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Cobb County July 18 Zoning Roundup: More senior housing, townhouses

Cobb County Commissioners approved 53 townhouses near Dobbins Air Reserve Base and 20 homes for seniors in west Cobb during the board’s regular Tuesday zoning hearing.

Venture Homes successfully rezoned 8.6 acres on Atlanta Road from industrial to residential for an “affordable” townhouse project billed as a catalyst in a struggling neighborhood.

Attorney Sean Randall, representing the developer, appealed directly to County Chairman Mike Boyce, who has voiced concern about the lack of housing options within reach of Cobb “teachers and firefighters.”

“We are committed to affordable,” said Randall. He estimated price points between $220,000 and $280,000, although the county has no way of enforcing such promises.

Dennis Campbell, planning director for the Cobb County School District, spoke out against the development, which he called “significantly dense.”

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Nearby Green Acres Elementary is already overcrowded, and the school system is facing a shortfall in capital maintenance funds, he said. 

“We come to you sort of hat-in-hand to say we have some concerns here,” Campbell said.

Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who represents the area, brought the number of units down from 59 to 53 and increased the parking requirement. The board approved the rezoning 5-0.

“It will definitely be an improvement from what’s there now,” Birrell said.

Separately, the board split 3-2 over allowing more senior housing in west Cobb, with Commissioner Bob Ott and Chairman Boyce opposing.

The proposed 6.8 acre development at the southwest corner of Ernest Barrett Parkway and Villa Rica Road would be limited to adults 55 and older. 

Similar developments have sparked debate over how Cobb should respond to an aging population, with some pointing to a need for more senior housing, and others expressing concern over the impact to the school system. Cobb offers a generous school tax exemption for everyone over 62, resulting in an projected $101 million loss for the district in 2018.

READ MORE: Cobb’s rising senior population sparks debate over school tax, housing

Attorney Kelly Morton, representing the developer, argued a senior development is actually better for schools because residents will not be burdening the schools with more children.

“Aging couples that have lived in Cobb County want to remain in Cobb County, close to their family and friends and familiar places,” she said. 

Opponents spoke out against the rezoning, citing the fading rural character of west Cobb as well as the lost school tax revenue.

Chairman Boyce said the project was an example of using the senior housing zoning category as “a way to get around the density issue.” 

But Commissioner Weatherford, who represents the district, disagreed.

“There’s a misconception that everyone’s in a wheelchair and no one pays school taxes,” Weatherford said of the opposition to senior housing. He said people over 62 won’t pay the school tax no matter where in Cobb they live, and the market showed a strong demand for senior living developments.

Subscribers can read more in depth about Cobb’s senior tax exemption and its impact on schools, development and aging communities on MyAJC

This article has been amended to clarify the location of the proposed Atlanta Road development. It is located near the Dobbins Air Reserve base and represented by east Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell. 

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