Cobb County puts brakes on new church development with 125 residences

A residential development is proposed to be built around a North Point Ministries church along Shallowford and Johnson Ferry roads in Marietta. (Photo provided/Cobb County)

A residential development is proposed to be built around a North Point Ministries church along Shallowford and Johnson Ferry roads in Marietta. (Photo provided/Cobb County)

Cobb County commissioners on Tuesday had no qualms about an Alpharetta megachurch with locations throughout Metro Atlanta building a new 125,000 square-foot church in East Cobb.

But two board members did take issue with a rezoning petition that would’ve allowed 71 townhouses and 54 single-family homes to be built on 22 acres adjacent to the new church.

After commissioners JoAnn Birrell and Keli Gambrill both said they would not support the North Point Ministries’ plan to develop the property near the intersection of Shallowford and Johnson Ferry roads, the commission told the church to revamp their site plan.

The Board of Commissioners plans to look at the new plans at their Sept. 21 zoning meeting.

Both Birrell and Gambrill said they didn’t like the idea of the church being attached to the rezoning petition when Cobb’s zoning regulations allow for the worship center to be built on the 11-acre property along Shallowford Road.

“I don’t have a problem with church. It can go there without rezoning,” Birrell said. “We don’t want to set a precedent.”

Both Republican commissioners also agreed that the zoning category developers sought wasn’t the right fit for the residential portion of the development.

Gambrill said that would’ve made the cluster of townhouses and single-family residences too dense and allowed the developer to cram one-third more homes onto the property.

The rezoning petition needed three votes from the five-member Board of Commissioners for approval. Commission Chairwoman Lisa Cupid was absent from Tuesday’s meeting due to a death in the family.

District 2 Commissioner Jerica Richardson supported the project and motioned to approve it with more than a dozen conditions.

When Birrell and Gambrill made clear their intentions to vote the project down, Richardson withdrew her motion and asked the developer’s attorney Kevin Moore to change site plans for the residential properties. He agree to reevaluate and possibly resubmit the plans under a different zoning category that allows for more density.

It would mark the ninth time developers have modified their plans since the project was originally brought before the county’s planning commission Dec. 1.

The decision to table the project for another 30 days came little over a month after the planning commission had the developer make tweaks. The planning board finally approved the project Aug. 3. Tuesday was the Board of Commissioners’ first chance to vote on the development.

“I understand that this application has gone on almost for the length of a pregnancy,” Commissioner Monique Sheffield said at one point, “but we haven’t heard it.”

More than 50 residents who sat in the audience supported the plan. But none of them spoke during Tuesday’s hearing.

A number of critics told commissioners the project would cause too much traffic on the already congested Johnson Ferry Road corridor near Shallowford Road. Others said the development would be too intense and worried about flooding issues from rain runoff.

“We want this area developed, but it just needs to be the right development,” resident Ruth Michels said. “What the applicant has proposed is not that.”

County officials said East Spring Lake, a Roswell subdivision, is the lone downstream development that could be impacted by runoff from proposed North Point Ministries property. Moore said developers are working with the homeowners association at East Spring Lake to mitigate any storm water drainage issues.