Cobb rules 5 students are too many in home
by Nikki Wiley
October 02, 2013 12:26 AM | 27033 views | 70 70 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kennesaw State University students, from left, junior Brette Abshier, sophomore Elizabeth Wheeler and junior Stephanie Davenport, arrived home in Acworth today with a decision from the Cobb County Board of Commissioner that states their living arrangement violates a county ordinance of how many unrelated adults can live in a single family home. Abshier’s senior sister Caitlin and senior roommate Carrie Gobert also have been living with the three.<br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Kennesaw State University students, from left, junior Brette Abshier, sophomore Elizabeth Wheeler and junior Stephanie Davenport, arrived home in Acworth today with a decision from the Cobb County Board of Commissioner that states their living arrangement violates a county ordinance of how many unrelated adults can live in a single family home. Abshier’s senior sister Caitlin and senior roommate Carrie Gobert also have been living with the three.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
slideshow
ACWORTH — Five Kennesaw State University students are looking for a place to live after the Cobb County Planning Commission denied a couple’s request to rent a three-bedroom home to the students.

Jackie Jones pleaded with commission members Tuesday to grant a special land-use permit allowing their five tenants to remain in the home on Westover Trace in Acworth, near Wade Green Road and I-75.

She and her husband, Michael, did not know they were in violation of Cobb’s ordinances, Jones said.

The couple purchased the two-story home in October 2010, which had been empty for two years. Jones said they invested in the house, remodeled it and intended to rent it.

The five students share the home’s three bedrooms and a basement. Two tenants are sisters who share a master bedroom and one tenant lives in the basement.

Four of Jones’ five tenants attended the meeting. Each tenant addressed the board, told them where they are employed and their field of study. Residents opposing the application also spoke saying they feared their neighborhood would turn into “fraternity rows.”

Planning commissioners unanimously voted to deny the request, but recommended giving the students until the end of December to vacate the house. The homeowners will get another chance to make their case when the Cobb County Board of Commissioners hears the case at 9 a.m. Oct. 15 at 100 Cherokee St., Marietta.

The Board of Commissioners has the final say.

Only two unrelated adults allowed under a roof

Cobb County code says only two unrelated adults are allowed to live in a single-family home regardless of the size of the house. The ordinance was created to target neighborhoods in south Cobb where multiple families lived in a single home.

Christi Trombetti, who represents the area on the planning commission, praised the Jones family for purchasing and upgrading the home. It was apparent, she said, both the landlord and tenants were trying to do the right thing.

Still, Trombetti said she couldn’t support the application.

“We can’t judge our applications necessarily on the people we meet,” Trombetti said.

The recommendation for denial drew an emotional response from the four tenants who attended the meeting. One tenant cried audibly and said she could not afford to live elsewhere.

“Certainly, it would be easier for Michael and I to ask the girls to move out. … We understand that people want to keep their house and neighborhood nice and we feel that we have done that,” Jones said.

They had never considered renting to college students, but they received an overwhelming response when the home was put on the rental market after its first tenant moved out of town. The tenants moved in this summer.

“We were very impressed with them,” Jones said of her tenants. “They all have jobs. They all are serious college students. We were very impressed with their sincerity.”

Growing pains at KSU

About 25,000 students attend KSU and the university has only 3,500 beds available on campus, said Michael Sanseviro, dean of student success.

But he said there isn’t a housing shortage because off-campus apartments provide options for students.

“While there was an historical shortage and we once had very long waiting lists for on-campus housing, with the recent introduction of new off-campus housing marketed to students, there appears to be an ample supply of student-designed housing to meet the current demand for KSU,” Sanseviro said.

The university doesn’t encourage one kind of off-campus housing, like apartments or rental homes, for students who opt not to live in dorms. Sanseviro said it’s important for students to choose the lifestyle that fits their needs.

No one should be discriminated against, Sanseviro said, but students should be held to the same standards as all other Cobb residents.

