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Infrastructure improvements coming to East Cobb

Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott looks over plans with Jane Strickland with Cobb County Department of Transportation at the intersection of Windy Hill Road and Circle 75 Parkway on Friday. Staff/Jeff Stanton

 

About a billion dollars’ worth of infrastructure improvements are coming to East Cobb over the next two to three years, according to Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the area.

Ott also said many of these improvements are unrelated to the Braves stadium deal and have been in the works for some time.

Among the biggest projects are a “diverging diamond” interchange at the intersection of Windy Hill Road and Interstate 75, improvements to Windy Hill Road east and west of the interstate, a complete reconfiguration of the interchange at Atlanta Road and I-285 and “reversible lanes” coming to I-75.

The number and scope of the projects in the area prompted Ott to put together a committee of 20-25 government officials to coordinate between all the departments involved, including the water authority, parks and recreation, transportation, communication and information services departments.

“It just seemed to make sense that we bring all these groups together so that everybody knew what everyone else was doing, and also so that we could coordinate communication with the public as to where there might be congestion today or next week,” Ott said.

Ott said the information services department was brought in to help disseminate the information about the projects and their impact on traffic.

“Some of the early discussions have been enhancing or beefing up some of the systems the county already has. We have the Friday updates. We have CobbLine,” Ott said. “It’s really all about what is the best way to get the information out to the most number of people.”

The committee is also working on a new mobile app being developed to help citizens track the projects and the resulting traffic, and Ott said he hopes it will have the ability to provide users this information in real time.

In addition to public outreach, Ott said the committee has also made it a priority to coordinate their efforts so any work requiring a lane closure can be done at once, instead of closing the lane multiple times.

“If you have a plan to coordinate lane closures, where if one department is going to have it closed for this period of time, if another department would have closed it, well, hey, let’s have everybody in there at the same time whenever possible,” Ott said.

Windy Hill Road getting major facelift

The county plans to begin construction on at least four major projects along Windy Hill Road in the next two years.

Three of the projects, near the intersection of Windy Hill Road and I-75, are set to begin this fall, according to Jane Stricklin, District 2 Engineer for the Cobb Department of Transportation. Stricklin said the county will open bids for the projects August 28, with commissioners later approving the contracts.

Stricklin said designs for the three projects were paid for by the Cumberland Community Improvement District and construction for all three projects is likely to begin in October and be complete by March 2017.

The first project will include adding a median and additional lane on each side of Windy Hill Road from Cobb Parkway to I-75 and replacing existing sidewalks along the Windy Hill stretch. The project is estimated to cost a total of about $14.5 million, which Stricklin said would come from the 2011 special purpose local option sales tax.

Ott said this is essential to improving traffic flow through the corridor, especially since the Macland Road Connector opened in 2011.

“When Macland Road was connected to Windy Hill, it added 14,000 cars a day to Windy Hill,” Ott said.

East of I-75, from the interstate to Spectrum Circle, a second project will add a median and reconfigure the existing six lanes into three lanes traveling in either direction. Stricklin said the project, also financed with 2011 SPLOST funds, is estimated to cost a total of about $4.7 million.

Ott cited safety concerns, as well as traffic flow improvements, as the reason for this project.

“There has been some safety concerns in front of Pappadeaux’s restaurant,” Ott said. “And so, what’s happening is, the traffic light currently at Leland and Interstate North (Parkway) is basically being moved in front of Pappadeaux’s. And so they’ll be some realignment of Leland Drive to come out around behind the BP that’s there.”

A third project on Windy Hill Road from Spectrum Circle to Windy Ridge Parkway will add a westbound lane to ease congestion. Sidewalks on the westbound side of Windy Hill will be replaced as well. Stricklin said the project is estimated to cost a total of $3.3 million and will be financed with 2005 SPLOST funds and a $1.5 million grant from the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank, which was obtained by the Cumberland CID.

The fourth major project to improve Windy Hill Road is the diverging diamond interchange to be built on the bridge over I-75. The interchange is designed to allow vehicles to cross to the opposite sides of the road on the bridge when entering or exiting the freeway, eliminating the need for those drivers to make left turns. The county is waiting for approval of the project from the Georgia DOT and the Federal Highway Administration, Stricklin said.

The intersection of Windy Hill Road and I-75 has been studied for at least a decade, Stricklin said, and the county decided to implement the interchange because he said it is projected to reduce accidents, it is cost-effective and the county can use the existing bridge, rather than building a new one.

