Roswell again rejects attempt to build 19 homes on existing cul-de-sac

A Roswell homeowner attempting to stop a neighbor from building 19 homes in an existing cul-de-sac has won another victory.

Roswell council members voted this week to deny Keith Osborn’s appeal of a January decision by the planning commission to reject his plan to build a subdivision where his house now sits.

“Naturally, we’re happy with the result, and a little bit relieved,” said Michael Hartley, the homeowner who led the charge against his neighbor’s plan to sell his house to a developer.

The issue has struck a chord in Roswell and across metro Atlanta as residents have watched developers try to put more houses in smaller spaces as people continue to move to the region.

Osborn, who built his home on three lots, was trying to sell his 20 acres on a cul-de-sac to a developer for the project. This is the second time the city council has denied his attempt to do so.

In June, Osborn filed a lawsuit against the city for denying that earlier request. That suit that was dismissed without prejudice — meaning it can be filed again — in August, while Osborn again attempted to get the project approved by the city.

Kathy Zickert, the attorney who represents Osborn and filed the suit, did not return phone calls seeking comment about the latest denial. But Hartley, the Ridgefield Drive neighbor who led the fight against the development, said Osborn could again sue the city to try to force the project’s approval.

“We’re just all kind of waiting,” Hartley said of the next steps in the Roswell case.

Hartley, like other residents, assumed that when he bought a house on a cul-de-sac, he would not have to worry about any more more development in his neighborhood. Hartley has lived in his house for nearly 40 years.

Across metro Atlanta, though, developers have been fitting more houses into smaller spaces — including established subdivisions. John Hunt, principal of real estate research firms ViaSearch and MarketNsight, said previously that people want to be closer to their jobs in Atlanta and the northern Perimeter. As the price of land goes up, there is more incentive for developers to find spaces where they can build more houses, regardless of what neighbors may want.

In Decatur, 20 townhomes were built on Hibernia Avenue, where the Decatur United Church of Christ once stood. In Sandy Springs, Pulte took down about half a dozen single-family homes and built roughly five dozen condos and townhouses.

In Roswell, Hartley and others are concerned that allowing Osborn to extend a road off the cul-de-sac and build more houses could set a precedent that could change a number of neighborhoods. After the previous suit was filed, Kurt Hilbert, an attorney who represented Hartley, said existing cul-de-sacs could be opened up to new development across the region if Osborn won his case.

Hartley said the whole city would benefit if Osborn is unable to build.

“It’s important that we preserve the cul-de-sacs,” he said.

Hartley said he expects Osborn to keep trying to get permission for the Ridgefield Drive project. But he is glad that council members again found in his favor.

“Each time we end up on the winning side, it’s one more reason to be optimistic about the whole thing,” Hartley said.