The Cobb County Planning Commission in its meeting on Tuesday June 7 recommended approval of a rezoning application to build a townhome community in Cobb County Commission District 4, subject to modifications to be worked out between the applicant and the Cobb County DOT.
The property is on the north side of Mableton Parkway, northwest of Hunnicut Road, and the zoning case number is Z-83-2021. The applicant is St. Bourke, a development company in Atlanta.
The representative for the applicant was Dan Mason, and if the application is approved the project will be built by Kerley Homes.
Mason requested that the case not be held or continued at the Planning Commission level, and that whether the commission recommends approval or denial, that it be moved on to the Cobb Board of Commissioners for a decision.
The site plan in its current form calls for 38 townhomes on the eight-acre property, with a density of 4.75 units per acre. Mason stated that the company anticipates pricing in the mid-$300,000 range.
The current zoning is OS and RM-12. The proposed zoning is RM-8.
OS is described as follows in the zoning document:
The OS district is established to provide locations for office and business distribution/service
facilities, and assembly processes which do not emit noise, vibration, smoke, gas, fumes, odors
or radiation and are located entirely within an enclosed building which do not involve
manufacturing or fabrication of any product.
RM-8 is a residential multi-family category.
The first person who spoke in opposition to the project was Mary Rose Barnes, a long-time land use and zoning activist in Cobb County. She began by stating she was speaking on behalf of the residents on Rioca Circle, a street adjacent to the property.
Barnes said, “Seven months of (the) many, many, many twists and turns, omissions, contradictions, corrections, ambiguities and misstatements have made this process a sheer torture for the neighborhood.”
“The applicant has not discussed and not disclosed the business nature of the operation, calling into question the nature of the legal liability,” she said.
Barnes said that a June 1 stipulation letter from Mason was submitted on behalf of Kerley Homes, not by the rezoning applicant.
“One cannot know which entity has been behind the scenes all along,” she said. “What party has Mr. Mason actually been representing through this situation? … we must question the validity of the representation involving this application.”
The next speaker was Sonya Wheatley, representing the Mableton Improvement Coalition.
She said she appreciated the work that had gone in to the application, and fully expected MIC to be at the meeting recommending approval, but that two issues had arisen, one of them insurmountable.
The first issue she raised was the request from the community that the applicant fund an escrow account with $150,000 to cover any damage from blasting near the adjacent residential communities.
She said that the insurmountable issue was the Cobb DOT recommendations. She said it is very important that the roads within the development be public so that a small development of 38 homes doesn’t bear the responsibility of road maintenance.
She said that the removal of 11 guest parking spaces to meet Cobb DOT recommendations means that the applicant needs to submit a whole new plan.
So MIC, while it is not opposed to townhomes in that location, asked the Planning Commission to recommend denial, Wheatley said.
The Planning Commission Discussion
Michael Hughes, the District 4 Planning Commissioner, was not present at the meeting, so Stephen Vault led the discussion of the application.
John Pederson was asked about the blasting requirement, and whether the county could increase the amount of escrow required. He said the BOC could probably raise the amount from the minimum $50,000 based on circumstances.
Vault then called on Amy Diaz of the Cobb DOT.
Diaz listed the Cobb DOT concerns with the plan, including that not all the roadway could be made public. A small area at the end of the road would have to remain private.
Vault asked if the plan was fixable by the Cobb DOT’s standards before the Board of Commissioners meeting.
Diaz said that she thought it was fixable before the meeting, but that the fire department would need to be involved along with the Cobb DOT.
Fred Beloin asked if the variances requested by the applicant would affect Cobb DOT recommendations.
Diaz said she knew of no contradictions between the variances and DOT recommendations, but that those issues would be addressed in plan review.
Vault called Mason to the podium and asked him to address the escrow issue and the public roadway concerns.
Mason said the applicant would meet the county’s escrow requirements as they stand in the code, and that the applicant would work with the Cobb DOT to resolve the roadway issues.
Beloin asked if Kerley Homes would agree to bind to all stipulations. Mason said yes.
A fire department representative was asked whether the existing site plan would meet fire code requirements. He said that as a private road it would, but that as a public road it would also need sign-off by the Cobb DOT.
Wheatley was called back and told the commissioners that MIC’s view is that the issues should not depend on plan review since some of them might require a complete reworking of the plan.
Hughes made a motion that the Planning Commission recommend approval subject to the applicant addressing the staff recommendations with a reworked site plan.
The motion passed, so the application will go to the Cobb County Board of Commissioners for a decision.