Isakson Living to Donate Land to East Cobb Park

The developer said the deal is contingent upon rezoning for a senior complex that's opposed in the community.

Updated, 6:30 p.m., Wednesday:

Here's what we got this afternoon in response to the Isakson Living news from Doug Rohan of Concerned Citizens Over Isakson Living East Cobb (website, Facebook page):

We welcome the news that IL announced today that it plans to donate 9.5 acres of undeveloped greenspace to East Cobb Park, contingent on finalization of the zoning issues that need to be addressed by Cobb County Government and the Zoning Board. While this is an excellent first step, it does not address or alleviate our primary concerns.

To be sure, this represents a wonderful and easy opportunity to expand the park for all the families that enjoy it. However, the primary objections to the development deal with the high intensity nature of the proposed development, when compared to the low-density residential (LDR) zoning surrounding the development and currently in place for the property.

The revised proposal reduced the number of units per acre from 21 to 18 units. A typical senior living residential area is capped at 5 units per acre and the current LDR zoning allows no more than 2.5 units per acre. With over three times the aggregate density, the current CCRC project proposal still exceeds the reasonable parameters of such a dense project at this East Cobb location.

This land that is slated to be donated to East Cobb Park is designated floodplain and would remain undeveloped regardless of who has ultimate control of the parcel. We are grateful for this gift, but remain concerned over many other issues.

We welcome additional dialogue as we work towards ensuring a healthy and vibrant community for decades to come here in East Cobb. We are sure that such a goal, shared by those steering the IL project, will be one that we can jointly compromise on in order to reach.

* * * * * * * * 

And also late this afternoon, we got this statement from District 2 Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott

It has not been my practice in District 2, or by most commissioners to discuss zoning issues with press releases or news conferences. It should be discussed during the public comment portion of the zoning hearing.

* * * * * * * * 

Originally posted, 12:20 p.m. Wednesday:

We'll have more reaction later, but Isakson Living announced this morning it is donating nearly 10 acres of land for an expansion of East Cobb Park, contingent upon rezoning (
scheduled now for May) for its senior residential complex that's been strongly opposed in the community. 

Some opponents have begun "The Friends for Tritt Park" effort to gauge public interest in purchasing and then converting the entire 53.7-acre Tritt property next to East Cobb Park into another passive park. 

Isakson Living is under contract to acquire that land from Wylene Tritt, subject to rezoning.

Here's the full text of today's statement from Isakson Living, which also provided the accompanying map:

Cobb County developer Isakson Living today announced that, contingent upon zoning approval and acceptance by the county, the company will donate 9.5 acres of contiguous land to expand East Cobb Park, increasing the park’s size by nearly 50 percent and connecting it to Fuller’s Park.

Isakson Living also intends to invest in improvements to the park, with the approval and under the supervision of the county and the park governing board.

In November, Isakson Living filed a revised application to rezone 53.7 acres in East Cobb County to build a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). In addition to reducing the height and number of homes within the proposed development, Isakson Living’s revised application increased the amount of undisturbed green space to 43 percent of the site, or approximately 23 acres. Isakson Living plans to donate 9.5 acres of this green space to increase the size of East Cobb Park. 

The 9.5 acre tract is strategically located between Fuller Park and East Cobb Park, which will better connect and protect the two popular parks. The proposed donation would also preserve and provide better access to Sewell Mill Creek, a popular playground for East Cobb children. The land donation to East Cobb Park is contingent upon approval of the rezoning request and finalization of Isakson Living’s purchase of the Tritt Property.

“The county has made it clear that it cannot afford to invest in additional park space in East Cobb, and I can say from personal experience how difficult it is to raise money for park land,” said Sunny Walker, the park’s first board president and a member of the group that raised funds to purchase land for the existing park. “This is a rare potential gift which will allow many more residents to enjoy both parks by connecting Fuller’s and East Cobb Parks.”

“Having been involved in the development of this park since its inception, and having raised funds for improvements since, I view this offer as an excellent opportunity to enhance and increase the size of the park that might otherwise never be available,” said David London, long-time East Cobb Park supporter and volunteer. “A fifty percent increase in the size of the park is a generous and legacy gift for East Cobb."

