13 properties on county parks list
1. 2820 Baker Road, 54, Charline Cambron, 1
2. 5151 Brownsville Road, 82.8, Gerald & Beverly Wallace, 4
3. 3801 Ebenezer Road, 50, Thomas & Betty Phillips, 3
4. 4331 Burnt Hickory Road, 88.4, Tommy Kemp, 1
5. 1260 Cheatham Hill Road, 58.4, Albert & Saundra Fleming, 1
6. 675 Smyrna-Powder Springs Road, 10, Lester Wiley, 4
7. 3155 Village Lane Place, 5, Wesley Leach, 4
8. 3156 Village Lane Place, 6.3, Gene & Myra Brookshire, 4
9. 1065 Villa Rica Road, 29.9 Gregory & Howard Chastain, 1
10. 451 Anderson Road, 33, Suzanne Schmidt, 1
11. 4700 Dallas Highway, 30, James B. McCloud, 1
12. 4701 Post Oak Tritt Road, 14.1, Kenneth Clary, 2
13. 201 Fowler Road, 31.9, Mike P. Fowler, 4
Nearly 494 acres of land across Cobb County is being eyed to become some of the county’s newest parks and green space, according to a list of properties obtained by the MDJ.
The list includes 13 parcels scattered across the county, the largest of which is an 88.4-acre piece on Burnt Hickory Road near Pinewood Drive. It’s one of the six listed properties within Commissioner Bob Weatherford’s District 1, which includes most of the northwestern portion of the county. Those six properties total 293.7 acres, or nearly 60 percent of the total acreage on the list.
The list divides the 13 properties into two tiers, likely to indicate the priorities for obtaining the properties. Nine properties are listed in Tier 1, totaling 384.8 acres. Four of the Tier 1 parcels are in Weatherford’s district, while District 4, which includes the southwestern portion of the county and is represented by Commissioner Lisa Cupid, has four properties.
Commissioner JoAnn Birrell’s District 3, which includes northeast Cobb, has just one property — a 50-acre parcel on Ebenezer Road near Blackwell Road — while Commissioner Bob Ott’s District 2, which includes Cumberland and parts of east Cobb, has no properties listed on the Tier 1 list.
Four properties totaling 109 acres are listed in Tier 2, the largest of which is a 33-acre Anderson Road parcel near Burnt Hickory Road in Weatherford’s district.
Ott’s district’s sole piece of land on the entire list is on Tier 2 and is a 14.1-acre parcel on Post Oak Tritt Road not far from McPherson Road. It’s also not far from Tritt Elementary School.
The list’s second tier also includes a 30-acre piece on Dallas Highway in Weatherford’s district, and a nearly 32-acre plot on Fowler Road in Cupid’s district; no properties from Birrell’s district are on the list’s second tier.
The smallest properties on the entire list are two pieces on Village Lane Place, of 6.3 and 5 acres, near Smyrna Powder Springs Road and Birney Elementary School. Both of these properties in Cupid’s district are in Tier 1.
Absent from the list is the nearly 54-acre Tritt property, which is located adjacent to East Cobb Park on Roswell Road. The parcel had been at the center of a lawsuit against the county after Cobb commissioners in March 2015 denied Atlanta-based Isakson Living’s request to rezone the land for a senior living project.
The suit was dropped in September. A day earlier, the property’s owner, Wylene Tritt, sent a letter to county officials asking that the county consider purchasing her property to use as a park. Several green space proponents have also called for the county to buy the land and turn it into east Cobb’s next park.
County commissioners last week were made aware of the list of properties recommended by the county’s recreation board to become Cobb’s next parks.
The county held a public nomination process from late January through April 15, with 166 properties nominated for purchase by the county to increase green space. The recreation board was tasked with narrowing that list down and presenting its recommended properties to commissioners.
That pared-down list was presented to Cobb commissioners behind closed doors following their Oct. 24 morning work session. The next evening and prior to the MDJ obtaining the list, Commission Chairman Tim Lee said county officials would not be releasing the list in the near future.
“Neither the nominated properties nor the recommended properties will be released to the public at this time to ensure that the properties can be properly reviewed and that the potential purchase of real estate will remain economical for our citizens,” Lee said, according to a copy of his remarks provided by the county. “We are committed to proceeding in a manner that does not bring the property owners any unwanted attention or artificially drive up land values.”
Lee later in the week told the MDJ that the timeline for releasing the list of recommended properties would depend on the amount of time it takes for commissioners to agree on properties to visit, actually visiting them, coming to a consensus on a final list for potential purchase and negotiating a final purchase price with property owners.
“It is unlikely that all of this can be accomplished in the next eight weeks,” Lee said.
Such a timeline would extend the process into Lee’s expected successor’s term in office. Mike Boyce is expected to succeed Lee in January after topping the incumbent in July’s Republican primary runoff; no Democratic candidates qualified for the office, leaving Boyce unopposed in the Nov. 8 general election.
The compiled list, which was obtained by the MDJ Wednesday, is meant to be used to guide the county’s purchase of parkland using a voter-approved bond issuance. In November 2008, two-thirds of Cobb voters approved a $40 million parks bond, but the bonds were never issued by then-county Chairman Sam Olens due to a tanking economy and a tax increase he said would come as a result of the bonds’ issuance.
Because of the passage of time and the language of the 2008 referendum, the county’s finance director has said Cobb would no longer be able to collect the full $40 million for park land from the 2008 bond were it issued today.
Cobb residents who have been proponents of increased green space said the county’s choice to not release the list bucks the trend set in previous years. In the most recent example, the public in October 2009 got to see the list of 29 properties recommended for purchase by the parks bond citizen advisory committee.
But Cobb Support Services Director Eddie Canon said the 2009 list was not released until the decision was made not to issue the bond, while a similar list of properties in 2006 was released only after properties had been purchased.
County officials have also said that this year’s list of recommended properties is not being released as the information remains privileged because it deals with real estate matters.
West Cobb resident Paul Paulson, who founded the Cobb Parks Coalition to promote the county’s $40 million parks bond, said he would like to see the list of properties be made public.
“The argument that they’re using now, basically that when they’re involved in real estate negotiations they can keep the negotiations quiet because they don’t want the prices to go up, only applies when they’re actually involved in the negotiations. There are no negotiations — this is simply a list of properties for consideration,” Paulson said. “Once they start the negotiations and choose one of those properties, then they can keep that quiet.”
Paulson said he believes the county’s holding back of the details of the recommended properties shows a lack of importance placed on the issue of acquiring green space.
“For (the county) to now keep it quiet, to me, indicates that this is not a high-priority issue, to go ahead and save some of the rapidly disappearing tracts that give people a sense of place, especially in west Cobb County, there are all kinds of rezonings for them out here — pastures and beautiful spots where people on their way home from a busy day fighting traffic get a little bit of solace and see what it was like 100 years ago,” Paulson said. “It’s part of their home.”