Plans from Atlanta-based Isakson Living originally called for a 987-unit residential development on land off Roswell Road adjacent to East Cobb Park. The development, to be called Isakson Senior Living, would feature one-, two- and three-bedroom homes for seniors ages 62 and up. Homes were to range up to 2,500 square feet with four-story buildings on top of a parking garage.
A rezoning application is required because the company is seeking to use the 53.7-acre tract as a continuing-care retirement community, a use that is not allowed under current county zoning.
But Isakson Living likely won’t know until next spring if they’ll get the go-ahead from the Cobb Board of Commissioners. The continuing-care retirement community zoning category was suspended by the board Tuesday until April 1, 2014.
Cobb will no longer accept re-zoning applications seeking that use and, while Isakson Living’s application was filed before the moratorium and can still be considered by the commission, Rob Hosack, county community development director, said his staff will likely recommend the board take no action and defer judgment until the category is revisited.
Cobb Chairman Tim Lee said he plans to hold a symposium in February focusing on senior issues in the county to get public input.
“If we’re taking the time to look at this, let’s look at it holistically,” Lee said.
Some residents hoping for input
The plan for the 53.7-acre tract was met with disdain from some east Cobb residents who alleged its proposed density was too high for the area. Isakson Living withdrew its application last month promising to meet with community members and revisit the plan.
When word reached the company that the county would revisit the code, the application was re-submitted, though Kevin Isakson, son of Sen. Johnny Isakson, said he didn’t know for certain the county was considering a moratorium.
The re-application caught Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the area, and some residents off guard.
Ott told the MDJ after the application was re-submitted he was “disappointed.”
Now, county commissioners are planning to revisit the continuing care retirement community zoning category Isakson Living is seeking to use. The category has not been used since it was created in 2008.
County staff members will meet with commissioners and business leaders in the senior living industry and make recommendations on how the zoning category could be improved.
Jan Barton, an east Cobb resident, told commissioners during a public comment period at Tuesday’s meeting she wants to see the code made more “fair and reasonable.”
“I am one of many who feels that Isakson Senior Living needs to be placed elsewhere in Cobb County,” Barton said.
The re-zoning application might have been re-filed, but Kevin Isakson says that doesn’t mean the company’s plan is final. Tweaks can still be made after the application is submitted.
“We refiled our plans last Tuesday and as soon we did I got on the phone and reached out to talk to the primary homeowners group we had talked to,” Kevin Isakson said.
He maintains he’ll still be meeting with homeowners and taking their concerns into consideration.
“We want to get back out and show them those changes and continue that dialogue,” Isakson said.
Isakson Living now has little say
Ott isn’t just unhappy the company did not meet with nearby residents, he’s disappointed Isakson Living now has a conflict of interest in any discussions moving forward about the zoning category.
“By them re-filing, they cannot be part of the committee,” Ott said.
Isakson Living’s opinion would have been valued, Ott said, because the company is the first to apply under the category in question.
Kevin Isakson doesn’t think the moratorium is needed.
“I did not think that was a necessary step,” he said. “Ours is the first proposal under the existing code, and I think it would have been beneficial to let our proposal work through the process.”
Though the county will now revisit the continuing care retirement community designation in an attempt to alleviate concerns of residents, Isakson says his company has made “significant strides” and is in the process of revising the plan to gain more support.
Buildings that will stand on the perimeter of the property along Roswell Road and East Cobb Park have been reduced in height from four stories to three.
The density has also fallen by 15 percent, dropping from the original proposed 837 independent living units and 150 health care units to 749 independent living units and 94 health care units.
Kevin Isakson also says the proposed senior living community is a better use for the land than a single-family residential development. He says the senior residents will add less to the neighborhood’s traffic and that his plan leaves more undisturbed space than most residential developments.