A proposed retirement community in the Fischer Crossings development was struck down in a 3 to 1 vote by the Coweta County Commissioners.
Fortress Ventures was proposing a four-story independent living facility with 132 units, a two-story assisted living facility with 48 units, and a 38-bed memory care unit.
The retirement community was proposed for the northernmost portion of the Fischer Crossings development, and would be next to the proposed Costco. The two developments would be separated by a stormwater detention pond and a small tract that was zoned several years ago for a daycare center.
Though the property has long been considered part of the Fischer Crossings development, and has been cleared and graded, it is still zoned RC-Rural Conservation, the county’s standard residential zoning category. When the development was originally approved in 2006, the property was to be used for the sewer treatment system. After the development was able to tap into public sewer, sports fields were proposed for the property. The sports fields were approved but never built.
A 100-foot “conservation buffer” is shown on the site plan between the proposed development and Wynn’s Pond Road.
Fortress Ventures was requesting rezoning to the county’s Residential Retirement Community Care District. The applicants were also requesting a variance to allow a building height of up to 68 feet, and a conditional use permit for the assisted living and memory care. Under the RRCC, residents must be 55 and older.
In the variance request, the top floor would be no higher than 51 feet, according to County Administrator Michael Fouts.
But requirements for roof pitch would make the highest point of the roof 68 feet, said Steve Gaultney of Southern Trust Capital, owners of the Fischer Crossings property.
Commissioner Rodney Brooks, who represents the area and lives in a subdivision just west of Sam’s Club, expressed concerns about the building height when it comes to fire safety. He asked Mark Marlowe of Fortress Ventures about building materials. Coweta Fire Rescue’s highest ladder truck is 70 feet tall, Brooks said.
Piedmont Newnan Hospital is the tallest building in the county, but is built with concrete and steel, Brooks said.
Marlowe said no specific plans have been created for the Coweta facility, because it hasn’t yet been approved. Some of the facilities his company has built are concrete, some are wood. All have sprinkler systems, he said. No matter the materials, they would be fire rated, he said. But Marlowe said he wouldn’t have problem with specifying concrete and steel framing, though wooden roof trusses would probably still be used.
“The wood trusses, I’m OK with,” Brooks said.
The fire department has signed off on the variance with no objections, Fouts said.
The Coweta Board of Zoning Appeals held public hearings on the variance and conditional use permit. Representatives of the Featherston Fishing Club at Wynn’s Pond expressed concerns about runoff, and about the height of the building. Following those hearings, the Board of Zoning Appeals voted to recommend approval of the height variance and the conditional use permit.
The public hearing on the rezoning was held before the commissioners Tuesday, and there were no speakers in opposition. The developers had met with residents and owners of Wynn’s Pond, which is behind the development. A letter from an attorney working with Wynn’s Pond owners stated that he didn’t anticipate any speakers at the public hearings to oppose the projects.
Brooks said his concern with the property is that he’d like to see a “step down” use between the commercial shopping center at Fischer Crossings and the surrounding area.
“If we did an O&I (office zoning) or even a subdivision for 55 and older, we could probably do this OK,” Brooks said.
But he considers the Fortress Ventures plan “a high-density basically apartment complex.”
With that and “the life safety issues of probably being a wood frame… I’m going to have to make a recommendation to deny,” Brooks said.
“We’re trying to maintain a quality of life for everybody. That is what makes me go to this point, to deny this particular petition,” Brooks said.
The vote was 3 to 1, with Brooks, Paul Poole and Bob Blackburn voting for denial and Chairman Al Smith opposed. Commissioner Tim Lassetter was not in attendance.
The property directly adjacent to the proposed development is a large tract with one home in the woods, near Wynn’s Pond. Next to that is a church and daycare. Across Fischer Road, north of Sam’s Club, is another large tract of land with a residence, and then a subdivision.
There have been several requests denied during the life of the Fischer Crossing development. In 2010, a rezoning of 17 acres from RC to commercial was requested for a Kohl’s department store, and a change to allow Wynn’s Pond Road to be moved. It was denied, and the developers sued. The following spring, the requests came back before the commissioners and were approved.
Gaultney had proposed several commercial buildings in 2013, and requested several variances to the county’s extensive “quality development corridor” design guidelines. Most of those variances were denied, and the buildings were never constructed.