more business and commercially zoned properties than we have businesses to fill them over the last couple of decades.”
“So we would encourage you to adopt or approve this application for rezoning. I understand that there has been some discussion of a architectural review committee and if that turns out to be the wish of the Board of Commissioners we will be happy to participate in that as well,” she said.
The commissioners discuss the case
The Board of Commissioners then began its discussion of the case.
District 4 Commissioner and Chairperson-elect Lisa Cupid spoke first, as the property is within her district.
“As was acknowledged by the residents who spoke for this case, we have been communicating with a number of people in Mableton, in the surrounding area, in the neighboring subdivisions, both Meritage and other, regarding this application for some time, and we have made so much progress on this,” she said.
“I put it on consent based off of recent correspondence received, but I know, Cosette, that you and I have been communicating about your concerns and I know that you continue to have them from your comments here today,” Cupid said. “I do want to let you know that some of your concerns have been addressed in the stipulation letter where there will be a separate HOA for this community to ensure that the community is separate.”
“And also with the traffic concerns, this community will have access to White Boulevard, and will not be traversing or will not necessarily need to traverse through the existing Meritage community to have access to Floyd Road,” she said.
“As Robin Meyer spoke, she acknowledged what I’ve known since I first came here, (that) this area was designated to be a commercial development. And there was a lot of consternation from residents about how that would change the character along Floyd Road and make things challenging for the school across the street,” she said.
Cupid said one of the challenges in zoning casese is working with the school board in light of the certainty that there is going to be residential growth in Cobb County.
“And I think we have work to do as two governmental organizations to update the plans for our schools to reflect that there is going to be residential growth in our county,” she said. “But I also think that there are presumptions made about where students will choose to go to school, as there are multiple options.”
“Today, even look at where we are compared to where we were just a year ago … not everyone does choose to go to public school. And there is a presumption about the age of the students, that they would all be going to Mableton Elementary School. There are other ages that could be moving into this development, and attending other schools that don’t have that same concern.”
After an inconclusive discussion about how the homeowner’s association (HOA) of the existing Willowcrest community will relate to the residents of the new development, Chairman Mike Boyce called the question.
The requested rezoning was approved 4-1, with District 1 Commissioner Keli Gambrill in opposition.