The video has to be seen to be believed - totally one-sided in favor of the developers, over the concerns of the community. There is a lot of dry opening information, but it gets really interesting when people start to speak for and against this zoning code, at around 21:20 into the video.
From the Cobb County minutes for that meeting, the following people spoke before the board passed the new code:
- Ms. Carol Brown - at 21:20 into the video
- Ms. Marlene Elkins - at 23:50
- Ms. Jahnee Prince - at 26:15
- Mr. Kevin Isakson - at 28:00
- Mr. David Weldon - at 30:00
- Mr. Craig Harfoot - at 33:50
- Mr. Bill Huff - at 36:25
- Mr. Ron Sifen - at 37:40
- Mr. Shane Coldron - at 41:05
- Ms. Kelli Gambrill - at 42:20
- Ms. Peggy Dickerson - at 45:35
A total of 10 people spoke. The last lady was confused about the topic. Of the 9 people on topic, 6 were either very opposed, or had deep concerns. The three people who were for this code were:
- Jahnee Prince - Vice President of Policy, Council for Quality Growth. From the way she speaks, you would think she advocates for seniors. The Council for Quality Growth is a "non-profit" trade organization supported by the construction industry. One of its sustaining members is Moore, Ingram, Johnson & Steele, a law firm which represents several developers in Cobb County in zoning proceedings, including Isakson Living.
- Kevin Isakson - partner at Isakson Living (which was called Isakson-Barnhart in 2008). Isakson Living is the company trying to rezone the Tritt land from R-20 to CCRC.
- Bill Huff - a developer who filed for the first CCRC rezoning application in Cobb County, Z-5 in 2009. This was for land near Austell, just south of I-20. The application was withdrawn in Dec 2009.
The only people who supported this zoning code were developers or their representatives! Everyone else was simply ignored by the Board of Commissioners.
When we first started looking at the CCRC code, we thought we were "discovering" all the things that are wrong with it, but it turns out, these things were known from the beginning, from the community's comments at this hearing:
- A neighborhood infill ordinance
- not for LDR and VLDR (Low Density Residential and Very Low Residential land)
- not fair to neighborhoods
- too high and too dense
- driven by the industry
- function as a density loophole
- compatibility with low density residential and very low density residential
- should not be allowed in LDR or VLDR
- development infill
- undermine the suburban lifestyle
Despite opposition and concerns, the Board of Commissioners passed the CCRC code 4-1.
At 53:40, Tim Lee talks about the million plus Cobb Residents over 65 by 2015, with 50% of them with incomes less than $30,000 per year. Not one of those seniors living on under $30,000 would qualify to live in Isakson Living East Cobb. The entrance fees range from $180,000 to over $500,000, and the monthly fees (which are not fixed) range from $1,900 to $3,700 - and that is for single occupancy!! If you bring your spouse, it will cost another $1,300 per month, a fact Isakson Living neglected to state in any of the three presentations I attended.
At 54:30, Tim Lee talks about needing high density for viability and affordability. The same could be said of an apartment complex. Post Apartments needs height and density to be viable. It does not mean it should be allowed in suburban neighborhoods. In fact, apartment complexes are not allowed on Low Density Residential land in Cobb County.
At 58:55, Helen Goreham talks about the urban architecture of a CCRC.
At 59:20, Sam Olens says what "if it (a CCRC) is immediately adjacent to a park". Of course, the Tritt property is immediately adjacent East Cobb Park. Sam could have said a "school" or a "shopping center", but he said "park", and he said it again at 1:25:30. At 1:09:25, Sam talks about a "special site" with hardwoods to provide cover for the buildings. The Tritt property is mostly hardwoods. Isakson Living conducted a tree survey, and they say on their web site: The site has approximately 10% Softwoods (i.e. pine), 30% Soft Hardwoods (Sweetgum and Poplar), and 60% Hardwood.
As I blogged about earlier, and as Isakson Living freely admits, they were negotiating for the Tritt property in 2008 (before the economy crashed, setting back their plans), while simultaneously working on this zoning code. Sam Olens had tried to get the Tritt property for park land as far back as 2003, stating "East Cobb has such a shortage of park space, we can't afford to let that property go." But by 2008, Sam knew exactly what Isakson Living was up to, trying to buy the Tritt Property, and was apparently ready to let it go. Why the change of heart, Sam?
It is time for the residents of Cobb County to demand that the CCRC code be changed. We do not want urban developments in our suburban neighborhoods. The CCRC code was a free pass to developers; it needs to be amended or repealed.
We are not against senior communities, but a CCRC is a very intense type of senior community, basically a hybrid of an apartment complex and a nursing home, with a little on-site retail thrown in. In Cobb County, you cannot build an apartment complex or a nursing home (a.k.a., a supportive RSL) on Low Density Residential land, so why should a hybrid of the two be allowed? A nonsupportive RSL, or retirement community, is allowed on LDR land, but restricted to 2 stories and 5 units per acre. A CCRC has no such protections built into the code.
The notion that a CCRC supports "aging in place" is also nonsense. All the residents of the CCRC will be selling and leaving their homes to move to there (if there are any residents of Cobb who can actually afford it). There is no hardship whatsoever in moving a few more miles to one of Cobb's Regional Activity Centers (RACs), which are the areas around Town Center Mall, and around Cumberland Mall, extending to the Powers Ferry/Windy Hill area. These are the areas with the infrastructure, and the existing big buildings, to absorb such an intense type of development.
I had earlier blogged about the need to change the CCRC code. At that time, I had thought that a CCRC could be allowed on LDR land if densities and building heights were capped. After seeing the video above, I am convinced that a CCRC should not be allowed on Low Density Residential or Very Low Density Residential land, period. The opponents in 2008 saw it coming, and Isakson Living came into East Cobb asking for nearly 1000 units and 5 story buildings on 54 acres, for an insane density of 21 units per acre (not counting the floodplain).
Here are the new proposed changes to the CCRC zoning code:
1) A CCRC shall not be allowed in Low Density Residential (LDR) or Very Low Density Residential (VLDR) areas as shown on the future land use plan. It is already not allowed in Rural Residential (RR) areas.
2) For CCRCs in NAC, MDR, and P/I areas as shown on the future land use plan, the maximum building height shall be 35 feet above grade.
3) No floodplains, wetland areas or cemeteries may be used in calculating the overall density of the development.
4) The CCRC must be within five miles of an acute medical care center, by the roads customarily travelled by emergency response vehicles.
We need two Commissioners to recommend a change to the CCRC code, please write the commissioners today! (See the What We Can Do page for all their email addresses.)