No Jewish student center on residential street, Board of Commissioners says

Feb. 21—MARIETTA — An organization for Jewish college students sought rezoning to make a residential home near Kennesaw State University its outpost at the school.

On Tuesday, the Cobb Board of Commissioners brought that effort to a halt.

All five commissioners voted to deny the request from Hillels of Georgia, affiliated with KSU and offering educational and religious programming to Jewish students at the university, for a permit to operate out of the house on Frey Lake Road, across from the university and behind Campus Loop Road.

Steven Cadranel, chair of the KSU Foundation Board of Trustees, spoke on behalf of Hillels of Georgia, telling the commissioners religious organizations in a neighborhood increase home values.

He said the group averages nine students at its events, with a maximum of 42 students at a Friday night dinner. Even when they were in the backyard to light candles and say prayers to welcome in the Sabbath, Cadranel added, neighbors could not see through buffers on all three sides.

Cadranel also said there have been no recorded complaints while the group has rented and operated out of the home this school year. Hillels of Georgia's future aim was to purchase the property and continue using it as a center.

"Please allow us to live in peace, allow us to serve our students, shelter our children and add value to this neighborhood," Cadranel said.

Neighbors speaking against the request reiterated that their opposition was not based on any religious bias, but instead on evidence that the house is the wrong location for a student center.

Cindy Sproull, whose house backs up to the site in question, became emotional when discussing her efforts to keep the area residential for the 42 years she has lived there.

Sproull said there used to be problems with students coming into the neighborhood and smoking, eating and littering, though the splitting of Frey and Campus Loop roads clearly demarcated the neighborhood from the university area.

Another of Sproull's concerns points to a broader issue typified by Hillels of Georgia's request: the continued growth of a major university into the suburbs surrounding it.

"When I moved there in 1980, looking out my front door, you could just see the rooftops of some (KSU) buildings in the very background," Sproull said. "Now it has built, built, built."

Commissioners did not delve into the issue of KSU's expanding footprint, though they did acknowledge the challenge of balancing the applicant's well-meaning efforts with the real concerns of neighbors.

Commissioner JoAnn Birrell said Hillel is "an outstanding organization."

"We support your education and outreach to the students here," Birrell said. "The issue is the location of where you want to go. It is inappropriate for any organization or group of any size to be in a strictly residential neighborhood such as this."

Various concerns brought up by the opposition and commissioners included lack of parking on the dead end street where the house is located, as well as concerns about fire department access and a lack of accessible sidewalks and crosswalks in the area of the house.

Chairwoman Lisa Cupid said she was "very sympathetic" to the group's desire for the rezoning request, though she had not realized the request was for a home on the dead-end, fully residential stretch of Frey Lake Road, not Campus Loop Road.

"I also think about someone's residential use of their property, and is it reasonable for them to have a neighbor that can have upwards (of) 10, 15, 20 plus people on a consistent basis, and I also don't think that's reasonable, particularly if someone has young children," Cupid said.

The commission gave Hillels of Georgia until May 31st to stop operating its center at the Frey Lake Road house.