Comprehensive Plan, Land Use Map spark debate
by Rachel Gray
January 19, 2014 12:41 AM | 4473 views | 3 3 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb County businessman and resident Tom Finnegan looks over the 10-acre tract of land that is at a dead-end street in his Hedgerow neighborhood Thursday. Finnegan is speaking out against the proposed development  on that land and plans to address Cobb County Board of Commissioners at their meeting Tuesday morning.
<br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Cobb County businessman and resident Tom Finnegan looks over the 10-acre tract of land that is at a dead-end street in his Hedgerow neighborhood Thursday. Finnegan is speaking out against the proposed development on that land and plans to address Cobb County Board of Commissioners at their meeting Tuesday morning.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
MARIETTA — When Tom Finnegan came to the lectern, he was unsure what to ask or if anything he said could make a difference, but he knew the county’s plan made no sense.

Finnegan spoke up at the Jan. 7 meeting of the Cobb Planning Commission where final tweaks were made to the 2014 Comprehensive Plan and Future Land Use Map, which is supposed to help identify the needs and trends of the county over the next few years.

After a year of zoning changes to specific parcels, the map is updated to reflect the new general character of a location.

Mike Terry, planning commission chairman, reminded the dozens of people at the Jan. 7 meeting that adjustments to the comprehensive plan do not change county ordinances or existing zoning — they just act as a guide to the future.

But, in Finnegan’s recent experience, the map does little to guide zoning decisions or help residents predict the future use of the land around their property.

Wooded area up for sale

On Jan. 7, the planning commission unanimously recommended relabeling two parcels of land near Mabry Road, north of Shallowford Road in east Cobb, from a park and recreation distinction to low-density residential.

The 12 acres of privately owned land sits empty, except for a canopy of pine trees, but the back 10 acres was rezoned in July to build a 20-unit single-family housing subdivision.

Finnigan’s home in the Hedgerow neighborhood on Singing Post Lane sits just north of the green space, which, according to the future land-use map, should be kept as a public park, a nature preserve or golf course.

Finnigan said he bought his home in the 30-year-old neighborhood two years ago, not realizing the area adjacent to where his street dead-ends would be sold for development.

“I thought I was buying a home with a nice farm by it,” Finnigan told the commission. “I feel a little naïve. I feel a little embarrassed.”

Terry said it is a case of the land being mislabeled. It was never intended to be a park and always open for development.

County staff told Finnigan the wooded area was always private land, but was designated as green space as an initiative by a past governor.

“The land-use map is incorrect, and we are trying to correct it,” Terry said about the planning commission trying to clean up areas on the future land-use map.

“To me, it still sounds a little like putting the horse before the cart,” Finnigan said.

Is east Cobb green?

Cobb’s 2014 Comprehensive Plan states that Cobb respects natural resources by promoting parks, trails and green space, as well as protecting and maintaining historic sites.

For the disputed parcels, the plan said there are no environmental restraints or concerns for that space. Also, Cobb staff pointed out Jan. 7 properties to the north, south and west are also low-density residential, so the change is appropriate for the future land use.

Finnigan said he had a few follow-up phone calls with Christi Trombetti, the planning commissioner who represents his district.

Trombetti assured Finnigan, according to him, the second smaller piece of wooded area has not been sold and there are no plans to develop the two-acre lot. Still, Finnigan questions why the land use for the smaller piece is also being changed to a residential label.

“They just continue to sell off every parcel for homes or commercial,” Finnigan said.

He said there is already a lack of green space in east Cobb, and that short-sightedness is reducing the quality of life, and will lower the value of homes in the long term.

Finnigan, who described himself as a “construction guy,” works for FTI Consulting, which is based in Maryland with offices in Atlanta.

A landowner’s right

Finnigan said he fully understands the right of a property owner to sell land for development, but it is the responsibility of the county government to make that intention clear.

The first notice about the addition of a new housing subdivision arrived as a letter from the developer, Finnigan said.

“It seemed like, in our neighborhood, we didn’t hear about it until after the fact,” Finnigan said.

Finnigan said there was no sign by the county at the entrance to his neighborhood.

If the residents had known, Finnigan said they might have pooled together money to make a fair market offer on the 10 acres of evergreen forest.

Instead, Finnigan said, residents will see tree-lined backyards now crowded with new homes, lessening the value placed on their lots.

The property taxpayers of Hedgerow homes are not happy, Finnigan said, but they have been left with the impression little can be done.

Finnigan said he will speak at the Board of Commissioners meeting on the morning of Jan. 21, where there will be a vote on whether to approve the comprehensive plan and future land-use map.

Want to go?

WHAT: Public hearing on 2014 Comprehensive Plan and Future Land Use Map

WHO: Board of Commissioners discussion and approval

WHEN: 9 a.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Second Floor Board of

Commissioners Room,

100 Cherokee St., Marietta

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Captain Naive
January 20, 2014

Just Wait
January 19, 2014
You bought a home in east Cobb next to a large wooded area and did not believe it would be developed into more houses? Yes, you were naive.
Sue Bee
January 19, 2014
Hey Tom, you could have prevented this, all you had to do was buy the property and do what ever you want. Instead you choose to whine when someone else wants to develope. Go back up north where you probably came from. It's a good time to sell your house, low interest rates and home values have increased.
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