Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Cobb County purchases first parks bond property

From the Marietta Daily Journal on Wednesday, July 25, 2007 by Kelly Brooks, staff writer

MARIETTA - Dramatic slopes, heavy woods, seclusion and historical significance.

That's how Cobb parks bond committee member Roberta Cook describes a 15.45-acre tract in southeast Cobb that will be the county's first purchase with money from its $40 million parks bond voters approved last fall.

"It's really too good to be true," Ms. Cook said of the purchase. "All the hard work we did in resisting (development) paid off."

Cobb will buy the land for $2.43 million, or about $157,261 per acre, on or before July 31 from the Columns Group and CT Nickajack.

Commissioners voted 5-0 Tuesday night to approve the land buy in an add-on agenda item released earlier in the day and written by Bob Ash, Cobb public services agency director.

Ash said the land was appraised at $2.9 million, which means negotiations led by the Trust for Public Land and three parks committee members saved the county about $470,000 in bond money.

The site sits on the northwest corner of Veteran's Memorial Highway and Henderson Road in Mableton, just northwest of the intersection of Interstates 285 and 20.

"It's a very beautiful site," Ms. Cook said. "It's so well-preserved, it's just like going back in time."

In April, Cobb Chairman Sam Olens told the Columns Group to lower the flame on plans to develop the site due to Cobb's interest in the property.

"My neighbors and I were involved in the opposition for the rezoning of that property because it affected not only the historical site on the property but also the property the county owned as green space directly downhill," said Ms. Cook, who lives on Nickajack Creek, just north of the tract.

Ash recommended the buy because the property was a top-tier choice of the 15-member committee and because it's adjacent to a six-acre site Cobb bought in 2004 with green space money from the state.

Other reasons for the buy include the Civil War trenchline that traverses the property, which contributes to the story of the nearby 88-acre Johnston's River Line, another Civil War site Cobb owns.

"The purchase expands the county holdings along Nickajack Creek, making the green space and passive use a more desirable destination for family use," Ash wrote. "It can contribute to the proposed trail along the creek."

Development, Ms. Cook added, also could have had an adverse impact on Nickajack Creek.

After the purchase, Cobb will have $37.57 million in parks bond money.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Get that parkland while it's still hot

From the Marietta Daily Journal on Monday, July 2, 2007 by MDJ columnist Don McKee

Kudos to Cobb's citizen advisory committee on its recommendations for future parklands.

The 15 members of the group showed their priorities were right with the list of their top 18 properties announced last week by the Cobb Board of Commissioners.

Leading the list in the first tier was the 95-acre Hyde Farm on Lower Roswell Road in northeast Cobb, followed by the 106-acre Bullard Farm on Dallas Highway in west Cobb and the 53-acre Tritt tract on Roswell Road in the northeastern section of the county. Those were ranked in the top tier by all the committee members, according to Chairman John Pape.

Three other properties were in the first tier: the 140-acre Stout property in southwest Cobb adjacent to Stout Park, 26.5 acres of the northeast Cobb Mabry Centennial Farm on Wesley Chapel Road and the 16-acre Nickajack tract with its Civil War earthworks on Veterans Memorial Highway in southeast Cobb.

The question is: how many of these prime tracts can be acquired with the $40 million from the bonds approved overwhelmingly by Cobb voters last year?

Apparently, three of the most desirable properties on your columnist's top priority list - the Bullard Farm, the Tritt land and the Civil War site - would take up most or all the bond money, assuming they can all be acquired. Another combination from the top tier that included the Hyde Farm would be a good one, but I'm partial to the Bullard Farm because parkland of that size is badly needed in west Cobb.

To reiterate my view, it is more important to purchase as many large, prime tracts as possible now because they obviously won't be available for long, given the rate of development in this county.

That point was driven home by the recent Atlanta Regional Commission report estimating that Cobb has only 10 years before developable land is used up at a rate of more than 3,500 acres per year, as this newspaper reported Saturday.

Smaller tracts and even some larger properties may be added in the future for parkland with the help of private sources and state and federal funds.

So our county commissioners have their work cut out for them.

They don't plan to sit at their desks, look at the maps and rely solely on the recommendations of the citizens committee. Commission Chairman Sam Olens and his colleagues will take first-hand looks at properties. That's a good idea, although it probably will make the commissioners' job even harder when they see the desirable features of many different properties.

However, the commissioners would do well to stick with the criteria used by the citizens committee in analyzing the potential parkland. Those include first, the size of the parcel, then its historical value, environmental quality, linkage to existing parks or trails, future usability, whether it's in an under-served area, presence of water, accessibility, topography and the development threat level.

That list starts with size. So should the commissioners.