by Caleb Groves
At its zoning meeting Tuesday the Cobb County Board of Commissioners approved a special land use permit for an affordable housing complex for veterans.
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The Tunnels To Towers Foundation is seeking to renovate the dilapidated Wingate Hotel on 65 South Service Road. The foundation works to provide affordable housing to veterans across the country in hopes of eradicating homelessness, Tunnels To Towers Vice President Gavin Naples said.
“We are going to the largest markets throughout the nation and converting distressed hospitality properties into high-end affordable housing with 24/7 wrap-around services for our nation’s heroes,” Naples said.
Initially, the applicant was seeking to rezone the property. However, after discussion with Cobb County staff, they are seeking to retain the general commercial zoning and instead use a special land use permit to approve the project.
The applicant’s attorney, Kevin Moore, said that this is an opportunity for the county to serve underserved veterans and renovate an abandoned, crime-ridden, and dilapidated hotel.
During the meeting, Mableton City Councilman T.J. Ferguson spoke in opposition to the proposed project.
Ferguson is in support of the Tunnels to Towers program. However, he thinks the location is a poor fit for the project.
“The Six Flags area will be an entertainment district. Yes, it has gone untouched for far too long. And it’s now our job as the new city of Mableton to correct that course and I’d like the opportunity to correct that course.
Ferguson said that this would not fit what the city is going for; instead of an entertainment district, they would be putting in a fenced-in compound.
“Not everything that is on the lower side of the housing spectrum needs to come to Mableton,” Ferguson said. “Not all the projects that can’t go other places need to come into Mableton.”
Chairwoman Lisa Cupid raised concerns over the enclosed complex only suitable for veterans being in what is being built out as an entertainment district. She also noted the noise that is generated from the neighboring Six Flags amusement park.
“You can do a cursory Google search and look up residents next to theme parks and there will be multiple articles that come up with respect to conflicting uses,” Cupid said.
The applicant has a plan to minimize nearby noise from the Six Flags theme park in place to address some of the concerns that arose during a special community meeting called by the City of Mableton Monday night, Naples said.
The applicant has also worked closely with the Cobb County Police Department to set up a safety protocol due to the crime in the area.
Commissioner Monique Sheffield finalized the stipulations for the five year special land use permit, including mandatory safety and noise reduction protocols as well as annual community meetings.
The annual meetings are intended to assess the suitability and address any concerns from the community that may arise, Sheffield said.
Approval for the special land use permit was unanimous 4-0, with Commissioner Keli Gambrill absent on Tuesday’s zoning hearing.
Annual meetings with the community for a Special Land Use Permit for five years, with a safety and noise reduction plan, and the special land permit is to only be used for the purposes proposed in the application.
Caleb Groves is a Journalism student at Kennesaw State University, where he is a junior.
Originally from Minnesota, Caleb moved to Georgia with his family, where he now lives in Woodstock with his Father, Stepmom and numerous pets.
When he is not in writing, in class or coaching rock climbing, he spends his time listening to music and rock climbing both indoors and out