By a 4-1 vote, the Cobb Board of Commissioners on Tuesday morning approved rezoning for a project in the Powers Ferry-Terrell Mill area that its developer and a nearby citizens group are hailing as a cornerstone of community redevelopment.
More than 100 citizens, many from the Powers Ferry Corridor Alliance, applauded wildly after the commission vote to rezone nearly 24 acres at the northwest corner of the Powers Ferry-Terrell Mill intersection to regional retail commercial (RRC).
The developer, Eden Rock Real Estate Partners, wants to build what it’s calling MarketPlace Terrell Mill, anchored by a Kroger superstore, restaurants and retail shops and an apartment building and self-storage facility.
Those last two components were opposed by residents of the Salem Ridge condominium adjacent to the East Cobb mixed-use development, and around 30 of them were in attendance Tuesday.
District 2 commissioner Bob Ott, who suggested the RRC category, said in his 20 years of public service, as a county commissioner and planning commissioner, “I’m not sure I’ve seen so many people come out from a community in support of a zoning.”
Those in favor cheered at that remark, which was part of Ott’s lengthy presentation about the zoning request, and the challenges of redeveloping the area.
The Powers Ferry Corridor Alliance, a citizens group formerly known as the Terrell Mill Community Association, has been vocal about the rezoning as a last chance to upgrade development in the area.
The assemblage of land currently includes Brumby Elementary School, which will be moving to Terrell Mill Road in August, as well as aging office and retail buildings, for a total of five different zoning categories.
The developer had sought planned village community (PVC) zoning. The Cobb Planning Commission recommended community retail commercial (CRC) and the multi-family RM-12 for a 298-unit apartment complex.
Ott said RRC was a better fit because of its unified provisions. Cobb zoning office director John Pedersen said RRC also would reduce the number of variances, to around five.
The number of variances bothered Northeast Cobb commissioner JoAnn Birrell, along with the residential density, and she was the only vote against the rezoning. The commissioners approved the storage facility 5-0 in a separate vote.
Initially the rezoning request had 21 variances, many of them vigorously opposed by Salem Ridge residents.
Amy Patricio, who spoke on behalf of them at Tuesday’s hearing, restated objections to a project that “is too much in too little space,” and claimed the area is “saturated” with apartment units and storage facilities.
She also said Salem Ridge homeowners had been kept “in the dark” about updated site plans, variance requests and stipulation letters from the developer.
But Ott disagreed, saying community input has been part of the process all along, and that Eden Rock’s many variations of the site plan have been the result of meetings with residents.
Ott pushed for a Powers Ferry Master Plan that was approved in 2011, in large part to redevelop a sense of community and attract residents to a clogged commercial corridor.
He said it has taken “years” for the community to come together to fix the area.
“It has become obvious to me that you are just opposed,” Ott said to the Salem Ridge homeowners. After 62 changes to the site plan and “months” of discussions, “we’ve pretty much reached an impasse.”
Ott then held up a thick, clipped stack of printed e-mails, saying he’s received 261 e-mails in favor and 30 opposed.
The Powers Ferry-Terrell Mill area got an initial boost in 2012, when the Terrell Mill Village Shopping Center was redeveloped, with an L.A. Fitness Center as the anchor, and with other restaurants and shops moving in.
At the time, Ott said that “I’ve always felt that if we could get something like that, we could get the whole area.”
The arrival of SunTrust Park and the Atlanta Braves also has stimulated commercial and residential development further down on Powers Ferry.
MarketPlace at Terrell Mill will include traffic signals on both Powers Ferry (opposite the entrance to the MicroCenter shopping center) and Terrell Mill (across from Terrell Mill Village).
Other traffic solutions include the opening of managed lanes along Interstate 75 later this year, including a Terrell Mill Road exit, and the construction of the Windy Hill-Terrell Mill Connector starting in 2020.
Ott said other traffic issues concerned carpool lines at Brumby Elementary School that continued out onto Powers Ferry.
Brumby will be relocated adjacent to the new location of East Cobb Middle School on Terrell Mill Road, just east of Powers Ferry. Carpool queues for both schools will be contained on school property.
“Those three things will have a major improvement on traffic” in the Powers Ferry-Terrell Mill area, Ott said.