New Kennesaw student housing ordinance faces first test at city council

Kennesaw City Hall in article about Walk a Mile in her ShoesKennesaw government complex (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

A developer’s plans to transform seven acres of land, currently zoned for office and industrial use, into purpose-built student housing will be the first test of Kennesaw‘s new student housing zoning ordinance passed earlier this year.

A variance request regarding road access points to the property will test how closely the council sticks to the requirements as written. The ordinance requires entry points to be located on major or arterial roadways, however the developer is requesting access to Lockhart Drive, a residential road.

York Acquisitions filed the application for rezoning at 1320 Lockhart Dr. earlier this year. The original plan has already undergone revisions, in part due to concerns from neighbors concerned about the impact on traffic and noise. A second variance request, to increase the density of the development, has been withdrawn, and the plans for 424 beds reduced to a maximum of 352. The revised plan meets the legal requirement of no more than 50 beds per acre.

Mike Pappafotis, president of Wetherbyrne Woods HOA, a neighboring community, addressed the planning commission at the Dec. 2 meeting saying there is no hardship to justify the road variance and he does not want the city to set a precedent for other developers.

The commission approved the rezoning 4-0, as well as the Lockhart Drive variance, subject to Cobb DOT approval.

City Council will vote on the matter at the Dec. 21 meeting, but at Monday’s work session, Councilman David Blinkhorn said, “It has been profitable, successful commercial property for as long as I can remember…so I’m struggling with the hardship. Because in order to have a variance, we have requirements for hardship.”

Blinkhorn went on to say, “They’re asking us to change it to a zoning and create the hardship. Right now there is no hardship. Real estate has been there for years and successful…we just wrote this ordinance. Just wrote it. And the very first developer that walks up wants us to change it.”

Depot Park Amphitheatre

Parks Director Steve Roberts provided an update at the work session on the amphitheater planned for downtown’s Depot Park.

Ongoing work on the multi-phase project was dependent on voters passing the 2022 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax in November. Now that the funding is guaranteed, the city can move forward on phases 8-12, which includes the amphitheater. The estimated budget for the amphitheater is $3-4 million.

According to Roberts, the amphitheater committee, which includes members of the community, has toured similar facilities in Woodstock, Roswell, Suwannee, Sugar Hill and Powder Springs to guide decision making on what will work for Kennesaw. He said the next step is deciding on programming, which will guide decisions on the required spaces for the facility, followed by concept design sketches. Upon approval by the council, the project can then move on to schematic design, which will establish a preliminary project budget. Designs are expected to be complete by October 2021.

“We’re gonna look at scheduling some preliminary concerts for late spring and summer before we start any of the construction. At that time we’re hoping to move the stage around that area just a little bit to make sure what the best acoustics are for that area,” Roberts said.

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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