Minor Modifications Part II
One of the specific cases of abuse of the Minor Modification process the Cobb County Civic Coalition investigated was Z-128 from 2005. I have put together a timeline of events that I uncovered from online research and numerous open records requests:
- June 2, 2005 – Zoning Application submitted to the County for Z-128 to rezone 21.52 acres from R-20 to CS (Conservation Subdivision) for the property on the South side of Jamerson Road across from Jett Road. This subdivision is now called Jamerson Estates. The property is upstream from Country Meadows, a subdivision that was built in the 1980’s.
- Rezoning is scheduled to be heard by the Planning Commission (PC) on August 2, 2005 and by the Board of Commissioners (BOC) on August 16, 2005.
- July 13, 2005 – Applicant’s Attorney submitted a Stipulation Letter to the County stating on Page 3, Item 10a: “Subject to staffs review and approval regarding the ultimate location and configuration of on site detention and water quality ponds or, in the alternative, compliance with staffs recommendations regarding the submission of a fee in lieu of detention.” (I’ll discuss this in another post, Minor Modifications Part III)
- August 2, 2005 – PC voted to hold the case to September 8, 2005. (Meeting Minutes). It appears that Country Meadows, the subdivision downstream from the proposed new subdivision, raised objections in a letter to the PC due to previous flooding issues. However, during my Open Records Requests, the County cannot find the letter in their zoning file.
- August 21, 2005 – Country Meadows HOA sent a letter to PC: at the suggestion of PC, the neighbors met with the developer and developer agreed to reduce application by one lot and add TWO detention ponds. Based on this and the new “site specific” proposal, their issues are considered resolved.
- August 23, 2005 – Applicant’s Attorney submitted a new stip letter and a new site plan. The new stip letter and site plan contains two stormwater management areas, one less lot and does not include wording regarding fee in lieu of detention language previously mentioned. (Read more about this in Minor Modifications Part III.)
- August 29, 2005 – Letter from G.H. Mingledorff, Senior Engineer, Stormwater Management to Mark Danneman, Zoning Division Manager. Notes that the detention facilities may need to be moved (MOVED, NOT REMOVED).
- September 8, 2005 – PC Zoning Hearing on Z-128. Rezoning approved, Meeting Minutes.
- September 20, 2005 – BOC Zoning Hearing on Z-128
- January 19, 2006 – Stormwater Staff receives a Hydrology Study from the Applicant.
- February 2, 2006 – Staff reviews and comments on Hydrology study done re Fee in Lieu of detention re this property. Comments specifically note Fee in Lieu of detention is NOT recommended for this property.
- February 20, 2006 – District 3 Commissioner signs off on revised site plan as a “Minor Modification” with ZERO stormwater Management areas. The removal of ALL of the stormwater management areas is NOT something “minor”.
- We have been verbally told by Staff that after February 2, 2006, the applicant submitted a “new” hydrology study and based on that, they reversed their decision and said that “Fee in Lieu of Detention” was acceptable and approved for this property. However, the county does NOT have a copy of this new hydrology study, nor do they have a copy of their decision to approve it for “Fee in Lieu of Detention”. Convenient?
- March 6, 2006 – Developer Pays county $19,350 Fee in Lieu of Detention on this property. This means that in exchange for a fee of $19,350, they do not have to build and pay for detention facilities for the property. The Fee in Lieu of Detention program is discussed in my next post, Minor Modifications Part III.
What did this Minor Modification Cost Cobb Taxpayers?
- July 8, 2008 – BOC Meeting Approved Program SW0980, County paid $38,755 to Repair structural failure of stormwater facility at Country Meadows Subdivision – less than 2 years after the rezoning of the new subdivision.
- August 23, 2011 – BOC Meeting Consent Agenda – Item 11I. Program SW1269 – County acquired 4.6 acres Floodplain in Country Meadows HOA – Cost $25,000. Here are the Deed and Transfer Form.
- March 9, 2012 – Country Meadows HOA transferred 7.93 acres to the County. The Transfer Tax Form (PT-61) shows $0.00 cost, however the Agenda shows they were going to pay $40,000.00. I don’t know if they paid this and the transfer form was a typo or not. BOC Meeting Consent Agenda, Deed and Transfer Form.
- October 23, 2012 – BOC Meeting – Consent Agenda – Item 5E – Program SW1393 – Approved application of a FEMA Grant. Meeting Minutes. Total project cost $2.4M – which includes Federal, State & County Taxpayer money. This project included the purchase of 10 homes, 6 of which are in Country Meadows Subdivision. This is the subdivision that withdrew their opposition to Z-128 in 2005 because of the promised TWO stormwater facilities listed on the site plan. The county paid $1,042,880 for these 6 properties in Country Meadows.
- July 2013 – Titles to the 6 homes are transferred to the County for a cost of $1,042,880. Deeds and Transfer Forms.
The Tennis Court flooded so many times, it had to be abandoned.
As you can see, the County allowed a “minor modification” to remove all of the detention facilities for this property, which was in direct contradiction to the zoning decision, especially when the property downstream already had flooding issues. The result was an increase in flooding to the point of the County having to buy 6 flooded homes at a cost to taxpayers of $1,042,880.
- 6 Homeowners had to uproot themselves and move
- Neighbors live next to abandoned homes
- When will the houses be Demolished and what will the cost be?
- Will the County cut the grass in the spring and what will the cost be?
- How much tax revenue has the County lost from this and other “minor” modifications
In October 2013, the Cobb BOC was considering the possibility of making changes to their Minor Modification process, but decided against it. On October 23, 2013, Chairman Tim Lee is quoted in the MDJ regarding Minor Modifications:
It’s up to district commissioners to make a judgment call,
Lee said, and they have shown “great constraint.”
Our examples show that some Commissioners did not show ANY constraint.
“I trust the judgment of the district commissioners,
current and the ones that I think this community
would elect in the future,” Lee said.
If a commissioner shows poor judgment, Lee said it can
be corrected every four years at the polls.
It cannot be corrected at the polls if the public is unaware that this “secret” modification has been made. As discussed, “minor” modifications occur AFTER the public hearing and BOC Final Zoning Decision, with No Public Notification, No Public Input, and No Public Disclosure Before or After it is approved.
Just five days after his comments about minor modifications, the MDJ quoted Chairman Tim Lee regarding Kennesaw’s lack of a Credit Card Policy.
“If you have a credit card you need to have a policy in
place. Checks and balances. Good stewardship.”
This sounds like Lee believes Kennesaw officials need a checks and balances system in place, but when it comes to minor modifications, Cobb Commissioners should just simply be trusted and allowed to do whatever they want.
The zoning process seems to just be a dog and pony show. The BOC votes publicly and then a single Commissioner can change things in secret behind closed doors.
This process is plain wrong and should be stopped. Cobb Taxpayers have suffered enough.
You may have noticed the term “Fee in Lieu of Detention” that came up as we were researching this case of Minor Modification abuse in Cobb. My Minor Modifications Part III post discusses this County program that I believe is also being abused.