“We understand the concerns of neighborhoods to maintain a certain quality of life and maintain competitive home values, and we are committed to supporting strong and mutually beneficial ties between the university and the community,” Sanseviro said.

Losing community or adding to the economy?

Though a petition to allow the tenants to stay received support from neighbors, some nearby homeowners voiced their opposition to allowing more than two unrelated students in the home.

Cindy Peterson told the commission that she has lived in the neighborhood for 28 years and she’s “fiercely proud of it.”

But she’s worried about losing a “sense of community” if students are allowed to live in homes in excess of the county ordinance.

“Being so close to KSU, if we allow multiple residents in our homes, we will become fraternity rows,” Peterson said.

Another neighbor, John Ellis, told commission members he was soured on an experience he had in the neighborhood with college renters. He said garbage piled up outside the home and cars of visitors lined the road.

Dea Daughenbaugh lives nearby and said she has a daughter who graduated from KSU and holds the college in high regard. But she is concerned about setting any precedent that would allow students to live in the house.

Rooms aplenty, if you can afford them

One opponent suggested the roommates move into West 22, a new housing complex targeting KSU students near Cherokee Street.

That’s just not possible, said Caitlin Abshier, who lives in the home with her sister and three other roommates.

The five students pay their landlord $1,350 each month. That comes out to $205 from each student. West 22 charges between $599 and $715 per tenant.

“I know that the law was created to prevent illegals from living together and, unfortunately, it affects college students because we’re trying to get the cheapest rent we can,” Caitlin Abshier said.

She’s a senior business management major who owns a natural bath products business, Revive Bath and Body, that is sold in 15 local stores. Caitlin Abshier says she and her roommates aren’t destroying the quality of life in their neighborhood.

“I know that typically the stereotype is partiers and they think we’re going to move in and ruin their community,” she said. “That’s not our goal. We haven’t thrown any parties and we don’t plan to throw any parties.”

That’s because they want to get away from the party scene, said 19-year-old Elizabeth Wheeler, who lives in the home.

“We really wanted to get out of a party atmosphere … now they’re kind of forcing us back into traditional college living,” Wheeler said.

It’s a form of discrimination, Wheeler said.

“We didn’t understand why the government was able to tell us where to live when they don’t tell anyone else where to live,” she said.

Comments
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20 something renter
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December 04, 2013
I just got a notice like this yesterday. I have lived in my home with two roommates for over 5 months. We all work full-time and get by paycheck to paycheck. We're not college students, only have one car per person (never parked on the street), and we are very good neighbors. I can understand this law, but I think it should be handled on a case by case basis.

I picked out the house I live in. I like the area and the quiet neighborhood I live in. It is very disheartening to come home after a 10 hour workday to a notice that someone has called the city and I must go to court to inevitably be ordered vacate my own house.

What a place. Where 3 people with full-time jobs cannot live in a 2000 square foot home.

