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With Cupid’s ‘screw up’ finally resolved, “Don’t mess with Dobbins,” says Commissioner JoAnn Birrell


Cobb County is finally able to exhale as it moves beyond a tumultuous journey it has been on, brought on by poor decision making and inept leadership by certain members of the Cobb County Commission. Their poor decision making had placed Cobb’s major economic engine, Dobbins Air Reserve, in jeopardy.

A resolution has been achieved regarding the contentious issue surrounding Dobbins that will protect it from further poor decision making. In January, the Cobb Board of Commissioners, in a decisive 5-0 vote, approved a land swap deal with a developer, aimed at safeguarding the base from the threat of new condominium developments within its accident potential zone. The deal, which officially came into effect on Tuesday, involved the exchange of county-owned land off Terrell Mill Road with property owned by Venture Properties on Leland Drive, both parcels being just under five acres in size.

This unanimous position now on Dobbins was not where the board was a few years short years ago due to the poor leadership at the top of Cobb government and an inability to understand the needs of the county.

The initial controversy erupted in May 2021 when a rezoning request by Venture Properties for 38 condos on the Leland Drive property they owned was approved by Cobb’s three Democratic commissioners – Chair Lisa Cupid and Commissioners Monique Sheffield and Jerica Richardson. Although the Cobb County Planning Commission had earlier voted to deny the rezoning, Cupid led the charge on the board to ignore the Planning experts so she could approve the request. In addition, Department of Defense guidelines clearly prohibit residential development within the accident potential zone surrounding Dobbins’ runway, but Cupid ignored that as well.

Despite objections from Dobbins, the Cobb Chamber of Commerce leadership, and the business community, as well as an attempted intervention session by Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock – who cautioned her on her perilous decision-making regarding Dobbins – Cupid ignored them all and dug in.

Tongue lashing anyone who did not agree with her, Cupid led the trio to approve the rezoning. Republican Commissioners JoAnn Birrell and Keli Gambrill sided with Dobbins and the Planning Commission and opposed it. In opposing the deal, Birrell and Gambrill emphasized the significance of protecting Dobbins and cited its importance as an economic and strategic asset, logic which escaped Cupid and the other members of the board. In addition, Department of Defense guidelines clearly prohibit residential development within the accident potential zone surrounding Dobbins’ runway, which Cupid should have known.

Cupid’s poor decision on Dobbins did not sit well with many in the community. It sparked public outcry, with critics fearing her foolish decision making and poor leadership skills could jeopardize the base during future Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) reviews.

Following intense scrutiny and backlash from the community, Cupid finally came to her senses. The county eventually pursued the land swap.

While the completion of the deal marks the end of an unprecedented struggle to get Cupid to understand the importance of Dobbins and why it should be protected at all times, Birrell emphasized that such a situation should have never arisen in the first place. She highlighted the importance of eliminating discretion in zoning decisions within the accident potential zone, a change she successfully advocated for through a code amendment.

As she championed that amendment, Birrell underscored the critical importance of not compromising the safety and integrity of Dobbins Air Reserve Base, given its vital role in the community and national defense. She pointed to other groups that would be negatively impacted by Cupid’s poor decision making on Dobbins including the National Guard headquarters, Lockheed (Martin), and Georgia Tech Research.

As Birrell succinctly puts it, “Don’t mess with Dobbins.”


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