East Cobb Citizens Unite For Park Land to Stop Overdevelopment
The Concerned Citizens of East Cobb is a grassroots organization dedicated to preventing the overdevelopment of East Cobb and creating Tritt Park. We fully support senior living, but the Isakson Living CCRC proposal for the Tritt property is far too large-scale and urban for this community.
We are reminded of Margaret Mead’s quote "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has..." as we endeavor to stop Isakson Living from overdeveloping a 53.7 acre plot of land just next to East Cobb Park and across from the WellStar Health Park under construction on Roswell Road in East Cobb. This letter is an opportunity to explain why Isakson Living’s large-scale 4-story Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) is unsuitable for this one particular property and to respond to Isakson Living’s recent letters and robocalls that have given misinformation about this topic. This community believes that the Isakson Living East Cobb development would be problematic for many reasons: it would generate far too much traffic, decrease safety around schools, damage the Sewell Mill Creek watershed, and diminish the quality of life for everyone’s family in East Cobb. The Isakson Living plan is also unfair to seniors in three specific ways.
The first Isakson Living proposal included 5-story buildings taller than 100 feet above Roswell Road, a complex the length and width of two Georgia Domes that included nearly 1,000 units. The developer withdrew this request when faced with overwhelming community opposition: The East Cobb Civic Association and every Homeowners Association in the area, such as Indian Hills, Independence Square, Hidden Hollow, Mitsy Forest, met with Isakson Living and voted unanimously “no” to this large-scale development. Thousands of East Cobbers also voiced their concerns to the Commissioners and in petitions, because we see the scale and density, and can foresee the traffic and urban impact on our East Cobb community.
The second proposal submitted covers roughly the same 2 Georgia Dome footprint and includes 3- and 4-story buildings, an underground parking garage, and 845 units. Both Isakson Living proposals have extreme densities of 18 and 21 units per acre, and would take 10 years of ongoing construction to complete. In comparison, the surrounding neighborhoods have homes only 35 feet tall and an average density of 2.5 units per acre. A normal-sized Residential Senior Living housing development would be capped at 5 units per acre in this area. Even High Density Residential areas are limited to 12 units per acre! In addition to the large number of housing units, the Isakson Living proposal includes shops, restaurants and other amenities, which are great for senior living, but add to the overall intensity and urban design.
The traffic impact from Isakson Living East Cobb cannot be overstated: combined with the WellStar Health Park, these two projects would add about 5,000 cars a day on Roswell Road, and this road only averages 36,000 cars a day now! That would be a massive increase for this community, instantly creating traffic gridlock. Obviously, Roswell Road would need to be expanded to 6 lanes. Note that this property is close to Walton High School, Dodgen Middle School, East Side Elementary School, Wood Acres, as well as many daycares and preschools. Many families moved into this area specifically to have their children attend these top-rated schools and have the time to participate in extracurricular activities around town. Urbanizing this area means traffic will quickly erode our lifestyle. We are determined for East Cobb to remain a very safe, convenient, school and family-oriented community, the very reasons many choose to reside here.
In terms of the environment, due to the especially large footprint of this particular development and the consequential large area of impervious surface, we question how erosion and flooding could be managed. East Cobb Park and the surrounding neighborhoods had extensive flood damage in 2009, and the Tritt property has two creeks on the property that flow into Sewell Mill Creek. In fact, over 7 acres of the property are in the floodplain. This property is also very hilly, and to build on it Isakson Living plans to blast it flat before digging far down into the ground for a multi-acre parking garage which would sit below 4-story buildings. Dramatic and extensive land re-contouring in addition to digging deep into the earth would all negatively impact erosion, flooding, aquifers and the entire Sewell Mill Creek watershed. We think at the very least an environmental impact study should be commissioned to ensure the safety of the creeks and aquifers.
In terms of alternate scenarios for this property, the community would like it to be developed into a park, and it was highly ranked during the 2006 and 2008 Park Bond consideration process. Due to the topography, up to 1/3 of the property is not viable for development, because it is in the floodplain or along stream buffers, or it is just too steep to build on. In addition, zoning codes thankfully protect against large commercial developments as well as overzealous subdivision developers. A subdivision developer using the Open Space Community zoning, ideal for large properties with much land that cannot be built upon, could build 63 houses max, and at the current R-20 zoning a developer might fit up to 80 homes on this land. According to the 2010 census data for children in our area, a subdivision of that size would average around 4 additional children in each K-12 grade. That would not result in school overcrowding.
In terms of comparing traffic numbers for this CCRC proposal and a potential subdivision, based on the Institute of Traffic Engineering manual, 80 homes would generate car trips comparable to 200 senior living homes. Isakson Living’s proposed 835 senior housing units, in a sprawling, towering 4-story design built on a hill, is not even a close call. We must also counter Isakson Living’s assertions that seniors would not drive much in this area and that traffic would not be a problem. One of the best parts about retirement is that you can get out and enjoy life, and a car is a great way to do that! If fully 89% of the seniors would reside in independent living units, as only 11% of the CCRC units are planned for assisted living or nursing care, these seniors would definitely be driving. The CCRC code actually requires a parking spot for each unit, and the Isakson Living demographic is very affluent with high rates of car ownership.
We write this letter as a clarion call to every concerned citizen to continue to protect our community, our seniors, schools, and environment from this development on this property. We want to thank the thousands of East Cobbers for standing strong to defend our community and caring about our seniors, who need a real place to retire in a viable location. An environmentally damaging, multi-story apartment-like complex on a hill that overwhelms traffic, compromises our ideals and ignores the vast majority of our aging population is not a creditable goal. The time to let your voice be heard is now. Continue to let the Commissioners know that you do not want a rezoning for the Isakson Living development on the Tritt property next to East Cobb Park.