Cobb Planning Commission postpones decision on rezoning for child care center on Veterans Memorial pending stipulation letter from applicant

aerial map of Veterans Memorial Highway at Cooper Lake Road

At the July meeting of the Cobb County Planning Commission on Tuesday commissioners voted 3-0 to hold (postpone) a decision on a rezoning request that would allow the operation of a 24-hour child care facility on Veterans Memorial Highway near its intersection with Cooper Lake Road.

The property is currently zoned R-20, a single-family residential category, and the applicant, Rodney Morrison of Morrison Building & Investment, LLC requested rezoning of the property to NRC (neighborhood retail commercial).

R-20, the existing zoning category, is described as follows in the county’s zoning ordinance:

The R-20 district is established to provide locations for single-family residential uses or
residentially compatible institutional and recreational uses which are within or on the edge of
properties delineated for any residential category as defined and shown on the Cobb County
Comprehensive Plan: A Policy Guide, adopted November 27, 1990.

NRC is described as follows:

The NRC district is established to provide locations for convenience shopping facilities which are on properties delineated within a neighborhood activity center, community activity center or regional activity center as defined and shown on the Cobb County Comprehensive Plan: A Policy Guide, adopted November 27, 1990.

These convenience shopping facilities should have retail commercial uses that have a neighborhood-oriented market and which supply necessities that usually require frequent purchasing with a minimum of consumer travel. Areas zoned for the NRC district should be located at or near an intersection within the center of a neighborhood activity center as opposed to the edge of a neighborhood activity center.

Morrison introduced himself, and said the case had been held from the previous Planning Commission meeting to allow time for him to meet with the Mableton Improvement Coalition (MIC).

He said he had addressed some safety issues regarding the entrances raised by MIC. He said another issue raised was the available parking at the center. (NRC would require 20 parking spaces for the property. A variance would be required reducing the parking to 10 spaces).

Morrison said that he had modeled the center on another center on Bells Ferry Road that served 100-120 children.

The center is intended to be drop-off and pickup only, he said, so parking is intended for staff.

“And they’re also concerned about the aesthetics of the property,” said Morrison. “We remodeled the property already we’ve replaced all the windows. It’s all new windows all the way around.”

“We actually stopped construction in order to make sure we get everything done and approved. I sent over to them a full set of drawings showing all the side views and elevations,” he said. “And also, we’ve sent everything over to (Amy) Diaz (of the Cobb DOT) the adjusted plans where we modify the entrance. And we also widen the parking lot a little bit more.”

He said he’d also sent letters to neighbors surrounding the property, and those who contacted him were happy with the improvements to the property.

Robin Meyer of MIC spoke in opposition to a recommendation of approval.

“We appreciate the information that Mr. Morrison had sent us (and) the full set of drawings for the construction related to this property,” Meyer said. “And before I say anything further, I just want to say that that this is not about Mr. Morrison and his plans for the property. But it’s about the property itself.”

“As we all know, once property is zoned for whatever the use might be, whatever the category might be, that zoning stays in place, maybe for generations,” she said. “So at the Mableton Improvement Coalition, we’re always interested not just in the current plans for the property, but how those plans and how those conditions and stipulations might affect the property going forward under different ownership, or even a different use if the use is not specific to the zoning.”

“So what we have before us is an application that specifies that this will be used as a daycare, we don’t have a stipulations letter. So the only information we can count on is whatever the conditions are that that you would attach to any recommendation for approval,” she said. “We appreciate the promises that Mr. Morrison has made, but they’re not in writing. So it’s a little difficult to know exactly how they would be enforced going forward.”

“I’m sure that the neighbors are happy to see improvements in this property because certainly prior to Mr. Morrison’s ownership of it, it has been an eyesore,” she said. “However, since Mr. Morrison is on the property, it has also been the subject of at least one code enforcement complaint for parking tractor trailer trucks on this residentially zoned property.”

“It may be one day that this should be a commercial property,” she said. “But we’re not certain that that day has come. The property is too small for the 18 children that we understand are going to be served here (in the) 24-hour operation.”

The property is in District 4, so Commissioner Michael Hughes led the discussion.

“The opposition mentioned the stipulation letter. Have you drafted a stipulation letter that would specify exactly what your plans are and what you would be willing to do if the zoning were to be recommended for approval, specifying the use, landscaping, parking, those sorts of things,” Hughes asked. “Have you actually sat down and put something on paper?”

Morrison said he would be willing to do that.

Hughes said, “I’m a little dubious about (making a recommendation) without an actual detailed stipulation letter that I can sort of look at and evaluate before making a recommendation to move this forward to the Board of Commissioners.”

“So with that, I’d like to recommend that we hold this for 30 days,” Hughes said.

He made a motion to hold the decision, and it passed 3-0.