MARIETTA — One Cobb County commissioner expressed displeasure with a proposed code amendment that would allow owners of planned condominiums to rent more of their units instead of putting them up for sale.
After a public hearing during Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott said he doesn’t see a need for up to 25 percent of condo owners in a complex to be able to put their properties up for rental.
“We need to leave it at the 10 percent,” Ott said. “And then on a case by case basis, if we decide we want to go higher, then we can do that instead of automatically going to a higher number.”
Ott said it is important for the county to make clear which properties are for-rent apartments and which are for-sale condominiums. During the economic downturn, more developers have sought to be allowed to build condominiums with rental units because of falling demand.
“That’s not necessarily fair to the people who have purchased there, when all of a sudden the people who are living there don’t really have ownership in the property,” Ott said.
During the public hearing, the first of two that must be held before commissioners can approve code amendments, James Touchton, a lobbyist with the Duluth-based Council for Quality Growth, said the Board of Commissioners should change the wording in the amendment to use the Federal National Mortgage association, or Fannie Mae’s, maximum number for rentals in condominium projects. While the rate is currently 25 percent, the same as Cobb has proposed, that can go up or down depending on market conditions.
“That way it reflects how the economy is at a given time,” Touchton said.
Ott said that once a developer starts renting units, it is difficult to change it back to condominiums.
“I think once you start mixing and matching, you run into some issues,” he said.
The county put a moratorium on using the urban condominium zoning designation in March. The moratorium is scheduled to expire July 24, the date of the next Board of Commissioners meeting. Community Development Director Rob Hosack said the moratorium was put in place because a number of developers requested that units in condominium complexes be allowed to go up for lease.
“There was some concern that it was almost a way to make them apartments instead of condominiums,” Hosack said.
Hosack said about 10 complexes have sought the ability to lease units in condominiums complexes.
The concerns over the urban condominium designation initially came from the Cobb County Civic Coalition, an organization of community-based groups.
A second public hearing is scheduled for the Board of Commissioners’ July 24 meeting. At that time, commissioners would likely set a vote for their following meeting on Aug. 14, though they could make changes to the amendments and determine if further hearings are needed, county spokesman Robert Quigley said.
Ott was the only commissioner to vote against reorganizing the purchasing and property management divisions, which had been a recommendation of the Citizen Oversight Committee, which met last year to find ways to make county government more efficient.
The changes would allow the county to fill its vacant purchasing director position and update its organizational structure to have three full-time property management division managers to handle 2011 SPLOST projects, said Virgil Moon, support services agency director.
While officials said the changes would end up being “budget-neutral,” Ott said he wasn’t so sure.
“I’m not convinced that the costing is necessarily neutral,” Ott said. “I’m also not convinced that it’s needed. Overall, I just have concerns. It’s not like we’ve identified something in property management or purchasing that has a problem. I feel like we’re creating two positions, and I’m not sure it’s the right way to go.”
Commissioners followed the Citizen Oversight Committee’s recommendations to create audit and compensation committees in a 5-0 vote. While County Manager David Hankerson and his staff recommended against following the committee’s advice, commissioners decided last month to go ahead and create the committees.
The audit committee will be charged with evaluating and reviewing the county’s financial information, systems of internal controls and the audit process, according to an agenda item written by Chairman Tim Lee. The compensation committee will review pay and benefits for the county’s more than 4,000 employees.
Each committee will include five members: the chairman, a district commissioner, another county elected official and two residents with expertise in the area, Lee said. Commissioners are expected to appoint members, who won’t be paid, at an upcoming meeting.
In other actions, commissioners:
- Unanimously approved a contract with Blount Construction Company Inc. for drainage system and shoulder repairs on Laramie Drive for $107,698. The Marietta company’s bid on the 2011 SPLOST-funded project was lower than the $107,982 bid by Chatfield Contracting Inc. of Kennesaw and the $152,689 bid by D&H Construction Company Inc. of Atlanta.
- Unanimously approved a $51,159 contract with Janson Industries of Canton, Ohio, for 2011 SPLOST-funded equipment repair and replacement of the backstage fly system at the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre at the Cobb County Civic Center. The bid beat out Mainstage Theatrical Supply Inc. of Milwaukee, which bid $53,965, and Georgia Stage of Duluth, which bid $61,241.
- Unanimously approved a $154,746 2011 SPLOST-funded contract with Johnson Landscapes Inc. of Cumming to replace cross-tie retaining walls at Lions Park and Wallace Park in Mableton. Griffco Design/Build Inc. of Kennesaw was second at $166,257, while W.E. Contracting Company Inc. of Acworth was third at $281,353.
Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Ott not happy with condo rent proposal