“We continue to listen to the community and respond with positive changes to our plan for this state-of-the-art retirement community,” said Kevin Isakson, director of sales and marketing for Isakson Living. “Our plans were to leave this portion of the property as green space, but its best use is to expand East Cobb Park and provide a connection with Fuller’s Park for the enjoyment of Cobb County residents.”

The proposed community will be licensed to accept only residents over the age of 62 but will not qualify for the senior citizen school property tax exemption. “The project will generate $1.4 million annually in property tax revenues for the county, $900,000 of which will go directly to the school system, while adding no additional students to schools,” Isakson added.  “It will provide jobs and economic benefits, and support the growing demand for senior housing in Cobb County.”

Since Isakson Living filed for rezoning in May 2013, and withdrew in October 2013, it has conducted numerous meetings with homeowner associations, civic and community groups and qualified prospective residents. 

The new plan for Isakson Living’s proposed East Cobb development reduces building heights to two and three stories along Roswell Road and Hidden Hollow, decreases the number of units by 17 percent, increases undisturbed nature areas by 16 percent and increases total green space by 17 percent. Most parking has been placed below grade level.

The new plan provides significant green space between the proposed buildings, existing neighborhoods, and East Cobb Park. Buildings, driveways and parking will occupy approximately 25 percent of the 53.7 acre property, which means about 70 percent will remain green space. 

More than 43 percent of the site will remain in an undisturbed state, including preservation of 1,600 trees, twice as many as required and not including those required to remain in flood plain. 

