The answer is the CCRC (continuing care residential community) zoning code, drafted in large part by Isakson Living in 2008, controversial from the beginning, and unsupported by every community member on the CCRC drafting committee. It is the only Cobb zoning code that doesn't include wetlands or floodplain when calculating density, and the entire CCRC code is heavily weighted in favor of the developer, allowing for building heights of up to 4-stories. The RSL (residential senior living) zoning code limits building heights to 2-stories and 35-feet maximums in residential areas, so the CCRC is quite an deviation from the accepted land use norms.
The CCRC proposed by Isakson Living had an independent living component with a density higher than that of most apartment complexes in Metro Atlanta. Again, the zoning codes used by apartment complexes in Cobb County (RM-8, RM-12, RM-16) are not recommended for Low Density Residential land.
In addition, the parking level in the CCRC was not clarified as a story in the CCRC zoning code, which is how Isakson Living proposed 5-story apartments, rather than the recommended 2-stories or even up to 4-stories, in such a low density residential area. Any zoning code in Low Density Residential neighborhoods should be limited to 35-feet or 2-stories from grade level, just as the RSL zoning code does. In fact the RSL code could be better stated as 35-feet and 2-stories.
However, overall the RSL zoning code recognizes height and density concerns of communities in order to protect neighborhoods from overly intense developments.
Some history of the CCRC zoning code in Cobb County:
July 2008 CCRC Zoning code approved, with reservations by all non-developer committee members
May 2013 Isakson Living proposed rezoning the 54-acre Tritt property under the CCRC code
October 2013 Isakson Living withdrew its CCRC application amid community opposition
November 2013 Isakson reapplied before the CCRC had a moratorium on new applications
In 2014 Isakson Living proposed different CCRC plans for the Tritt property but all with similar heights, density & intensity
March 2015 The Cobb Board of Commissioners denied Isakson Living CCRC rezoning
March 2015 Also, a 1-Year Moratorium on any CCRC application enacted
April 2015 Isakson Living started litigation against Cobb County for the CCRC rezoning denial
January 2016 Cobb County planned to amend the RSL code for multi-stage senior living and delete the controversial CCRC code. Cobb community members and civic associations supported this publicly.
At the February 23, 2016 Board of Commissioners meeting to approve replacing the CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community) code by making improvements to the existing RSL (Residential Senior Living) code to allow for multi-stage senior living, Chairman Lee surprisingly delayed the vote.
Why was the voted delayed?
Chairman Lee said the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) had new information related to the proposed changes to Cobb's CCRC and RSL zoning codes, although he didn't specify what that new information was. At the same February 23 meeting, Commissioner Bob Ott noted staff had nearly a year to look at the CCRC code changes during the Moratorium and questioned Commissioner Lee on how any information could possibly have that great an affect on this zoning code. We agree with Commissioner Ott's assessment of the situation.
Some concerned citizens have requested the ARC information Commissioner Lee mentioned, and it appears none of the data calls into question the serious CCRC zoning code discrepancies, such as using floodplain in density calculations, allowing up to 4-stories in Low density areas, and not clarifying if parking can be counted as a story.
- The CCRC moratorium has been in effect for several months, which should have been ample time to consider all the implications of the proposed zoning changes.
- If the county plans to consult industry leaders in the senior housing industry, it should also consult citizens of Cobb County to ensure that their concerns are addressed, both as residents and neighbors of these senior housing developments.
- Kevin Isakson serves on the ARC Aging Committee, so it would be a conflict of interest for the Cobb Board of Commissioners to take guidance from him on this matter, given the county's current litigation with Isakson Living and his direct business interest in maintaining the least restrictive CCRC possible.
Community members do not understand this delay in voting on a reasonable compromise to the senior living zoning districts which both promotes aging in place and at the same time protects neighborhoods from overly-intense developments.
Here is the Marietta Daily Journal article about the delayed vote.
February 24, 2016 MARIETTA — The Board of Commissioners postponed a decision on changes to senior living zoning categories that had been slated for a vote at Tuesday’s regular meeting.
The amendment followed a contentious zoning case last year concerning Tritt Walk, a proposed 481-senior living community by Isakson Living near East Cobb Park. The county is engaged in litigation with the developer and property owner over the board’s decision to deny the zoning request.
The proposed changes would have implications for density and floodplain for new projects.
Chairman Tim Lee asked the board Tuesday to postpone taking action on the senior living code changes “to provide staff with an opportunity to spend a little bit more time with some subject matter experts as to what the demand is in today’s world and … to try to match where the trend is going for senior housing.”
Speaking during the public hearing, Jill Flamm of the East Cobb Civic Association called the proposed changes a “definitive improvement” and called on the board to approve the amendment as drafted and not to put it off any longer.
Carol Brown of Canton Road Neighbors also expressed support for the changes, but added, “(We) think maybe it’s a good idea to review the new initiatives that are out there for people who want to age in place.”
Commissioner Bob Ott came out against postponing a decision on the amended senior living code.
“This board put in place a moratorium on new (Continued Care Retirement Communities) a year ago and gave staff the direction to spend that year, which they have done, doing exactly what, Mr. Chairman, you’re asking this board to delay for and that is review the needs and requirements of senior living,” Ott said. “I just think that delaying this any further is just kicking the can down the road ... I cannot support continuing this any further; it’s been looked at for a year.”
The board voted 4-1 to postpone voting on senior living zoning, with Ott opposing.
Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Cobb BoC postpones vote on senior living
The dramatic differences between RSL and CCRC zoning codes for senior living options in low density residential neighborhoods:
Here's more information:
Isakson Living helped draft the CCRC code:
We are for retirement communities but against the CCRC code: