East Cobb megachurch and subdivision combo delayed at zoning hearing

·2 min read

Jul. 6—MARIETTA — Planning commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to delay a vote on North Point Ministries' 30 acre-plus redevelopment in east Cobb, a proposal shaping up to be one of the most hotly debated of the year.

Nearly 70 people both for and against the church and residential complex packed into the already crowded hearing. Forty-one of those said they were in favor.

"That's the church," opposition members jeered at the attendees in support as the hearing began. "That's one vote!"

Tuesday was the third time the Planning Commission heard North Point's proposal, which will now be reconsidered in August.

Several opposition members, in a shift from past meetings, now said they had nothing against the design of the 125,000 square foot church at the intersection of Johnson Ferry and Shallowford roads. If approved, the site would be the eighth metro Atlanta location for the Alpharetta-based megachurch, which lists a weekly attendance of over 37,000.

The opposition's concerns now lay with the proposed 71 townhomes and 56 detached houses—to be built by Ashwood Development—and the rerouting of Waterfront Drive, an existing street in the area.

Ruth Michels lives near the site and said the density of the development would burden the area with traffic and "urbanize" east Cobb.

"Why do people want to live in east Cobb? ... To get away from the density, intensity, and busyness," Michels added.

Jill Flamm of the East Cobb Civic Association, meanwhile, said the latest design was an improvement but failed to promote a walkable and livable environment.

Previous iterations of the design included a strip of commercial development along Johnson Ferry Road and a higher number of townhomes. The storefronts were largely scrapped, save for a 0.6 acre area next to the church. The townhomes were reduced from over 120 to 71, and the detached houses were added to provide for a step-down in density to the surrounding residential area.

The changes, said North Point's attorney Kevin Moore, ought to provide "a sense of how much the church is responding to the commentary and comments."

Planning Commissioner Tony Waybright, who represents the area, told the audience he believed the near-elimination of the commercial area was a net positive, even though the JOSH (Johnson Ferry-Shallowford) Master Plan for the neighborhood recommends storefronts along Johnson Ferry. But given that a single fast-food restaurant can add thousands of cars per day, Waybright said, replacing the commercial with residential was a "good trade."

Waybright conceded opposition comments pointing out problems with the proposed variances (requested deviations from county code) were "absolutely correct." In light of that, he said the proposal needed "one more month" of negotiation between North Point, Ashwood, and the area residents.

Michels said after the meeting the delay was "very frustrating," but left promising she'd be back next month.

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