This is part 5 of 10 arguments against the proposed Isakson Living East Cobb rezoning proposal.
Read the earlier arguments here:
- Very similar Isakson CCRC proposal defeated in Athens, Georgia
- Would Isakson Living East Cobb be safe for its residents?
- Could Isakson Living East Cobb expand in the future?
- Could Isakson Living East Cobb Cost Taxpayers?
The proposed Isakson Living East Cobb retirement community is a Development of Regional Impact, or DRI. This is a Georgia state program for developments which could have an impact beyond the jurisdiction of their local government, in this case, Cobb County. In the lifetime of the DRI program, there has never been a DRI in East Cobb; Isakson Living would be the first! (See Notes below).
A DRI is a development which could have a large impact on the region, meaning the metro Atlanta area. Most of the DRIs in Cobb County have been in or near the county's six incorporated cities, or close to an interstate highway, or in the Town Center Mall or Cumberland Mall areas.
There are many categories of DRI developments - waste handling facilities, petroleum facilities, industrial, mixed use, housing, etc. ("Mixed use" is a term for large developments which mix commercial, office space and residential - usually high density apartments or condos - in one site.) Each category has thresholds which trigger the state to conduct a DRI review when exceeded. Isakson Living East Cobb is in the housing category, and the threshold for a DRI review is 400 units. Isakson Living's first proposal was nearly 2.5 times that threshold, and the latest proposal is still nearly double that threshold.
Not even the WellStar East Cobb Health Park, currently under construction, triggered a DRI review. A healthcare facility has DRI thresholds of 300 beds or 375 peak hour vehicle trips. WellStar East Cobb will have few beds, because it is primarily for doctors' offices and outpatient procedures. Also, WellStar's traffic projections showed only 298 peak hour trips.
It is certainly remarkable that the Isakson Living East Cobb proposal, called East Cobb Retirement Community in its DRI application, is the first in 30 years to ever trigger a DRI or equivalent review in East Cobb. This is the state of Georgia telling us that this project will have a huge impact!
Cobb County only sees a few DRI proposals a year. There have been 4 DRI reviews in Cobb since the one for Isakson Living last June - 2 large warehouse/distribution centers in south Cobb (south of I-20), a large mixed use development off Barrett Parkway, and the new Braves stadium. Again, the state is letting us know that Isakson Living East Cobb will be big!
Isakson Living's DRI review was approved by the state, and all approved DRI reviews have the phrase "in the best interest of the region and therefore of the state". The region in this case is metro Atlanta. A DRI review say nothing about whether a proposal is good for a particular locality; in fact, the local government still has the autonomy to accept of deny a proposal, regardless of the DRI review's outcome.
What the phrase "in the best interest of the region and therefore of the state" means, is that we live in a big metro area, and within that region we need waste handling facilities, petroleum facilities, high-density mixed use developments, baseball stadiums, and high-density retirement communities. However, we should not build these things willy-nilly anywhere. Cobb County has a Comprehensive Plan, and a Future Land Use Map which designate where we can expect different types of developments to go. We also have zoning. The Tritt property is Low Density Residential on the Future Land Use Map, meaning no more than 2.5 units (houses) per acre. The Tritt property is also zoned R-20, meaning 20,000 square foot lots.
A Development of Regional Impact does not belong in suburban East Cobb!
When we say Isakson Living will be the first DRI in East Cobb, it certainly depends upon one's definition of East Cobb. The Wildwood Office Park, off Powers Ferry and Windy Hill Roads, was a DRI. The map above, part of a larger map from the state, shows DRIs through 2003. Unfortunately, there seems to be no map with DRIs since 2003, but the full list of DRIs lists all the DRIs for Cobb County. It takes some research to use the list to locate all the DRIs in Cobb, since the locations given for many DRIs are vague, but it appears the nearest one to East Cobb is #2190, in the industrial area off Canton Rd.
So, to qualify our statement, the suburban area of unincorporated East Cobb, north of Terrill Mill Rd, and east of Canton Rd, appears to have never had a DRI review prior to Isakson Living East Cobb. Please feel free to correct us if we are wrong.
Note that Johnson Ferry Baptist Church is listed as a DRI for Cobb County in 2006, but that is not the church we all know in East Cobb, but rather a satellite church they built in the Acworth area.