Stricklin said the interchange is set to be funded by a combination of a $2.4 million grant from the GTIB, a $6 million grant from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program and about $5 million from the Cumberland CID; the remainder of the $20 million project will be financed with 2011 SPLOST funds. Stricklin said the Cobb DOT is looking to break ground in fall 2015 and complete the interchange by March 2017.

Reversible lanes and stadium traffic

The state transportation department will attempt to thin traffic in and out of Atlanta by laying roads that funnel commuters in different directions depending on the time of day.

Georgia’s “Managed Lanes” project will add nearly 30 miles of reversible toll lanes along the west side of I-75.

Stricklin said the lanes, which will head south in the mornings and north in the evenings, would be completed by 2018.

GDOT lists the estimated project cost as $834 million.

The lanes will run near the new home of the Atlanta Braves.

Even though a Cobb Superior Court judge validated the bonds the county plans to issue to finance the stadium’s construction Friday, there will be a period of 30 days to allow for appeals, according to Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee. And even after the appeals process ends, it will likely take 30 to 60 days for the county to have the money to pay the construction firm, Lee said, though he noted construction has already begun on the site to adjust the grading and move two gas lines that run through the property.

Ott said the upcoming road improvements are unrelated to the Braves stadium.

“Clearly these improvements were contemplated prior to the Braves, but they’re not going to hurt what’s going on with the Braves. They’re going to help,” he said. “And I think what needs to happen between now and opening day is to take a look and say, ‘Here’s what we already have in the pipeline. Do we need to have some other projects that will further enhance it?’”

Ott said county officials have a meeting about the Braves project about every two weeks, and the DOT is currently looking into possible solutions to increased traffic in the area. Still, these projects were a priority for his committee.

“It’s an ongoing process. You have to get stuff out of the ground so you know those are going to move forward, then you continue analysis as to what additional things you want to do for the Braves,” Ott said.

Private growth and public improvement

Rob Hosack, the county’s community development director, said the area has seen a burst of development ahead of the infrastructure improvements.

“We have seen a really big uptick,” Hosack said. “What’s interesting is we actually started seeing this in advance of the Braves development.”

Hosack estimated “conservatively” the Cumberland area has hosted $250 million worth of new construction in the past two years — and said he expected to see the same type of investment over the next two.

The county put together three master plans outlining a vision for the area’s development, Hosack said, specifying where “intensely-developed” quarters would go and where “cushion” quarters of less development would fall.

“I think we created a lot of buy-in,” Hosack said of the master plans, adding businesses were encouraged to bring development to the area once the county “had a blueprint to follow.”

He highlighted the growth of residential development around the area, touting the construction of two new “in-town residential communities” that will provide apartment living in proximity to both the urban locale of Cumberland and trails that will allow residents to walk to Chattahoochee National Park.

Hosack said the complexes offer a “huge incentive” to both commercial and residential developers mulling a move to the area.

He said the county transportation department has “done a great job getting out in front” of impending traffic interruptions that will accompany all of the construction activity.

“(Cobb DOT) has got a very detailed plan, taking into account not only the construction related to road projects, but also the stuff we anticipate being under development in the private sector,” Hosack said.

(Reprinted from The Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Ricky Leroux and Sarah Westwood, July 26, 2014. Read the original article HERE.) 

SPLOST passes 4-1; Special tax headed to November ballot, voters

Bob Ott

 

Tuesday’s runoff elections set up several choices for voters on November’s ballot, and the Cobb Board of Commissioners added one more Tuesday night: a potential one percent special sales tax.

Commissioners voted 4-1, with Bob Ott opposed, to put a six-year special purpose local option sales tax before voters in November.

Several changes were made late Tuesday night to the list of projects to be funded by the SPLOST, which is expected to raise $750 million over its duration. Among the changes were a removal of a $72.5 million dollar project for intersection and pedestrian improvements along Cobb Parkway from the “tier two” section of the list, a move suggested by Chairman Tim Lee.

The $72.5 million line item was one of several in the SPLOST project list cited by critics as being connected to a controversial bus rapid transit project.

Initially, the BRT project was on the SPLOST list, but after receiving public comment on the issue, the commissioners decided to remove the project from the list. Lee reiterated the BRT absence from the list during the meeting.

“The project in its entirety has been removed from any paperwork, any project list,” Lee said.

Still, Lee recommended removing the $72.5 million earmark from the list before the vote.

