Sep. 21—MARIETTA — Supporters and detractors of North Point Ministries' lightning rod mixed-use complex in east Cobb will have to wait at least another month for a decision on the project.
Commissioners voted 4-0 to hold the proposal to October, with Chairwoman Lisa Cupid recusing herself from the case as her family attends one of North Point's churches. Faced with a bundle of changes to the site plan, commissioners agreed too many problems were unresolved to render a final verdict.
As with past hearings, dozens turned out—46 opposed, 56 in favor, according to a count conducted by county staff. The hearing was punctuated by shouts and rumblings from the crowd, with the occasional reprimand from commissioners to maintain decorum.
Kevin Moore, attorney for the developer, brushed off the opposition's focus on the number of variances requested for the project as "clanging cymbals and loud gongs that signify nothing," a line which won him some of the morning's most spirited jeers.
"It's apparently now time for me to bang my gong," Ruth Michels, one of the opposition leaders, would later say. "We want this area developed, but it needs to be the right development. What the applicant has proposed is not that."
North Point and Moore returned with a substantially revised site plan this month based on feedback in August. When last presented, the project included over 120 single-family houses and townhomes. This month, that number was reduced to a maximum of 95 to bring the project's overall density down under 5 units per acre, a sticking point for some project opponents.
For Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, the density question had been her chief reason for voting against the project last month in a 2-2 split decision. But Moore once again argued the density was in keeping with that of the surrounding area.
"It was a fantastic plan last month, and we believe this plan strikes the proper balance ... without being inconsistent with the whole and the entirety of the community," the attorney said.
Part of the density reduction involved scrapping a row of townhomes along the Johnson Ferry side of the project, replacing them with additional commercial parcels.
The most time-consuming point of discussion, however, was the fate of Waterfront Drive, which currently snakes through the assemblage of parcels, connecting Johnson Ferry Road to the Mar Lanta subdivision. Recent site plans had proposed to reroute the road while still providing access for thru-traffic.
This time, North Point went back to a design not seen since early this year which would close off Waterfront Drive entirely. Faced with concerns that keeping the road open could cause traffic problems for Mar Lanta residents, Moore said the Waterfront Drive issue was more trouble than it was worth—hence the decision to eliminate the connection.
Commissioner Jerica Richardson, who represents the area, and Amy Diaz of Cobb's Department of Transportation, said DOT hadn't had sufficient time to review the traffic implications of the new design.
DOT, Diaz added, prefers keeping the road open—as does public safety, which raised concerns about fire and EMS access. Were the Board of Commissioners to approve North Point's new design, the county would be required to hold a public hearing on the closure of Waterfront Drive.
Birrell said she couldn't support a plan which closes the road, and south Cobb Commissioner Monique Sheffield agreed the board wasn't ready to come to a final vote. Moore was sent back to the drawing board, with Richardson telling the MDJ she's optimistic next month will be the one for the long-awaited decision.