Friday, October 06, 2006

Chamber leaders back Parks Coalition

From the Marietta Daily Journal on Friday, October 6, 2006 by MDJ staff writer Amanda Casciaro

A former Cobb Chamber of Commerce chairman Thursday drafted a letter urging financial support from business leaders for a $40 million ballot measure to buy more parkland in the county.

David Connell, an executive with Georgia Power Company who served as chairman of the Cobb Chamber in 2005, sent the letter to west Cobb's Paul Paulson of the Cobb Parks Coalition, and 280 chamber members to "educate citizens of Cobb on the issue," he said.

Paulson heads up the volunteer campaign effort to pass the $40 million general obligation bond issue that appears on Cobb's Nov. 7 ballot. Cobb officials would use the money to buy land throughout the county for future parks without raising taxes.

"There's no question there's a direct correlation in providing appropriate space for parks, and we're running out of time in terms of locking down space," Connell said. "Cobb is just becoming completely developed. We've got just a few options on property and not much time left."

Connell said because the bond does not call for a tax increase, chamber leaders decided to support the issue without first taking a position with the Chamber's Board of Directors. The letter did not clearly articulate an endorsement from the Chamber.

"We want to do our part to make sure the citizens in our community are educated on this issue," Connell said. "Since it's not a vote that will end up raising people's taxes, we're going to lend our support to it."

Connell, Chamber Board Chairman Kessel Stelling, President Bill Cooper and Chief Operating Officer Don Beaver decided to take an active role to help distribute literature to educate voters about the issue. He said the Chamber has not donated money to the cause.

Paulson welcomed the support.

"There's been frustration and anger about so much development taking place, but people didn't know what to do," Paulson said. "All of a sudden, along comes this bond initiative - and people have started expressing themselves. They're thrilled there's a chance to save something and slow things down."

Paulson said Cobb Commission Chairman Sam Olens suggested volunteers lobby the county to use general obligation bonds to secure land without raising taxes. Each commissioner has since voiced support for the bond.

County officials have yet to specify what properties they plan to buy if voters approve the bond.

"We think it's important that we as a community take advantage of this opportunity to secure some parcels of land so our kids and our grandkids have parks to enjoy in Cobb County," Connell said.

And in addition, when companies look at moving to an area, they think about what's important to their employees in a community setting. Parks are extremely vital to improving quality of life."

Of the 5,075 acres of parkland in Cobb, about half is leased from the Army Corps of Engineers. About 824 acres remain undeveloped because it either sits on a floodplain or is reserved for events such as the North Georgia State Fair.

acasciaro@mdjonline.com

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