Commissioner Lisa Cupid suggested another $60 million line item for improvements to Cobb Parkway be removed from a list of projects to be funded if federal, state or other funds become available. Cupid said she wanted the line item removed because constituents expressed concern the project could be used to fund BRT in the future, including some residents who made this argument during the public comment portion of the meeting.

In the July 2 draft of the SPLOST project list, the $60 million line item included a reference to BRT in its description, but in the July 15 draft, the reference to BRT was removed. Cupid said the lack of clarity regarding the project and its relationship to the proposed BRT gave her pause.

“Constituents shouldn’t have to play detective in understanding our line items, and I feel that is what they’ve done to uncover that BRT was referenced with one particular line item, which has not been removed, which is a $60 million project,” she said.

Lee argued the $60 million was put on the list by the Georgia Department of Transportation and it is necessary and unrelated to the BRT. Still, Cupid encouraged the board to remove the earmark before the vote.

“I’m not trying to diminish the need for improvements to the intersection beyond BRT,” Cupid said. “But that doesn’t change the fact that it was included in the SPLOST list with BRT included in that section prior to that. And I’m not the one that needs to be convinced at the end of the day; the voters are. And by now, there is overwhelming concern by them on things that have been changed that referenced BRT that no longer reference BRT.”

Ott and Commissioner JoAnn Birrell agreed with Cupid, and before the vote, the project was removed.

Commissioner Helen Goreham, along with Lee, disagreed with the change.

“I support the SPLOST. I don’t support this change,” Goreham said. “I will vote to support the intergovernmental agreement, but I do not support a change that has no basis, and for us to act out of some fear that has been created.”

Despite the removal of these two projects, Ott still voted against the measure because he believes the project list contains too many unnecessary items.

“I think (the project list) strays too far from special purpose. There’s too many projects on there that I don’t think are needs,” he said.

Before commissioners voted on whether to put the SPLOST before voters, they approved an intergovernmental agreement, which described how the funds raised by the SPLOST would be divided between Cobb County’s six cities and the county itself. Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the agreement.

After the agreement’s approval, commissioners began discussion of the SPLOST project list and the changes they would like to make. However, the county attorney, Deborah Dance, informed commissioners the project list was included in the intergovernmental agreement; the subsequent vote was solely to decide whether to put the issue before voters. Learning the $60 million line item had been approved, Cupid called for a revote to revisit the intergovernmental agreement, which commissioners agreed to do, 4-1, with a frustrated Lee opposed.

 

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Ricky Leroux July 23, 2014. View the original MDJ article HERE.) 

Ott aims for public safety dollars in SPLOST list

 

Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott says public safety and transportation are the top priorities on his special purpose local option sales tax wish list.

The Cobb Board of Commissioners will decide July 22 whether to put a 1 percent SPLOST, expected to collect $750 million over six years, before voters.

Ott, who represents southeast Cobb’s District 2, finished his list well in advance of the other three district commissioners.

Ott’s $127.7 million list includes $48 million in improvements to the Windy Hill Road area.

One is a connector between Windy Hill and Terrell Mill Road, expected to cost $30 million.

“They are building lanes on the west side of Interstate 75 — toll lanes,” Ott said. “The first exit is Terrell Mill. This is a project we’ve been trying to do for a while. It will effectively connect Delk Road with Akers Mill Road.”

Though Ott stressed the project was planned for well ahead of the Braves’ move to Cobb, he said it will help ease traffic congestion on game days.

“This creates more of a grid and will aid in connecting Paces Ferry and Highway 41,” he said. “Anything that will help disperse the congestion there will be a benefit.”

The other Windy Hill project is a joint effort with the city of Smyrna to redesign Windy Hill Road as it leads to I-75.

Ott’s list has $18 million set aside, while Smyrna is contributing another $22 million.

“It’s a boulevard where you put the cars passing through in the center and give the local folks an opportunity to get to local businesses without having to interact with the traffic that’s just passing through,” Ott said.

A third Cumberland-area project is $5.5 million worth of Cumberland Boulevard improvements. Like the others, Ott said the idea is to ease traffic flow.

“It’s a set of intersection improvements to accomplish different things,” Ott said. “There is also something called the Vinings bypass. It uses existing routes to bypass Paces Ferry and Paces Mill. This is a choke point. It allows people to drive around Vinings without going through it.”

Tad Leithead, chairman of the Cumberland Community Improvement District, said he’s hopeful the projects make the final cut.

