Commissioners divided over south Cobb development on Barnes' farm

Nov. 15—The Cobb Board of Commissioners split Tuesday over a disputed south Cobb development on farmland owned by former Gov. Roy Barnes.

With Commissioner JoAnn Birrell absent, Chairwoman Lisa Cupid and Commissioner Keli Gambrill voted against the proposal, while commissioners Jerica Richardson and Monique Sheffield voted in favor.

Birrell will be able to review the recording of the hearing and cast her vote at the commission's next zoning meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 20. Until then, the case is technically "pending," said John Pederson, Cobb's zoning division manager.

Originally slated for a 132-home subdivision on 190 acres, developer David Pearson reduced the number of homes to 114 in the plan brought before the commission Tuesday.

The land proposed for development is located on Brown Road near Stout Park in Powder Springs, and 125 of the 190 acres would be set aside as green space under the county's "open space community" category, which allows developers to put houses on smaller lots in exchange for providing common green space to their residents.

Flooding and stormwater concerns drove the debate about the development since it was first heard by the Planning Commission in July. Residents near the farm identified flood concerns, dating to the 2009 floods that submerged the area, as reason enough for commissioners to vote down the proposal.

"The last storms that just came and hit Georgia a month ago, we just missed it, of being flooded again," said Clithon Rice, a nearby resident opposed to the development. "If it would have came a little further south, it would have been '09 over again. Sweetwater Creek continues to flood every time it rains, all the time. Not some of the time, all the time."

Rice showed a picture of flooding from 2009 to drive home his point.

Gambrill echoed his comments as she explained her opposition to the proposal.

"We're doing the minimum here in an area we know has flooding issues and water and drainage problems," Gambrill said. "I think this is too intense for this area given the existing and known stormwater issues that we have."

Cupid also voiced concerns about flooding before calling a vote on the proposal.

"I know back in, what was it, September 2009, they had the 500-year flood, but even just, I think, two or four years prior to that, there was Hurricane Dennis that damaged a number of homes in that same area," Cupid said.

Cupid told Sheffield, who represents the area where the development would be located, that she was "torn" about how to vote. Cupid cited a paper she wrote at the time she graduated law school, in spring 2011, about stormwater utilities and, more specifically, the area around Sweetwater Mission in Austell.

Based on what she wrote in the paper, Cupid said, she could not support the proposal.

"Limiting development in flood prone areas can also help reduce the burden on stormwater management resources," Cupid read from her paper.

After reviewing the site plan once more, Cupid returned to her conflicted perspective about the proposal.

"It pains me to say this, because I didn't walk in here with any other intent other than to support the interests of commissioners, but ... the image that the resident put on the screen just brought all of that back, and that was a very real event in those residents' lives that still impacts people to this day, so I'm afraid to say I can't support this application," Cupid said.

Birrell will cast her vote on the proposal at the commission's next zoning hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 9 a.m. at 100 Cherokee St.