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Cobb’s approval of developers’ SLUP throws ‘monkey wrench’ into Mableton plans for a Six Flags ‘Entertainment District’


The City of Mableton’s vision to transform the Six Flags area into a revenue generating entertainment district was rebuffed last week as the heavy-handed Cobb County Board of Commission approved a Special Land Use Permit (SLUP) for the rezoning and development of a closed hotel in South Cobb into apartments. Despite pleas that county government yield to the wishes of local government, Cobb Commissioners did what they wanted, instead of what was best for the area, which was zoned recreational. The Commissioners voted 4 – 0 to approve the developer’s SLUP request to change the zoning so that a shuttered hotel could be developed into a 90 to 95 unit apartment building for veterans near I-20 in Mableton.

Mableton Mayor Pro Tem, T.J. Ferguson attended the meeting and spoke in opposition of the request, saying Mableton opposed the proposal due to concerns about the location and rezoning. Ferguson, who is also a veteran, pointed out that the apartment request did not align with their plans for the district’s revitalization. The new city envisions the Six Flags area as an entertainment district that could turn the area into a popular tourist area that could become an ongoing revenue source for the new city and a possible source to reduce citizen tax burdens. Already in place, and near Six Flags, is the EpiCenter, which serves as a ‘community jewel’ for the area and is popular among residents.

Although the proposal conflicted with Mableton’s revitalization plans for the area, Commissioners ignored the plea and made a decision that impacts the vision and development plans put forth by the City of Mableton leadership. The Commissions’ disregard of the newly elected local government, in favor of the developer’s request, illustrates a clash of perspectives and potential disagreements between the county and city authorities in the future regarding zoning and other key topics in the new city. One of the key service areas for the new government of Mableton is zoning, but this decision by the Commission shows that they do not respect or recognize the authority and leadership of the new city.

Mableton’s local government did not believe that the apartment building fits into their clear objections, but the Commissioners, who have ignored this area of South Cobb for decades, disagreed. The apartment proposal comes from the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a nonprofit founded to serve first responders and veterans. The foundation plans to convert the closed 103-room Wingate hotel into affordable housing for veterans, creating a “Veterans Village.”

Community support for housing veterans was evident with those we spoke to, but so was housing for families and seniors. The specific location and challenges of putting housing near an amusement park could not be ignored as well.

Despite unverified claims from a local group that the community supported this change, many community members we spoke to in the area agreed with the Mableton government. They raised their own concerns regarding housing for veterans being placed in the Six Flags area where the impact of noise and traffic could have negative consequences and serve as a trigger for individuals (veterans) who may be suffering from post-traumatic stress trauma (PTSD). They say placement of housing near Six Flags could be a trigger that causes more stress for veterans.

They also pointed to the ongoing failure by the county of allowing permits for things that are not compatible with the existing area, and stressed the need for careful planning and consideration of the well-being of both current and future residents of the area, especially those with unique needs, which have been ignored by a short-sighted Commission.

A broader discussion included other failed developments in the area. Magnolia Crossing is at the top of the list and remains a major disappointment. This property highlights the failure and lack of effectiveness of the Board of Commissioners in overseeing and facilitating development projects in the South Cobb area, especially from Chair Lisa Cupid, who resided in the area, but moved to Vinings after being elected.

Magnolia Crossing is fifty acres of prime real estate property that has sat dormant for nearly 10 years. This location, less than a mile down the street from Six Flags, could serve as a prime location for veteran housing, along with families and seniors desperate for housing options. With failed leadership by the local Commissioners on the development of this property, it remains vacant and abandoned a decade later, to the anger and disappointment of many who have advocated for years for it to be developed. 

The sentiments from actual community members, rather than special interest groups, underscored the importance of transparent communication, collaboration, and alignment between local government decisions and resident preferences. Balancing veterans’ needs with those of families and seniors, addressing homelessness, and ensuring developments align with the community’s vision require a thoughtful and inclusive approach, considering input from all stakeholders, not just a select few.

Addressing veteran homelessness is important, but addressing the homelessness of families and seniors is also just as important. Recognizing community concerns and ensuring that development aligns with the overall vision for the area should be the main objective for the Commission, not a piecemeal fix.

Approving a special permit for the veteran’s project to move forward is a nice sound bite, but it throws a ‘monkey wrench’ into the overall plans of Mableton’s government to move our community forward and lessen the tax burden on its citizens.

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