“The Windy Hill/Terrell Mill connector is a project the CID has studied for, I think, 20 years,” Leithead said. “Essentially, it establishes a connection between Windy Hill Road north to Terrell Mill Road. It’s a vital connection because it takes pressure off both Windy Hill and Terrell Mill as far as east/west traffic is concerned. That’s a project we’ve studied and we support, and it’s 100 percent within the CID.”

Leithead said the Cumberland CID has its own SPLOST project list that it submitted to commissioners, though it’s merely a list of nonbinding suggestions.

“Anything we can do to facilitate traffic flow in the district will reduce traffic associated with Braves games,” Leithead said.

$11.25 million for take-home vehicles for police

Ott continues to oppose the inclusion of two Cobb Police Department building projects on the overall SPLOST list, which would total more than $100,000 million.

One is a $55 million line item to build a new headquarters and evidence storage room for the Cobb Police Department possibly off County Services Parkway. The existing police headquarters is on North Marietta Parkway near the Square. The other expense is $52.9 million for a new training facility for police and firefighters. The existing training facility is on County Services Parkway. Instead of money for the buildings, Ott has committed $11.25 million to take-home vehicles for police and $1.86 million toward the renovation of police precincts. He said those projects are a better way to improve police morale. One building in Ott’s list is a $4.3 million fire station in the Cumberland Mall area. According to Ott, Fire Station 29 was supposed to be built years ago, and he said the county already has built Fire Station 30. However, Station 29 was derailed by sluggish development in the Cumberland area.

“Now that the area has come back with lots of development, it’s needed in the area,” Ott said. “Fire Station 29 has been on the books, but it wasn’t needed. Now, it is.”

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Haisten Willis, July 07, 2014. Click HERE to read the original article.) 

District Two show to discuss Six Flags Park

six flags over georgia

A new episode of 2 TALK with Bob Ott will air at 8 p.m. Monday, June 2, and Thursday, June 5, on Government Access Channel TV23. The show, hosted by the commissioner, highlights stories, accomplishments and insights into what makes District Two a great place to live and do business.

The latest episode will feature guests District Four Commissioner Lisa Cupid, Six Flags Over Georgia Park President Dale Kaetzel and park Communications Manager Gene Petriello. They discuss a new water park and new holiday events at Six Flags.

TV23 can be found on channel 23 for Comcast and Charter cable customers. AT&T U-verse customers will need to tune to channel 99 and then select Cobb County Government. The show is also available on TV23′s live Web stream during its airing time by clicking here.

 

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Bob Ott’s 2 TALK show still available

Bob Ott

If you missed the latest episode of 2 TALK with Bob Ott this past week, you can still watch it online through TV23′s live Web stream by clicking here. The show, hosted by the commissioner, highlights stories, accomplishments and insights into what makes District 2 a great place to live and do business.

The latest episode features interviews with Cobb County Tax Commissioner Carla Jackson and Tax Assessor Steven White. For the “What’s on Your Mind?” segment, submit your questions to thea.powell@cobbcounty.org. Questions will be answered on 2 TALK or in the Friday newsletter. The show airs on TV23 on the first Monday and Thursday of each month.

 

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2 TALK show to air Monday

The new episode of 2 TALK with Bob Ott will air at 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6, on Government Access Channel TV23. The show, hosted by the commissioner, highlights stories, accomplishments and insights into what makes District 2 a great place to live and do business. It airs on the first Monday and Thursday of each month.

The latest episode will feature interviews with Community Development Agency Director Rob Hosack, Planning Division Manager Dana Johnson and County Manager David Hankerson.

For the “What’s on Your Mind?” segment, submit your questions to thea.powell@cobbcounty.org. We will answer them on 2 TALK or in the Friday newsletter.

TV23 can be found on channel 23 for Comcast and Charter cable customers. AT&T U-verse customers will need to tune to channel 99 and then select Cobb County Government.

The show is also available on TV23′s live Web stream at http://view.earthchannel.com/PlayerController.aspx?PGD=cobbcoga&eID=248 .

 

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Commissioners schedule Town Hall meetings to discuss Braves’ move to Cobb County

•District One Commissioner Helen Goreham town hall (Commissioner JoAnn Birrell will be in attendance for constituents who cannot attend Monday’s town hall).
7-8:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 21
Senior Wellness Center, 1150 Powder Springs St., Marietta

•District Two Commissioner Bob Ott town hall
7-8:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 25
Board of Commissioners room, second floor of 100 Cherokee St., Marietta

•District Three Commissioner JoAnn Birrell town hall
4:30 – 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 25
Mountain View Library at 3320 Sandy Plains Road, Marietta

•District Four Commissioner Lisa Cupid town hall
7-8:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 25
South Cobb Comm. Center, 620 Lion Club Drive SW, Mableton

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to vote on the Braves proposal at the next meeting 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 26. The meeting will be held in the 2nd floor meeting room 100 Cherokee Street, Bldg A, Marietta 30090.

