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Ott: 'Political Connections' No Factor in Isakson Rezoning

The East Cobb Commissioner says he cannot comment on a controversial senior living proposal before the case is heard in October.

Patch File Photo: Wendy Parker
Patch File Photo: Wendy Parker
Although he cannot publicly take a position on the Isakson Living rezoning request before it comes up this fall, East Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott is being urged by citizens to speak about the case now.

At a Tuesday town hall meeting at Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church, Ott reiterated that he's not allowed to offer his opinions on any rezoning matter.

The Isakson Living request, originally scheduled for this month, was delayed until October, and Ott said more time is needed for citizens to gather information.

(The case number is Z-43, and it requests rezoning from R-20 residential to CCRC, or Continuing Care Retirement Community, which would be the first such designation in Cobb County. Here is the initial zoning analysis, and it is attached as a PDF.)

The size and scope of Isakson Living's plans for nearly 1,000 independent-living senior dwellings near East Cobb Park -- and the developer's ties to one of Georgia's most powerful politicians -- has generated concerns from nearby neighborhoods. The topic came up repeatedly during a lengthy question-and-answer period Tuesday.  

"What I would tell you is to get as much information as you can," Ott said at the outset of his limited remarks.

That didn't quell the comments of several citizens who drew applause from the church's packed fellowship hall when they complained about the project's proposed density. 

Isakson Living -- which is run by the son and brother of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, an East Cobb Republican -- has an agreement to purchase from Wylene Tritt a 53-acre tract on the south side of Roswell Road, contingent upon rezoning.

The plans call for developing roughly half of that land -- which is adjacent to the park -- with the rest either in a flood plain or as a greenspace buffer. The Tritt property is located just inside Ott's District 2, which is bordered on the north by Roswell Road.

"Eighteen to 21 units an acre -- I think that qualifies as intense," Charles Lehr, a nearby resident said, as clapping ensued around the room. 

Ott also was directly asked if the Isakson family's involvement will be a factor in how the case is decided. (Similar thoughts were echoed at an East Cobb Civic Association meeting last month.)

"I don't think that's a safe assumption," Ott said. When another citizen pressed the question, he said: "Political connections don't mean anything to me."

Ott said that "I'm standing here today" because of a large-scale residential zoning request several years ago by Cousins Properties near his home in the Terrell Mill Road corridor that was eventually scaled down.

A former ECCA president, Ott said that just because "a yellow sign" indicating a zoning hearing goes up, doesn't mean the case is closed, as one citizen suggested. 

"That means that they've been out to talk to you," said Ott, who added that he requires developers to make a detailed public presentation for rezoning cases in his district.

"That's how I do it."


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