Not long after our Monday post about a major rezoning request at Johnson Ferry and Shallowford roads, we heard from Fred Hanna, the prominent debt-collection lawyer and East Cobb resident who with his wife owns much of the land that’s being proposed for a church and townhomes.
What’s been put on the Cobb zoning calendar in December would be a new campus of the Alpharetta-based North Point Ministries plus 125 townhomes on 33 acres.
Hanna’s private property company and a non-profit ministry run by his wife have owned most of that property for nearly two decades.
Hanna Land Company owns 15 parcels and the True Vine Experience Foundation—which works to help those at risk of homelessness—owns 14 parcels. Another was owned by Sara Sweeney, a chiropractor whose office is on Shallowford Road.
Hanna told us he hoped the county would approve the church “and let it be tall and shine a light in the face of Tokyo Valentino [the controversial new adult retail store further down Johnson Ferry, whose business license was revoked last month by the county].
“Let’s send a message of what East Cobb is about.”
He said he bought his first property there, a house on Shallowford Road, in 2003 with the intention of knocking it down for redevelopment.
Lynn Hanna, his wife, urged him to let some needy people move in instead, and a family of four soon began living there rent-free.
Hanna bought 24 more homes in the same neighborhood, and many of those dwellings have been occupied by people trying to fend off homelessness.
True Vine’s work includes helping those people develop life and financial planning skills and job training in exchange for the free rent, which she estimates has added up to more than $3 million over the years.
When we called the Hannas to find out more, she explained to us that “we’ve always had in mind that we would sell.”
In 2016, CalAtlantic, a residential developer, applied for rezoning for single-family and some multi-family homes. But community opposition developed and in early 2017 the application was withdrawn.
Cobb commissioner Bob Ott suggested at the time that any redevelopment should wait until the Johnson Ferry-Shallowford master plan process that was approved in August.
In those intervening four years, Lynn Hanna said there have been some other overtures from potential buyers.
A few months ago, their agent contacted North Point, which initially wasn’t interested, and that she said had been holding makeshift gatherings in East Cobb at Eastside Baptist Church.
But in recent months, discussions began with North Point in earnest, and now the church is the applicant for the proposal (which you can read here).
While North Point campuses in Alpharetta and Buckhead have capacities of 3,000, she said the East Cobb campus “won’t be a megachurch.”
The plans call for up to 1,500 adults and 400 kids “on the best Sunday.”
“The reason I think it’s so good for the community is that it’s only going to be two hours on Sunday,” she said.
North Point doesn’t have a day care or pre-school, so there won’t be traffic during the week stemming from the church. The proposal also includes a small amount of retail and restaurant space.
But the 125 townhomes being proposed would need an RM-8 zoning that category that isn’t in the vicinity. That’s prompted traffic concerns—as well as a proposed parking deck next to the church—from some readers we’ve heard from.
Lynn Hanna said she understands that, and admits that “there are always people who object.” But she said they’re not going to make nearly the money selling to a church that they would have for an all-commercial assemblage.
North Point’s rezoning request, which was submitted by noted Cobb zoning attorney Kevin Moore, states that single-family residential use currently zoned “is economically unfeasible.”
According to Cobb Tax Assessor’s Office records, the properties owned by Hanna Land and True Vine range in appraised value from $35,000 (empty lots) to $647,000 for a lot at 3085 Johnson Ferry Road.
Most of the parcels with homes on them have appraised values in the low-to-mid 200s.
Those same records indicate that on Oct. 22, Sweeney sold her property at 4260 Shallowford Road to North Point Ministries for $650,000 (it has an appraised value of $491,530).
Lynn Hanna said she began notifying those living in the houses they own several months ago about the rezoning, and are working with them to find new housing
“We’re feeling good about this,” she said. “Knowing that it’s a church and that we’ve been helping near-homeless people is our reward.”
Said Fred Hanna:
“I think this matter has been a God thing. God had a plan some 17 years ago but first, he needed some 500 people to pass thru the houses, and be ministered to. But now is the time for the church.”
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