Recommendation on mixed-use development near Silver Comet Trail extension delayed 30 days by Cobb Planning Commission

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In its July meeting Wednesday the Cobb County Planning Commission voted to delay making a recommendation on a rezoning request for the purpose of building a mixed-use development on Plant Atkinson Road and South Atlanta Road adjacent to the future path of the Silver Comet Trail extension.

The property is located at a key juncture of the plan to extend the Silver Comet Trail to the City of Atlanta, and ultimately to the Atlanta BeltLine. A $7.8 million contract was recently awarded to C.W. Matthews Contracting Company to improve South Atlanta Road from Plant Atkinson Road toward the river.

The property is currently zoned for heavy industry, and the surrounding area currently includes a waste transfer facility, Georgia Powers’s Plant McDonough-Atkinson, and a variety of other industrial uses including the controversial Sterigenics medical equipment sterilization facility.

The applicant is Branch Acquisition Company, LLC.

Attorney Kevin Moore represented the applicant.

The zoning packet summarizes the request as follows:

The applicant is requesting to rezone the 6.20 acre site to the RRC regional retail commercial district in order to develop the property as a mixed use development including 393 residential units or 349,350 square feet and an additional 27,100 square feet of retail uses.

The residential multifamily building will be five (5) stories in height while the retail portion will be two (2) story in places as well as occupy the ground level in other portions of the multifamily building.

Parking will be provided by a parking deck (six (6) level with basement) located internally, wrapped by the other buildings of the development. Proposed square footages for the residential units will range from 650 to 1,250 square feet with the average size being 875 square feet.

The proposed building architecture is stated to be “warehouse modern

In his pitch for approval of the request, Moore said that the project came about as a direct result of a condemnation notice to the applicant to build the Silver Comet Trail extension on a portion of Branch Acquistion’s property.

“This property is currently zoned heavy industrial and it’s been zoned heavy industrial for a very very long time as is some of the adjoining properties,” Moore said. “We are proposing a rezoning to RRC for what we believe is a fantastic mixed use development that can truly change how this corridor will live, work and play in the future.”

“This project as you can see on your screen is a multifamily and mixed use project contains a maximum of 393 homes, multifamily units as well as up to a maximum of 40,000 square feet primarily of restaurant retail and some office,” he said. “You can see on your screen Atlanta road across the top.”

“You can see the darker blue is where we have placed very intentionally restaurant and retail offerings that we think will be significant at this intersection those will be along the first floor of the overall building with them a rapid parking structure a parking deck and multifamily units as well.”

He pointed to part of the rendering where a plaza for outdoor dining is proposed. He said that plaza is directly along the Silver Comet Trail, where users of the trail can stop to utilize the restaurants.

Bill Millkey of the Vinings Village Homeowners Association spoke in opposition to the project. Millkey pointed to the recommendation from county staff to deny that application because of incompatible surrounding uses.

He showed an aerial view with industrial uses labeled, including the RTS Waste Management transfer station, Sterigenics, a concrete facility, and an asphalt plant.

He said that depending on the weather the smells from the waste management facility could be considerable, and that trucks with garbage from Cobb County and Atlanta frequently arrived and departed from the property.

The next speaker in opposition was Jennifer Burbine, an attorney from the law firm McGuireWoods, representing the waste management facility adjacent to the property, RTS Waste Management.

She said RTS strongly opposes the rezoning, that it owns the land it operates on, and “it is not going anywhere.”

When the discussion among Planning Commission members opened, David Anderson, who represents District 2 on the commission, took the lead in the discussion.

Fred Beloin, the planning commissioner from District 1, said that the area has a number of active facilities producing pollutants.

“I know that cement plants produce as pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide, asphalt plants produce the following toxic pollutants: polycyclic aromatic compounds, volatile organic compounds, metals, and hydrogen sulfide,” he said. “Natural Gas Power Plants produce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, mercury and carbon dioxide.”

“Has anybody done a study on whether it would be appropriate to place ultra high density residential projects in the middle of all that is anybody in our staff done a study of it?” he asked.

Beloin also raised objections to Moore’s description of heavy industrial use in the area as “stale.”

“I just simply absolutely reject the applicants notion and find that absurd quite frankly, the suggestion that we don’t need heavy industrial anymore in this area,” Beloin said. “And is there any any thought in our among our planners that we don’t need heavy industrial or areas that provide heavy industrial uses anymore?”

Zoning Division Manager John Pederson said that heavy industrial was still a need in the area.

Anderson expressed doubt about the plan as it was presented. He said it was hard to reconcile the amount of residential density in the proposal with the existing industrial operations in the area.

“Do we have a mechanism for creating a district or master plan process around this that will allow us to have a more comprehensive view?” Anderson asked. “Because I think realistically what happens is everything to the north and to the west here ultimately feeds off of the energy of the Silver Comet Trail and having a cohesive vision and plan around that is something that I think could merit consideration,” he said.

Pederson said there is no such process in place, and that planners would need guidance from the Board of Commissioners to undertake a plan of that nature.

Anderson made a motion that the discussion be held for 30 days for further discussions between the Vinings Village HOA and the applicant. The motion carried 5-0.