May 18—MARIETTA — In a narrow 3-2 vote Tuesday, the Cobb Board of Commissioners approved a rezoning proposal to build condominiums on a dead-end road near Windy Hill Road and Interstate 75—against the wishes of Dobbins Air Reserve Base and the Cobb Chamber of Commerce.
The board's three Democrats, Commissioners Jerica Richardson, Monique Sheffield, and Chairwoman Lisa Cupid voted in favor of the 38-unit development, while its two Republicans, Commissioners JoAnn Birrell and Keli Gambrill, voted in opposition. Currently, the property is an undeveloped, wooded lot. The proposal had been previously recommended for denial by the county Planning Commission in April.
Dobbins, supported by the chamber, sought to block the development because of its location just inside the base's "Accident Potential Zone," a 3,000 by 5,000 square foot area extending southeast from the runway where crashes during takeoff and landing are most likely to occur. Department of Defense guidelines, said Dobbins' representative Jay Thomas, recommend no residential units be built within the APZ.
Parks Huff, attorney for developer Venture Communities, worked to dissuade the board from those objections. He pointed out that between the Leland Drive property and the base are already numerous commercial and residential properties. And besides, he said, the condos would not be "adding a use that's not already within that zone."
"Quite frankly, if our property was 800 feet north, I don't think any of our property would be in that zone," Huff added.
Cupid agreed with that assessment, saying she didn't "perceive that this zoning exacerbates" the development within the APZ.
In previous hearings on the case, Thomas had warned the county Planning Commission that a decision to approve the residential construction could impact future base closure evaluations. Richardson said after the meeting she didn't foresee one development shuttering a major military installation.
"Those studies are always going to be a part of that consideration," Richardson said. "There is a strong presence, a strong relationship here already with Dobbins Air Force Base. And ... I think at least the goal was to make sure that those considerations were brought into the fold."
Birrell said her vote against the project was simply based on the fact that Dobbins objected. Gambrill said the base's opposition was a factor, but her main concerns were with the site's future land designation as parkland, and possible encroachments onto nearby floodplains.
Gambrill said of Dobbins' position, "It's kind of hard to say, 'Well, we can't do the development because of the base,' when there has been additional development, even though that guidance has been there."