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Redevelopment, Rezoning on the Rise in Southeast Cobb County

Commissioner Bob Ott explains Cobb County's rezoning process.

According to County Commissioner Bob Ott, redevelopment is on the rise in District 2.

“Just over the last two years in District 2 there has been over $400 million worth of projects: $250 million in commercial and $150 million in residential,” he said Tuesday at a town hall meeting in Smyrna. “That’s more than the other three districts combined, so there’s been a lot of activity.”

And redevelopment means rezoning, a legal process that leaves some citizens scratching their heads. Ott spent a portion of the meeting detailing Cobb County’s zoning process.

Step One: Zoning Application is Filed and Reviewed

Once an applicant submits an application, Ott said a 90-day clock countdown begins. During this time, the applicant meets with county staff from departments like Stormwater Management and the Department of Transportation.

“Each department has their own set of criteria,” he said “Storm water look are there any streams that we have to protect? So that’s why it’s a 90-day process because it takes staff time. They’ll go out to the site. They’ll meet with the applicant and things like that.”

Additionally, if an applicant is making a rezoning request in an area that has a master plan, like the Vinings Vision plan, the application will be reviewed to make sure it is in keeping with the plan’s guidelines.

Step Two: Planning Commission Public Hearings

After county staff have evaluated the application, they make a recommendation the Planning Commission, a five-member board comprised of representatives appointed from each county commission district plus the chairman’s appointee.

The Planning Commission meets the first Tuesday of each month except for January. At these meetings, the applicant is allowed 10 minutes to make a case for their request, then the opposition is allowed to speak.

“That is a collective 10 minutes,” Ott said. “So if you have five people in opposition and the first person speaks for nine minutes, the other four get a minute.”

Ott added that sometimes the Commission will chose to waive 10 minute time limit for a particularly contentious issue.

The Planning Commission is allowed to meet about an application twice before the body is required to vote on a recommendation for the Board of Commissioners.

Step Three: Board of Commissioners Vote

After the Planning Commission reaches a consensus, the application goes before the Cobb County Board of Commissioners. Again the applicant gets 10 minutes to speak about why their petition should be allowed and the opposition has 10 minutes to disagree.

“A lot of times what you’ll hear from the applicant is this the “highest and best use” of the property,” Ott said. “Contrary to what a lot of people believe, that is not a legal argument to force us to do a zoning. There is nothing that says every single property owner has to have the highest and best use. We cannot deny you access to your property and we cannot take from you.”

He also emphasized that members of the Planning Commission and the Board of Commissioners are not allowed to express their opinions about a particular case before a hearing.

“Prior to a zoning hearing I’m not allowed to tell which way I’m going to vote,” he said. “At a zoning period right up until the public comment period is closed, we’re not supposed to have an opinion. That doesn’t mean that I don’t, I just can’t say it.”

After public comment is complete, the Board discusses the application, a task Ott said they don't take lightly. 

"There are a lot of legal parameters that we as Commissioners and the Planning Commission have to considerm," he said. "Basically it goes all the way up to the U.S. Constitution. If our decisions are deemed arbitrary or capricious, which basically means we’re winging it, then we lose in court."

After deliberating, the Board of Commissioners casts their votes and the process is complete. 

Sanders September 21, 2012 at 04:53 PM
So is it safe to say this is what is going on right now with John Weiland and settlement road off of woodland brook in vinings?
Bruce September 21, 2012 at 07:59 PM
The Center for Community Progress, a fairly new group that has contacted virtually every city council and every county commission as well as state and federal officials is pushing land banks and code enforcement. But the CCP wants land banks to have the power to seize any property and it wants code enforcement to use its powers to seize private property. Then, federal grants and low interest loans can be given to the designated NEW owners of said properties to develop them. Good trick, huh?
Craig Harfoot September 22, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Does anyone remember when Sam Olens, Tim Lee, Helen Goreham , passed the police arm to code enforcement under the guise of too many cars in the driveway to deal with complaints about Hispanics sharing houses. I wrote an article titled " Cobb county's continuing efforts to circumvent citizen's constitutional rights" Two Lawyers from a large Law Firm stated that county was targeting Hispanics but failed to say anything about the larger constitutional issue of warrant less search on private property when the only issue is how many cars are allowed on a property. Under Tim Lee's leadership after the 2008 crash they targeted people that rented booths in Antique malls ( converted empty grocery stores) by stating they needed to all have a business license. The result, the dealers moved out. After booth rent, a sales percentage, sales tax, all covered by the malls business license. Many people were simply liquidating their own personal property or reselling garage sale items. The only jobs available are if you start your own business. The county needs to back off the fees if the business does not at least earn more than the poverty level income mark. Worse is if you try to operate anything from your home. You now have a choice in November please Write in Craig Harfoot as a candidate for Cobb Commission Chairman. As a candidate I will not be allowed to speak at the commission meeting until after Nov 6th due to rules and regulations but I will represent you when elected.
Craig Harfoot September 22, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Thanks
Tim Elder September 23, 2012 at 04:57 AM
I am extremely disappointed with Bob Ott's vote on the Settlement Road Rezoning. High density residential is grossly inconsistent with the Vinings Vision Plan of which he allegedly was a strong supporter. The notion that a denial of the re-zoning would have infringed on the property rights of Wieland, who knew what the existing zoning was when he bought the property, is simply absurd. With one vote Ott may have squandered two years of good will and trust he had build up with his constituents. His vote looks like a return to the anti-neighborhood policies of his predecessor in office.
Bruce September 23, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Unfortunately, it looks like Com. Ott is smoozing with the Cumberland Community Improvement District, especially the guy in charge of it, Tad Leithead, also of the Atlanta Regional Commission, also the big pusher to get almost all of Cobb's 10-year TSPLOST money given to Fulton and Atlanta. These are the same folks who rudely gave Commissioner Ott the cold shoulder at a public meeting when he suggested alternative rail for the Cobb TSPLOST project. What happened? This was the man who was standing up and fighting for us.
Craig Harfoot September 24, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Tim Elder and Bruce please call me at 404 454 1059 my email is craigharfoot@gmail.com
Craig Harfoot September 24, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Have you investigated the Cobb Development Authority and who they have given low interest loans to? By the way the taxpayer's are cosigners on those loans if they go south. The authority has to scramble to find someone to pick up the loan payments if the scheme gets in trouble. Also you have to check the campaign disclosure reports of the commissioners. I was outraged and ran the first time after reading those reports when the tax assessors office appraised my home I just built for $180,000 when I had spent $108,000 to build it. I knew 12 years ago that higher density zoning causes the governmental service costs to grow geometricaly (taxes go up). The campaign donor's always want their property zoned to a higher density. The civic group talking heads always handle the citizenry objecting to the more intense zoning. They do not seem to know how to negotiate effectively against higher density, only to put restrictions on future buyers of the property. The way to combat this is get the big money out of politics. If a commissioner has a zoning in front of them by a donor they should recuse themselves from the vote. Do you have any other ideas? Craig Harfoot Write-in candidate opposed to Tim Lee's $450,000 primary TSPLOST Donor protection plan.
Craig Harfoot September 24, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Thank you

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