On a Monday the county chairman tells residents in Mableton that Cobb needs to strengthen its industrial sector.
The next day, the county commission denies a petition for a Mableton industrial site to expand its operation.
These two events seem contradictory, and I too feel mixed.
Support of industrial business is a plus for Cobb County's tax base and an encouragement to persons who want stable employment in a sector that the county says it will support. As a former manufacturing/ process engineer, I would also like to see increased business and job opportunities in the technical and skilled trade arena.
Still, as a homeowner in South Cobb I have some concern about Cobb becoming a booming industrial center when that boom would take place in my back yard. South Cobb is home to a significant number of Cobb's industrial businesses, and several sit right next to newer residential areas including mine.
My 10 year old subdivision was built right next to two industrial land parcels in South Cobb. The one site across from my subdivision is a good neighbor, always keeping its lawn manicured and free from debris. The one on the other side of my subdivision—of course the side I did not drive by during all my house hunting trips—is an unsightly forklift cemetery.
Sometimes I wish a larger tree barrier blocked the view of industrial equipment on both parcels. I also wish a pungent sewer smell didn't rest so heavy in the air at night. (My husband and I never thought to view our property at night before purchasing it!) Moreover, I don't like the fact that nearby streets are in endless disrepair due to increased traffic from trucks and homeowners.
So why did I and do others move here?
The saying is true: if they build it, they will come.
It is no secret that South Cobb is a great place to live if you want quick access to the interstate and downtown Atlanta. Some of its new subdivisions are also quite attractive and affordable.
Moreover, the experience of getting a great real estate bargain, or a new home, brings along with it a set of rose-colored glasses.
But it is not just the glasses. County plans and studies have continually shown South Cobb as becoming more residential near industrial sites. In fact, two new communities sprouted next to mine within years after mine was built. And just 5 minutes away higher end communities were built next to industrial parcels off Veterans Memorial.
Certainly all of the homeowners in the area, including me and my husband, did not blindly nor purposefully move here to battle with or get rid of Cobb’s industrial sector.
Yet the recent zoning showdown between a heavy industrial site and a newly built subdivision exemplified the great conflict in neighboring residential and industrial property owners.
While residents and industrial business owners have competing and often encroaching interests, the opportunities lie within our shared interests.
Employment. While industrial businesses are always looking for good employees, there are many skilled residents here in South Cobb that need employment. I am almost certain that industrial organizations that employ from their neighboring communities are going to face less opposition when going through rezoning. Employing local residents could also make for a reliable or at least more punctual workforce.
Transportation. Industrial companies need a strong network of roads to ensure good access to and exit from their locations. Likewise, residents also want faster and safer commutes. When new subdivisions or businesses come in the area both parties could come together to ensure the county modifies roads to accommodate increased usage.
Residents and business could also come together to demand better transit, sidewalks, and lighting so that persons can arrive to and from work safely and on time.
Education. Having great schools is a top interest of residents who have families. It is also important for businesses that want to attract and retain good employees. Together we can partner with our schools to ensure a strong work force and solid future for our children.
Amenities. While residents seek complimentary amenities to their neighborhoods—like grocery stores and restaurants—industrial organizations would appreciate having places for their employees and suppliers to eat. Together we can make a strong case for improving access to food options in South Cobb.
We can also advocate for more health services to treat injured employees or ailing loved ones. We can also use good lodging options for visiting consultants or relatives.
Beautification. Having a community that is inviting to customers and guests is also a shared desire of residents and businesses. Together we could join forces to spruce up our corridors.
Now, admittedly, my suggestions are no panacea. Issues such as unpleasant odor, increased road debris, and disruptive noise from industrial sites make them less than ideal neighbors for bedroom communities.
Still, better land use planning along with mutual concessions can go a long way.
Better Land Use Planning. If the county is serious about supporting industrial businesses it cannot intersperse residential sites among them. The county also cannot put residential areas right next to sites primed for heavy industrial and expect residents not to protest.
Better land use planning would help avoid future conflict. Residential and industrial land uses need to be separated with adequate buffers placed and preserved in between them.
The county should also create an “Industrial Zone” with clear boundaries to help industrial organizations better plan for how to invest in their properties.
Mutual Concession. County leaders can also play a key role in helping address conflicts between residents and owners of industrial property.
Through closed meeting, negotiation, or mediation, the county can help residents and businesses determine how to better move forward as neighbors. Shared resolution can include limiting hours of operation, relocating truck or residential entrances, and installing odor reduction controls. Though each measure may have accompanying cost, the cost may be less than 1) having residents take multiple days off work to protest zoning, 2) laying off good employees due to limited business potential, or 3) filing suit in court.
I do not envy the difficult position our county is in to balance opposing interests of taxpayers. But I do know that not taking the time to address ongoing land use issues is fueling frustration among persons who help make our county as great as it is.
As a committed resident, former engineer and mediator, I know we have plenty of opportunity to explore how to do better, and with your vote on July 31st we together can do so.
...Do you have ideas for how to reduce conflict between South Cobb Industrial Sites and Residential Neighbors? Please share...