Senior development spurs debate at Ott town hall
by Nikki Wiley
August 22, 2013 12:09 AM | 3520 views | 8 8 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott welcomes everyone in attendance Tuesday evening to his town hall meeting at the Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church, as he updates the crowd on the status of county issues and projects. <br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott welcomes everyone in attendance Tuesday evening to his town hall meeting at the Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church, as he updates the crowd on the status of county issues and projects.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
MARIETTA — A proposed 987-unit senior living development took center stage at a Tuesday town hall meeting by southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott.

Ott began the meeting, attended by about 180 people, talking about area transportation projects, but that focus quickly turned when residents voiced concerns about the project proposed for a 53.7-acre tract off Roswell Road next to East Cobb Park.

Atlanta-based Isakson Living, a firm with family ties to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), has planned the development for seniors 62 and older.

The firm will go before the Cobb Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners in October to request rezoning allowing it to develop the site as a senior community. Because it is not zoned for that kind of use now, the board must approve the rezoning for it to become a reality.

During the town hall meeting at Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church off Lower Roswell Road, Charles Lehr, an east Cobb IT consultant, asked Ott why residents should believe their concerns will be heard in light of the political connections of the investors.

“Why should we believe ... any concern by the community will be given any sort of consideration?” Lehr asked, as residents attending the town hall erupted in applause.

Ott told the crowd the law prevents him from publicly stating his opinion before the Board of Commissioners votes on the zoning, but he vowed to represent his district.

“Political connections don’t mean anything to me,” Ott said. “Last names do not matter.”

He encouraged people with concerns to email him lists of their questions or complaints.

“Just know everybody gets a fair statement especially in this district,” Ott said.

The MDJ asked Isakson’s office to respond to concerns about his involvement in the project.

“Sen. Isakson has absolutely nothing to do with this project,” said Isakson’s spokeswoman, Lauren Culbertson.

The project isn’t popular with many east Cobb residents.

Lauren Brockman, an east Cobb resident who works in international sales, polled the room toward the end of the meeting, which lasted about two hours.

Only two people signaled their approval of having the center at the proposed location.

The zoning that Isakson Living is seeking, continuing care retirement community, is allowed in what Cobb considers to be high-density, intensely developed areas such as apartment complexes and shopping centers.

Lehr said moving more than 1,000 residents into the community would have a similar impact.

“I think that qualifies as intense,” Lehr said.

Robert Burke, a software developer, asked Ott to specify the criteria that will be used in the zoning decision.

But Ott said he couldn’t do that because it might indicate his opinion on the zoning case.

“There are so many things that go into zonings,” Ott said.

The Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners looks at the size, location and character of the proposed zoning and its potential impact on traffic.

Rezoning applications that get denied sometimes end up in court, Ott said, and that means commissioners have to be careful to base their decisions on evidence the zoning would have a negative impact on its surrounding areas.

It’s the additional traffic that such a project would generate that has some residents up in arms.

Bill Hudson, a retired dentist, says vehicles in that area already experience delays, especially on weekends.

“I’m just wondering how traffic flow is going to be affected by this,” Hudson said.

Ott said that many homes “can’t help but affect traffic.”

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Community Lynn
August 23, 2013
I am still extremely disappointed that Mrs. Tritt's property couldn't be purchased to add to East Cobb Park during the period the county was buying property for parks before the downturn years ago. A real missed opportunity to save our greenspace in East Cobb.

We found out during the Wellstar community meetings the commissioners could do nothing to prevent Wellstar from building as the property is owned by a hospital authority. They did not have to go through the zoning process. We should be upset with a law that takes that process from the community and local government.

Bob Ott is an honorable man and know that it doesn't matter who is trying to put that high of density in our community...he will do everything legally possible to prevent this from happening. (I have many friends that have said they would move there in a heart beat if it wasn't so big and so expensive...which I also heard some people say at the town hall meeting Tuesday evening.)

nancy mom
August 23, 2013
There is no way that Sen. Isakson is not involved in this!! He and his family are definitely not going to turn the $ down!!! It is such a shame too!East Cobb has managed to keep some nice green areas for several years. Now they are disappearing at the expense of our children, the wildlife and just plain old common sense!!!!
Local resident
August 22, 2013
Mr. Ott and Ms. Birrell have no credibility when it comes to standing up for the protection of residential zoned property. Just look across the street at the Wellstar disaster.

How many meetings did Wellstar talk about "we need this property for the green trees and streams"...And Mr. Ott and Ms. Birrell stood there nodding their heads in approval.

Our commissioners need to find out that their job is not to rubber stamp anybody with a checkbook! We residents use our checkbooks to pay property taxes to be protected from this junk- we need to be represented as well as these payola interests.
Concerned East Cobb
August 22, 2013
You would think our elected officials would get a clue. They wonder why apathy exists in the electorate these days - this is why. Side-stepping questions never amounts to any good. Unless apathy is what they're banking on.

Let's hope Mr. Ott remembers his opposition to a development in his neighborhood a while back on the day of the vote.
SW Gal
August 22, 2013
Our community is being changed right before our very eyes (not in a good way.) Commissioner Ott stated that Vinings has secured a plan to "not be changed." Many of us would like to request the same for East Cobb. Mr. Ott's "vision" to change East Cobb into his old home town in NJ (multi-story buildings close to the street, much like Sandy Springs), and to his "ideal" of Copenhagen, Denmark, is not the "vision" most of us share. Please stop aggressively trying to change our residential community into a large city. Those cities already exist. Please move there if you prefer it and leave us alone. Isakson Living, no thanks. Big city URBAN design, no thanks.
Jermey G
August 22, 2013
Mr. Ott I checked my driver's license under Date of Birth and it does not say, "born yesterday".
August 22, 2013
^^ Thank you.
lester t
August 22, 2013
Sen. Isakson has absolutely nothing to do with this project. Ott can not answer your questions wants you to e-mail your concerns and questions. Why did he call for a meeting? Now if you believe this obviously you do not know politicians in Cobb Co.

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