If there is a way to fight this please let me know.
native cobb countian
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October 11, 2013
obviously the people upset with cobb county are not originally from here & don't know why the rules were set like they were in the first place. we don't want three different families living in one home with seven cars parked on the street cause only two fit in the drive way. we don't want "fraternity row"-beer cans in yard, a ton of cars, smoking weed, illegal transactions going on, i was once a college student at ksu myself and lived at home. i know what some college kids do. i don't understand why some of these kids cant live at home or live in the crappy greenhouse or poplar apts. rent to real families-not ones that are going to devalue your own house. bite me if you don't agree.
J. T. Cobb
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October 15, 2013
Something really isn't passing the smell test here for me. Just a little research shows that at least 3 of the girls are locals anyway. So it isn't really like they are about to be homeless. It would also appear they or coincidentally sorority sisters as well. Wonder what raised the attention of the authorities?
Life U student
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October 08, 2013
I think my neighbors read this article and just smack my 2 roommates and I with this junk and there are only 3 of us in 3 bedroom 2 bath house with a fully finished basement with 2 bedrooms and one bath in it. What is wrong with people. Are people really so up to nothing that this is what they find their life worth. If people took this much energy and put it into something constructive we would live in a much better world
KSU Student
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October 05, 2013
I think the real problem here is allowing students to find affordable housing. Financial aid is not what it used to be, and the rent for a decent place at KSU stands at $625 a month. That's even more than West 22 without all the amenities and with way less privacy. Also, maybe if everyone is worried about their neighborhoods becoming "fraternity rows" then Cobb should think about allowing KSU to have Greek housing on campus. Our national organizations and the school set prices on rent to live in places like this and it will help solve this issue. However I would encourage each of you to look past the stereotype. KSU's Greek life has been very successful and is growing. We are very involved in the community, we support many different charitable organizations, and also we support businesses around Kennesaw by bringing our loyal business and recommending them on social media. This is not a large frat house kind of situation but rather some hard working girls stuck between a rock and a hard place. I think the focus should be grander so maybe we don't see this happen in the future.
anonymous
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October 05, 2013
The truth is that these girls are creating a problem for their neighbors. The county didn't single out the girls, they responded to complaints made by the neighbors. In addition to having too many unrelated adults, they also have more adults than allowed for the size of the house (related or not), too many cars parked on the property and cars parked on the lawn. That's four different code violations. They are parking so many cars that they painted stripes on the driveway to indicate where people should park. The testimony was also that they have many overnight guest, which are assumed to be the girl's boyfriends. Essentially more than five adults are living in the property. One of the girls is living in the basement, which may or may not have proper egress in case of an emergency. The traffic alone from all the cars is enough to interfere with the quiet enjoyment of the neighbors. I wouldn't want them living next door to me and I don't blame the neighbors having a problem with them. The various regulations exist for a reason, including the process where someone can apply for a temporary land use permit so that unique circumstances can be looked at. In this case, it's clear that having five adults living in this home is creating an undue burden for the neighbors. It's that simple. It has nothing to do with them being college students, their sex or race.
Emily- KSU Student
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October 04, 2013
I am currently a junior at Kennesaw State University. Not only am I a full time student, but I have a full time job in which I travel quite frequently. I think students today have an incredible amount of responsibility that we take upon ourselves in order to be deemed "successful" and "responsible" by our peers and more experienced generations.

That being said, I still believe that many college students (including myself) are not in any place to take responsibility for a home in family neighborhoods. Our lifestyles generally reflect a need for social activity that many families find burdensome. This not only then affects the daily lifestyles of others in these neighborhoods, but home values, curb appeal, and several other aspects as well.

On another note, I find Caitlin Abshire's comment regarding "illegals" to be incredibly offensive. Though I am in opposition of the case of the students regardless of this comment, nothing makes you look more incredulous than uneducated and distasteful remarks like this. KSU is filled with many well-educated and kind people, and comments like this are absolutely shameful.

Kennesaw is a difficult location to live in financially for many students; agreed. This is a problem that needs to be addressed as well. However, a large majority of students are commuters and find affordable housing elsewhere. There are other options as Sanseviro pointed out, with one of them being on-campus housing.

can't decide
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October 03, 2013
The biggest problem with college students was a home owned by the student himself. Four boys, seven cars. Enough said. Also, NONE of the homeowners who showed up at the zoning meeting are members of the homeowners association. The only member is the landlord. If they 'love' the neighborhood so much, join the HOA.
anonymous-owner
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October 06, 2013
How do you know they are not members?
concerned resident
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October 06, 2013
If you are speaking of the homeowners referenced in this article, all are HOA members.
Tony Cain
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October 03, 2013
Uh-oh, just had a thought about those 5 college girls living in the rental house.

What happens when politicians say that 5 people are too few people to be in a 3 storey house with a nice large lawn? What if they say the property is "under utilized" and the house should be torn down so a new apartment complex can be built on the site? Then the "population density" will be more appropiate for the future land use map.

