Bells Ferry Civic Association voices opposition to Chastain Road rezoning for distribution center parking lot

Map centered on Chastain Meadows Parkway running north to south, south of Chastain Road.Image of openstreetmap of Chastain Meadows Parkway

The Bells Ferry Civic Association issued a press release with a demand that a rezoning petition for a parking lot be withdrawn and combined with a hearing on a large distribution center that the lot is intended to service.

The proposed parking lot would be on Chastain Meadows Parkway.

The hearing on the case, Z-42-2021, is expected to take place at the August 17 Cobb County Board of Commissioners zoning meeting.

The property is in commission District 3, represented by Commissioner JoAnn Birrell. The applicant is Scannell Properties #475, LLC.

Here is the text of the press release from the Bells Ferry Civic Association:

Alarm Spreads About Lack of Public Input on Z-42-2021 Zoning Request for a Parking Lot to be Used Exclusively for a Massive 141,000 sq ft Distribution Warehouse Facility

Kennesaw, GA (August 8, 2021) –Cobb County area residents were taken by surprise when it was discovered that a proposed parking lot is connected to — and part of — a planned 36 acre distribution facility/warehouse. Residents’ alarm continues to grow as the August 17 hearing nears with little public input.

In June, suburban residents within 1,000 feet of the 9-acre proposed parking lot in north Cobb were sent letters regarding the rezoning of the parking lot and its “vehicular parking spaces”. They were not informed that these vehicles were fleets of delivery vans — and that they were to support an adjacent 141,000 SF distribution warehouse that has not yet been built on the 36 wooded acres between Chastain Meadows Pkwy, Big Shanty Rd, and I-575.

Unbeknownst to the public, in April a combined plan for the warehouse with parking lot was submitted to the County and was not subject to public input. Apparently, it has been approved to build. However, the letter the applicant’s attorney sent to nearby residents only mentioned the parking lot. There was no mention that this “Parking Lot” will be an integral part of a 36-acre development. Or that it will have a 52 feet (4 stories) tall distribution facility that will release fleets of 72 delivery vans simultaneously and attract heavy semi-truck to the area 24 hours a day/7days a week. Or that those vehicles would often travel on residential corridors and roadways without making any concessions to use existing commercial infrastructure. Nearby residents worry that existing roadways used by residents cannot sustain additional heavy truck traffic, there will pollution and noise affecting them, as well as water runoff and flooding problems to subdivisions to the south and at Noonday Creek.

Residents ask that the entire plan for the parking lot and the distribution facility be combined in an open and public hearing, so that their concerns could be heard by the Board of Commissioners. Appeasing this distribution facility/warehouse should not be at the expense of the neighborhoods and residents who live in the area and regularly use the roads as part of their daily travels. Since double the number of parking spaces are being requested, a traffic study should be warranted. However, by submitting the distribution facility to site plan review and avoiding the zoning process, no traffic study is required. Area residents would like measures taken to divert the significant influx of van and tractor trailer traffic away from established residential neighborhoods.

A solution to the traffic problems could be to require these fleets of commercial vehicles to use Chastain Meadows Parkway and Barrett Parkway, which were designed for commercial traffic. Big Shanty Road, bordering the south, was adopted as a reliever to the northern Chastain Road, heavily used by nearby subdivisions. Bells Ferry Road to the east is a residential corridor. Medians along the northern section of Chastain Meadows should prohibit U-turns. The delivery van parking lot and Distribution Warehouse entrances and exits on Chastain Meadows should be right in, right out only, to keep the semi-trucks and vans moving in the direction of Barrett Parkway. Neighbors are also concerned about the visibility of the vans along Chastain Road, pollution, and lighting for a warehouse operating 24/7.

A previous BOC Board stated that this area is “an environmentally sensitive area” and “that potential or known drainage problems exist for developments downstream of this site.” The county believes that adding a massive DF and parking lot that will consist of over 24 acres of impervious surface is being environmentally sound. This parcel is located within a 300-acre drainage basin. The site plan claims that of the 36 acres, 24 acres or 67.7% will be impervious and 11 acres or 32 % will be pervious and yet 35 acres of mostly forest will be clear-cut, leaving only 1.6 acres undisturbed. Residents question that the total impervious surface IS ONLY 67%. There are also no detention/retention ponds proposed for the site, instead stormwater will directly discharge into Noonday Creek. This is permitted due to the Floodplain Donation Agreement between Cobb County, BK Properties, and B.R. Keappler which exempts their properties (consisting of 235 acres of land) from providing separate detention or stormwater management facilities. Bill Miller, a nearby resident and retired civil engineer from the Army Corp of Engineers stated, “regardless of prior land swaps or agreements, this project demands further study to ensure compliance with Federal, State and County environmental protection laws.” In addition, County Stormwater Department has been using a Hydrology study from 1996 to determine whether the Chastain Detention Facility can accommodate these future developments. Miller further noted “This drainage basin, in particular, has undergone extensive change since 1996. A project of this magnitude must be based on current hydrologic conditions. Failure here to properly design for storm water drainage can result in adverse future environmental and economic impact, irreversible flooding and downstream siltation damage.”

Due to these unanswered issues and the tremendous impact on the area and ultimately changing the character of the surrounding established neighborhoods, the warehouse distribution facility with its accompanying parking lot should be publicly reviewed and discussed, especially since it belongs in a Light Industrial (LI) classified area and not under Office Services (OS). Due to the improper zoning procedure, the Bells Ferry Civic Association and area subdivisions have requested that zoning case Z-42 for just the parking lot, be withdrawn and resubmitted with the distribution facility included. The County stated that it is not withdrawing the case, nor will the public have any input on the distribution warehouse.

The Bells Ferry Civic Association’s mission is to preserve the quality of our residential neighborhoods amid increasing outside development demands of commercial business.