Chris P. January 22, 2014 at 12:42 PM
A couple of things to keep in mind. One, Isakson living doesn't even own the land yet, so they're making a promise they won't necessarily be able to keep. Two, the location of the proposed park expansion land in the map shown above appears to be around the stream where development is probably prohibited by EPA rules anyways. This smells like an attempt to placate community groups and sway the commissioners, who must vote to re-zone to CRC before the deal goes through.
Pete Fordonski January 22, 2014 at 01:55 PM
Chris, always the cynic. I see an effort by an organization with deep seeded roots in our community, one that truly cares about East Cobb, wishes to add value to all it's residents, while providing something that is truly needed. I guess I'm a glass half full kind of guy. Kudos to Isakson Living!
Paul The East Cobb Liberal January 22, 2014 at 02:12 PM
No kudos from me. I'm with Chris P. on this. And it's interesting how enthusiastic some posters have been for this deal. Reminds me of movie review boards where you can usually tell which comments came from relatives/friends/associates of the film's producers.
paul johnson January 22, 2014 at 02:25 PM
Kudos here, and I guess the same can be said for the concerned folks. Regurgitating unsubstantiated info from a website, based on fears of inconvenience. In the movies, if you can't produce, I guess you just criticize.
Keith W January 22, 2014 at 02:56 PM
Yeah, these developers never miss a trick, making such a charitable and good will gesture. But let's not limit the attacks to Isakson Living, their supporters must be dealt with as well. Afterall, it just can't be that anyone has an objective opinion contrary to the Concerned. Walker and London...what do they know? They only have years of practical experience in various park initiatives and, besides, are probably 7th or 8th cousins with the Isakson's.
William January 22, 2014 at 03:51 PM
And, "hey" (as Si would say), who cares if us old folks make up a third of Cobb's population now and that the Census predicts that our ranks will double over the next decade or two? Some youngster posted he wouldn't put his parents in a senior community. He thinks they will want to live with him and his teenagers. Been there, done that. I guess he'd take them on walks at the Avenue, which is at least 10 Georgia Domes Big. Seems like a bench with a view of this park would be better.
Frank Howard January 22, 2014 at 08:43 PM
I get wanting to preserve as much green space in East Cobb as possible, but I'm also a realist and understand that the owner of this property will sell to someone to build something. Honestly, I like the idea of a senior center given that it will have a lower traffic impact to the area, though I wish those over 62 would pay school taxes (different problem I know). All this said, will we be happier if a new neighborhood is built here, town homes, medical offices or retail? Perhaps I don't have a right to offer my opinion since I've been passive on this whole thing, but in my opinion, it seems like the least worst option of things that could go there. What am I missing?
Joel Bowan January 22, 2014 at 10:59 PM
Sorry but donating unusable land along a stream buffer, floodplain and acting like it is so great for the community is misleading. He cannot do anything with it, the buffer and floodplain are protected by the EPA as waters of the state. Someone needs to ask if he would be asking for a tax donation as is typical when you donate land to a non-profit group. Sorry but this is one of the last great sites left in EC for something unique and special, not another retirement facility.
Chris P. January 23, 2014 at 06:17 AM
@Frank, the argument that Isakson Living supporters make that it will be better for the community than another helter-skelter housing development or retail is in my opinion their best one. However the county does have the right to enforce current zoning laws, which would only allow about 60 homes on the property. So while it may be true that the land will eventually be developed, the question of how it can be developed is very important. The county commission should not be a "rubber stamp" for the business community that only sees dollar signs every time it drives by a green space.
BGB January 23, 2014 at 08:29 PM
Isakson Living proposal is an excellent fit for the needs of the community - while now also expanding East Cobb Park and linking it to Fullers Park. Sorry but donating unusable land along a stream buffer, floodplain and acting like it is so great for the community is misleading. He cannot do anything with it - You are the one who is being misleading - he can easily hold the property for exclusive use of his residents rather than open it up to the public. Sorry but this is one of the last great sites left in EC for something unique and special, not another retirement facility. - If its so great - put up the money to buy it for this "unique and special" use - or shut up. Isakson has indeed put forth a proposal to put their money where their mouth is - for a "unique and special" use.
paul johnson January 23, 2014 at 09:36 PM
I walked the trails today at ECP. While looking around, I saw where this donation of land and help in maintaining it, would be a good thing.
East Cobb Mom January 24, 2014 at 11:47 AM
@Frank If the retirement community were regular sized, it would not be a problem, it would be welcomed, even though there are a lot of retirement communities in the area already. The problem with the Isakson Living one is that it is unbelievably large-scale: 835 units plus restaurants, gyms, in a very large apartment complex style. Traffic would be 3x worse than any subdivision or a park, and it would be tough on everyone in East Cobb including seniors who would live there, not just an inconvenience to some.
BGB January 24, 2014 at 04:49 PM
So, a business has determined that there is a need for 835 retirement units in E Cobb. They are probably correct that over the next few years there is that need. Does it make more sense to have 40 some 20 unit complexes in Ecobb (where would they all fit), with 40 some construction sites, less amenities than a consolidated site, 40 some curb cuts, disruption to 80 neighborhoods - or Put one large complex, on the main artery, and gain an expansion to park property. Anyway, the old people shouldn't have their own gyms or restaurants should they - after all E Cobb is only for single family residences, with white families, and 2 children each.
East Cobb Mom January 24, 2014 at 05:25 PM
@BGB All retirement communities in neighborhoods abide by the zoning code of 5 units/acre. Isakson Living is requesting 18/units per acre, but that’s only allowed in urban areas. Zoning codes were created to protect neighborhoods from overly enthusiastic developers. Restaurants and gyms are great, but these amenities add to the urban design, so a small neighborhood is just not a good location for such a major development. Regarding your race comment, East Cobb is one of the most diverse areas in Cobb County, and we are blessed by that diversity.