For information about the Braves project, visit www.cobbcounty.org andhttp://homeofthebraves.com/

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Monday town hall to discuss Braves deal

Bob Ott

Commissioner Bob Ott will hold a Town Hall meeting on Monday, Nov. 25 from 7-8:30 p.m. in the Board of Commissioner’s meeting room at 100 Cherokee St. in Marietta. Ott will discuss the Braves proposal and take questions.

 

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Senior development spurs debate at Ott town hall

23

A proposed 987-unit senior living development took center stage at a Tuesday town hall meeting by southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott.

Ott began the meeting, attended by about 180 people, talking about area transportation projects, but that focus quickly turned when residents voiced concerns about the project proposed for a 53.7-acre tract off Roswell Road next to East Cobb Park.

Atlanta-based Isakson Living, a firm with family ties to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), has planned the development for seniors 62 and older.

The firm will go before the Cobb Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners in October to request rezoning allowing it to develop the site as a senior community. Because it is not zoned for that kind of use now, the board must approve the rezoning for it to become a reality.

During the town hall meeting at Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church off Lower Roswell Road, Charles Lehr, an east Cobb IT consultant, asked Ott why residents should believe their concerns will be heard in light of the political connections of the investors.

“Why should we believe … any concern by the community will be given any sort of consideration?” Lehr asked, as residents attending the town hall erupted in applause.

Ott told the crowd the law prevents him from publicly stating his opinion before the Board of Commissioners votes on the zoning, but he vowed to represent his district.

“Political connections don’t mean anything to me,” Ott said. “Last names do not matter.”

He encouraged people with concerns to email him lists of their questions or complaints.

“Just know everybody gets a fair statement especially in this district,” Ott said.

The MDJ asked Isakson’s office to respond to concerns about his involvement in the project.

“Sen. Isakson has absolutely nothing to do with this project,” said Isakson’s spokeswoman, Lauren Culbertson.

The project isn’t popular with many east Cobb residents.

Lauren Brockman, an east Cobb resident who works in international sales, polled the room toward the end of the meeting, which lasted about two hours.

Only two people signaled their approval of having the center at the proposed location.

The zoning that Isakson Living is seeking, continuing care retirement community, is allowed in what Cobb considers to be high-density, intensely developed areas such as apartment complexes and shopping centers.

Lehr said moving more than 1,000 residents into the community would have a similar impact.

“I think that qualifies as intense,” Lehr said.

Robert Burke, a software developer, asked Ott to specify the criteria that will be used in the zoning decision.

But Ott said he couldn’t do that because it might indicate his opinion on the zoning case.

“There are so many things that go into zonings,” Ott said.

The Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners looks at the size, location and character of the proposed zoning and its potential impact on traffic.

Rezoning applications that get denied sometimes end up in court, Ott said, and that means commissioners have to be careful to base their decisions on evidence the zoning would have a negative impact on its surrounding areas.

It’s the additional traffic that such a project would generate that has some residents up in arms.

Bill Hudson, a retired dentist, says vehicles in that area already experience delays, especially on weekends.

“I’m just wondering how traffic flow is going to be affected by this,” Hudson said.

Ott said that many homes “can’t help but affect traffic.”

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Nikki Wiley, August 22, 2013. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Senior development spurs debate at Ott town hall)

Commissioner Bob Ott encourages East Cobb residents to share knowledge with neighbors

Bob Ott

The following information was written and distributed by Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott. For more from Ott, visit www.cobbcounty.org/ott.

Residents need facts to be effective in taking action on the issues that face their community. An informed public is a powerful public. Fortunately, we have a way of accomplishing this goal. Through my weekly online District 2 newsletter residents have access to current and relevant information about Cobb County Government. When you receive the newsletter forward it to five friends and neighbors. By simply reaching out to them, more District 2 residents can be up-to-date on road projects, upcoming meetings, and other important issues. For example, we will begin a multi-part series explaining the zoning process and how you can monitor the review of a zoning request. We also have information specific to District 2 rezoning cases available on our Web page.

Residents can sign up for the free online newsletter on my Web page at www.cobbcounty.org/ott. Get the information you need and share it with everyone. It’s always a good time to learn more about your community.

 

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