Or maybe the owners should just go to the Variance Board and get the zoning secretly changed.
Chalupa Batman
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October 03, 2013
I know for fair housing its a max of 2 heart beats per bedroom
West Cobb
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October 03, 2013
There is a reason these types of laws exist and it is to protect the property rights of others. Rental homes in neighborhoods DO adversely affect property values. The law should also not be applied on a case-by-case basis. The liberty of one person to do what they want with their property ends when it negatively affects another's liberty to the value and quiet enjoyment of their property. That's why zoning exists and that's also why multi-family housing exists.
Leeinman
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October 03, 2013
What's sad is you can't vote the planning commissioners out - they're appointed. So, of course they're going to do whatever they want to, who's going to stop them? Sadly, this is another example of how Cobb County being filled with nothing but "small government conservatives" is a total myth. The days of small government in Cobb are long gone. The statists and the fascists are here to stay, sometimes via appointment of the good 'ol boy network. Cameras on every traffic light, don't worry about those though, they're just "traffic" cameras. BTW, count the police cars you see on the way to work - it's astounding! Cobb County is running deficits and they're building more parks we do not need. I guess there's a need for public land to have community gardens on when the county might fine you if you have your own garden in your own yard. Asinine.
brothel
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October 03, 2013
"College girls" ... It looks like a cover for a brothel if you ask me. How many cars come and go from Craigslist all day and night?
Jorita Sevy
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October 03, 2013
Really - are you some kind of degenerate? One of those girls is my God Child - her family has brought her up to be a responsible, kind, hard working young lady. Did you not stop to think about what you said and the feelings of the girls, their family and their friends? I hope when they graduate they will consider moving out of Cobb County.
just stop
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October 03, 2013
ignorant. Go talk to the girls personally and you won't think that for one second. I've known them all for over a year and they are FAR from anything of such sorts. Do research before you speak.
Faisal ibn Farook
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October 04, 2013
Obviously you sit on your brain... Of course that might be assuming facts clearly not in evidence.