paul johnson January 24, 2014 at 05:37 PM
What I'm trying to understand is all this "neighborhood" talk. How is a major 4 lane State highway even remotely considered a neighborhood. Yes the are subdivisions on the back end of this parcel of land, but it is surrounded by commercial developments, office buildings, medical centers. It is not a "small neighborhood" by any means.
paul johnson January 24, 2014 at 06:19 PM
BTW. I was on board with the Concerned until I saw an agenda that seemed too self serving. After reading posts on the concerned facebbook page, that questioned who was behind a new effort by supporters of Isakson Living, I asked who was running our (formerly) on line content. I was quickly deleted, and felt confused and hurt. It seems I may have had a selfish perspective to the issue, thinking that this development would cause me inconvenience in my life. But life/ this community is not all about me and this project trumps any other option since a park/greenspace is not realistic at all.
BGB January 24, 2014 at 10:18 PM
East cobb is not diverse - racially, economically, and if the NIMBY folks like ECM have it their way: it isn't even diverse by age Paul Johnson is right on. Calling 120, across the street from a pseudo hospital, with 41k cars a day driving by a day a small Neighborhood is just plain ignorant as are the majority of ecm's naive comments.
East Cobb Mom January 27, 2014 at 03:13 PM
@BGB In terms of diversity, it is a contradiction to say this development is for ‘seniors to age in place’ and then to say that everyone who lives in the area is ‘young, nimby’. Those who live here know this is a diverse community: age, income, race, and background, yet all we agree that the development as proposed is too big for this particular location. Furthermore, nimby is not a good description, because a 4-story complex this large-scale doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard. It should either be scaled down to 5 units/acre or moved to another location.
East Cobb Mom January 27, 2014 at 03:16 PM
@Keith Donating some acres to East Cobb Park is a very nice gesture of goodwill! But are you saying that this is a trick by the developer? It is true this part of the property cannot be built on by any developer because it is in the floodplain, but it is fine parkland. We are thankful for all the supporters of East Cobb Park, such as Sunny Walker and David London as mentioned, who helped create this community oasis. Expanding East Cobb Park is a great idea.
BGB January 27, 2014 at 09:26 PM
"Those who live here know this is a diverse community: age, income, race, and background," - Clearly you must have problems with your eyesight and understanding of diversity Income: There isn't a single apartment complex in the core of East Cobb; East Cobb is not diverse Age: Without adequate senior housing - seniors who would stay - are leaving; East Cobb is not overly diverse in senior population today Race: Seriously? How many black and Hispanic children are at Mt. Bethel, Tritt, Murdock, Timber Ridge, etc.? "yet all we agree that the development as proposed is too big for this particular location. " - No, we do not all agree. There is substantial support for the development. " a 4-story complex this large-scale doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard." - Bounded on the North by 120, the West by the Park, the South partially by Fullers park, very few houses would border the complex and with those there would be a buffer Blind and ignorant is no way to go through life.
Keith W January 28, 2014 at 12:45 PM
ECM - As a 24 year resident I have come to view the majority of EC as an "oasis", not any one park or other amenity...no better place to live and raise a family in my humble opinion. I'm not taking anything away from the parks or the individuals who labored to make them a reality, EC's green spaces are quality amenities which Isakson's donation would certainly enhance. There are other amenities as well, whether the schools, retail establishments such as the Avenue or Whole Foods, or a restaurant such as Seed, etc. but none either individually or in the aggregate green space or otherwise are the end all. For me what has made EC an oasis by and large are the people who live here that have engendered and maintained a strong and pervasive family and friends culture, many of whom your movement seeks, perhaps inadvertently, to push away. BGB and Paul Johnson are right on, there is support for this development and why, it meets a significant need for EC's aging residents. They don't want to go to Windy Hill, Franklin Road, 41 or within 5 miles of a hospital - a notion most find offensive. The development is perfect for this location situated on a 4 lane state road averaging 40k vehicles/day with a variety of other forms of development in close proximity. If green space is your issue - 23 acres completely undisturbed with 10 of which donated to the park, just can't see any other realistic development offering that or accommodating the needs of EC's aging population.
Ira January 28, 2014 at 10:59 PM
Outstanding comments Keith. I agree with you completely. This development is needed very much so in East Cobb.
Grace Mathison January 29, 2014 at 12:04 AM
My name is Grace Mathison, and I am 19 years old. I have lived in East Cobb my entire life. My grandmother Wylene Tritt has lived on her property for more than 50 years. She feels it is time to let it go and for it to be used for a good cause. Isakson Living has fantastic intentions and is doing their best to work with the East Cobb community. I am sad to see Grandmother leave her home; but I am also happy that it will not become some Walmart or another large neighborhood. Instead of taking up all the green space, Isakson Living is only building the facilities needed and leaving the property just as beautiful as it is in the current state. I used to ride my bike all over the property, enjoying this beauty. Instead, men and women will be able to look out their windows and see the beautiful property, walk to the little grocery store or restaurants on site and enjoy the outdoors that was Grandmother's property. When I was in middle school, Grandmother donated a small portion of her land to aid in connecting the East Cobb Park to Fuller's Park. I was the lucky girl that got to cut the yellow ribbon with the big, heavy, gold scissors to celebrate the "opening" of the bridge and the dedication in memory of my grandfather Norris Tritt. These memories will stick with me throughout my entire life. I would love to see the property move on to bigger and better things and make the lives of many men and women shine brighter. If you'd like to see more positive feedback on the selling of the Tritt family property please visit ff4ilec.com.


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