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In My Opinion…Fly away to the danger zone


There has been considerable discussion about the Cobb Board of Commissioners approval of the Z-11 zoning application, which would build high density condominiums on a property very close to Dobbins Air Force Base. This property is close enough to the end of the runway at Dobbins, that it has an official designation of “Accident Potential Zone”.

The Cobb Chamber of Commerce and various other parties are concerned that the zoning decision could jeopardize thousands of jobs at Dobbins and Lockheed.

BOC Chairwoman, Lisa Cupid, has responded that the Chamber of Commerce did not complain about the Truist Park and Battery rezoning, or the Thyssenkrupp rezoning.

But these other developments were not in an Accident Potential Zone. Yes, Dobbins needed to make some minor tweaks to flight paths so that those planes did not fly directly over such a crowded area, and away from a building as tall as the Thyssenkrupp building. But that is a very minor problem compared to putting any residential property in an Accident Potential Zone.

It is well known that the most dangerous part of any flight is takeoff and landing. The Accident Potential Zone at any military air base is an area directly and immediately in the path of the runway, where planes have no choice but to fly directly over the Accident Potential Zone on takeoff and landing.

In today’s world of politically correct terminology, we use the term Accident Potential Zone. A few decades ago, we probably would have just called it a Danger Zone. In reality, it is a Danger Zone.

In addition, when planes take off and land, they are at very low altitude, and they are very loud. Is that a good place to build new residences? Incidentally, according to Staff analysis, this property is also located within an officially designated Noise Zone. And it is also within The Dobbins Airfield Safety Zone and the Bird/Wildlife Air Strike Hazard Area.

In many cities, when airports and military air bases have expanded or extended their runways, or built new runways, which encroached on existing neighborhoods, there have been many instances where local governments made the decision that these homes / neighborhoods needed to be bought out and torn down, because those communities had come to be in such an undesirable and unlivable location. Why would any jurisdiction ever deliberately approve building residential homes in a location that would be so dangerous and noisy for the potential future homeowners?

If an accident occurs, and if homes and or property is destroyed, and if some people are killed or injured, I wonder if Cobb County will have liability for its decision to knowingly approve high density housing on land that has an official designation of Accident Potential Zone? And hopefully, that won’t happen. But even if it doesn’t, I wonder if 10 years from now, Cobb County will be forced to buy out the entire development because the noise is so loud that the homes are unlivable?

Representatives of Dobbins warned Cobb County that Z-11 could jeopardize Dobbins in future BRAC decisions (Base Relocation and Closure). What are the priorities of the BOC that they would risk losing tens of thousands of high paying jobs over 38 high density condos? This was one of the primary reasons why the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend denial of Z-11.

Commissioner Richardson counters that the applicant claims the existing zoning is unconstitutional, and that Cobb County would lose in court if they denied the rezoning. I think both the applicant’s position and Commissioner Richardson’s position are dubious.

Is high density residential the “best” use within an Accident Potential Zone and a Noise Zone? Is high density residential the worst use in an Accident Potential Zone and a Noise Zone? Is the applicant entitled to highest use? In the State of Georgia, a property owner is entitled to a reasonable use, not necessarily the highest use. Is high density residential a reasonable use within an Accident Potential Zone and a Noise Zone? Guidelines for Accident Potential Zones says that high density residential is not a reasonable use.

I think it is extremely unlikely that any court would rule that Cobb County erred in denying a rezoning to high density residential on property that is in an Accident Potential Zone and a Noise Zone.

Ron Sifen resides in the Vinings area of Cobb County and is an advocate for his community.

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