What a maroon...
GoOwls
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October 02, 2013
Cindy Peterson obviously has no idea what she is talking about. Reading this pisses me off. We're college students who have little to no money after tuition and other school fees... These girls aren't causing a problem. My blood is boiling, I can't even keep typing....
Tony Cain
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October 02, 2013
Hmmm... wonder if the commissioners would consider booting out any of the 8 members of the family next door to me, especially when other family members move in when they're just out of jail or rehab.
Jake Cooper
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October 02, 2013
One of many reasons I made sure to transfer from KSU to UGA. Way too many growing pains in Kennesaw for college students to have to deal with.
JMWHITE
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October 02, 2013
My daughter is in college at Kennesaw,thankfully she stays in another county- they enjoy their quiet Neighborhood, I understand people not wanting to live by bad neighbors, but does this mean that as long as they are related you can pack em in? Once again people are profiling a group. As long as the owners rent to responsible and will owe up to their tenants actions I do not see why this should be a problem, The problem is people are holding their noses up too high, a snob is a fancy name for a narrow minded, self centered person....
Concerned Student
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October 02, 2013
A land use permit is temporary and is approved on a case by case basis. So after the girls move out the new tenants would have to be apply as soon as the permit runs out. The whole idea that frat houses will start popping up is ridiculous. I'm living in a house with 3 other students and we are going through the exact same thing. We applied for a 2 year permit so we could live in our house till we graduate. We live in a 4 bedroom house and have more than enough space, and my rent is $225 cheaper than the on campus housing I would have to pay if I lived on campus. We have a long driveway so there is plenty of space for parking for us and our visitors. Its discrimination. Just because I'm in college does not mean I am constantly throwing parties and causing trouble. We're actually good neighbors. We are quiet and we keep our house in good condition. We all have jobs in our field, and we're just trying to get through school with as little debt as possible.
KSU neighbor
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October 02, 2013
They seem to be picking a fight with one house. There are many more houses in the KSU area that have more than 2 non-related people living in them. Has been for years. Why is this just now an issue?
Jose Enrique alMutab
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October 04, 2013
Because someone in the neighborhood complained. How stupid is that.
Edward Jakes
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October 02, 2013
This ordinance makes absolute sense, and as a resident of Parkwood Commons, I 100% agree with it. The girls' character or drive was never called into question. However, the article failed to mention that upwards of 5 or 6 cars are often parked in the house. Many times, the cars are pulled up into the yard close to the house. Cars are often parked along the road in a dangerous curve. Houses with 5 tenants tend to come with 5 cars and tend to come with guests, and that is not what I signed up for when I purchased a home in the neighborhood. Bravo to Mrs. Peterson and Mr. Ellis for standing up for our community. I'm sure are other cheaper apartment complexes where the girls could choose to live besides West 22. Perhaps the 5 won't be able to live together to pay rent of $205.00 but not many people in the world pay a rent or mortgage that low. I have full faith the County Commission will uphold the vote. The law is the law, and it should be followed.
Chandler123456
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October 03, 2013
God bless if you have kids.
Stupid......
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October 03, 2013
There is NOT cheaper housing in Kennesaw. I used to live in Upointe, and all of those apartment complexes are a rip off. I paid 645 a month to get no space or peace and quiet. You have 1 room to yourself. It's not luxury living. Non-student apartment complexes are just as expensive. Students need to be able to live wherever. & Do you REALLY think it is logical mention how people pay more for mortgages? OF COURSE THEY DO. They have established lives and jobs and WANT to stay in one place for more than 2-4 years.
Reality Check
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October 04, 2013
I'm sorry, but you are sadly mistaken. As a former student, I can honestly tell you that the cheapest these girls are looking at for an apt, with utilities included, would be 2 times as much as the rent they would be paying. I've lifeguarded for 4 years (one of those years at your residential neighborhood)and I can say 1st hand that most HOAs are completely full of crap. Just a bunch of snobby older folks that think that our generation is a bunch of partiers and heavy drinkers, when in reality we are the enlightened, we are the generation struggling to make a place for ourselves. To say that your property value would drop is just stupid. Granted some people they could rent to may not provide good care for their home but these girls did. This "anti-brothel" thing needs to be cut out and put six-feet under in my opinion. We have enough debt and stuff to pay for.

-A KSU Student
UGA Student
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October 04, 2013
If laws were simply followed without question, Mr. Jakes, progress would never be an option. As much as my age group is looked down upon by older generations, I'm glad some of us avoided becoming the robots that we were expected to become.
Judy says . .
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October 13, 2013
Oh, so if your neighbor has three children then at sometime they will have 5 cars in the driveway!! You are ridiculous, we have six vehicles in our driveway and God forbid we have a friend or two over. I hope the next family has 5 kids and then their might be 7 cars to mess up your perfect little Parkwood Commons neighborhood!

You need to get a life!
A GA Student
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October 02, 2013
Students aren't made of money. Do you know how difficult it is for a student to go to school, work and pay for rent, food, school supplies, etc.. these days? No, you don't because in your day, college tuition wasn't as high as ours is now. Students can't just up and move into an apartment. That's ridiculous and completely inconsiderate to even suggest it. The adults in this article are selfish. All they care about is their lawns. Why don't you be an adult and help the students out in your community? They're getting an education to make your lives better. Kennesaw needs to get educated. An example would be @richjerrykevin who mentions "illegals are jam packed into rental properties." Your note that "they're white girls, too" as if that matters, is absurd and assumptions about undocumented people makes me feel pity for the younger and older generations in Kennesaw. Please go take a sociology class, or get out of Kennesaw and discover the world. Or you can just stay in Kennesaw and not let ignorance spread to other parts of the world. Thanks.
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