The Cobb Planning Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday to recommend approval of a request to build a church and a high-density residential development at Johnson Ferry and Shallowford roads in East Cobb.
The vote came during the fourth presentation by North Point Ministries for its proposed mixed-use development on 33 acres, and after more than an hour of discussion Tuesday morning.
Despite concerted community opposition, based mostly on density and traffic issues, the advisory board signed off on the application, which will go before the Cobb Board of Commissioners for final action on Aug. 17.
North Point Ministries is planning a 130,000-square foot East Cobb Church, a smaller activities building and a parking lot along the Shallowford Road portion of the land, and will sell 22 acres at Johnson Ferry Road and Waterfront Circle to Ashwood Atlanta, a residential developer, for 71 townhomes and 59 single-family detached homes.
At the hearing Tuesday there were 58 people attending in favor of the request, and 29 opposed.
The residential portion of the project has raised the most concerns, and on Tuesday nearby residents and civic leaders repeated their objections.
They included numerous variances being requested for the homes, which North Point attorney Kevin Moore said were necessary after community pushback against what originally had been 125 townhomes.
Those variances include setbacks, separation between single-family buildings, lot sizes and guest parking.
“There will still be some lot-size variances,” said Planning Commission member Tony Waybright, who represents District 2 in East Cobb where the development would take place. “We’ve got to give a little to get somewhere.”
He also noted that North Point donated right-of-way along Shallowford and Johnson Ferry for a multi-purpose trail that will be open to the community.
“That’s the benefit to the public in return for looking at the variances,” he said, noting that they were a better option than seeking other zoning categories.
Waybright had recommended a fee-simple townhome designation for the townhomes, but North Point kept its request at RA-6, with a proposed density of 5.8 units per acre.
Moore said that’s less than a townhome development behind the Kroger on the southeast corner of Johnson Ferry and Shallowford with six units an acre.
“This is not some isolated suburban neighborhood with single-family homes,” Moore said, saying that 75 percent of the assembled property in the rezoning is bordered by commercial property.
But Ruth Michels, who lives in the adjacent MarLanta subdvisision, countered that while she and her neighbors want the land to be redeveloped, “this is not the right development.”
She said she is concerned that the amount of developable land is unclear because a flood plain study has yet to be done. That process, which would provide an assessment of land in a drained lake, typically comes after a rezoning vote, in what’s called the site plan review stage.
Michels cited what she called a “lack of transparency” in submitting a stipulation letter late Monday.
“What is the real density?” she asked, adding that “it’s impossible to have an accurate picture of how this property is to be developed.”
Jill Flamm of the East Cobb Civic Association also expressed opposition to the number of variances, a lack of lot-size specifics, no landscape plan, few details on a proposed community park and no sidewalks within the residential areas.
In his motion to recommend approval, Waybright incorporated some of those issues. His conditions would cap density at 129 units and 5.82 units per acre, conceding those figures could go down depending on the results of a flood plain study.
He also said the residential building heights should be no more than 35 feet and no more than two stories (some of the renderings include three stories).
Other stipulations include at least one pavilion and gazebo in the park, streetlights and benches along the multi-purpose trail, sidewalks on at least one side of all internal roads in the residential development and limitations on external lighting, including a ban on floodlights.
Another stipulation Waybright added was to prevent right-turn traffic coming out of the church on Sundays, to keep vehicles out of the nearby neighborhoods.
The only vote against was Planning Commission chairman Fred Beloin, who said while he “liked the look” of the townhomes, wanted to keep the density under 5 units an acre. His motion to cap that figure failed.
Another East Cobb case that was to have been heard Tuesday is being delayed again. The Cobb zoning staff has continued a request by Pulte Homes for a proposed 99-home single-family detached development on nearly 50 acres on Ebenezer Road, between Blackwell Road and Maybreeze Road.
That case has been put on the September zoning calendar.
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