Cityhood and affordable housing are hot topics at Cupid's south Cobb town hall

Jul. 14—MABLETON — Affordable housing and a referendum to create the city of Mableton dominated discussion during Cobb Chairwoman Lisa Cupid's town hall this week.

The room at the South Cobb Community Center was full, with more than 75 people in attendance to hear about Cupid's plans as head of the commission. Responding to one resident's concern about the proposal to make Mableton a city, which will appear on the ballot in November, Cupid reminded attendees that they have a say in the issue.

"Mableton is on the ballot in November, so this is an opportunity for you to vote on this matter," Cupid. "Don't ever feel like you can't be heard."

The previous three proposals, aimed at incorporating the cities of Vinings, East Cobb, and Lost Mountain, failed to garner enough votes to pass in May.

Cupid asked District 4 Commissioner Monique Sheffield to speak about a public meeting she has planned to go over the cityhood proposal with interested residents.

"We're going to have a community meeting in August. We're still finalizing a date," Sheffield said, also noting that anyone who wished to stay updated about the meeting should subscribe to her newsletter.

At one point during the meeting, discussion shifted to affordable housing.

"I do believe we have a housing crisis," Cupid said. "Anybody who can get their hands on a house is paying probably a lot more than they typically would pay."

Felicia Alingu, director of community impact at Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Metro Atlanta, said that in 2020, changes to county zoning ordinances excluded the building of more affordable housing by groups like Habitat for Humanity.

"What is the county doing to include affordable housing? And when I say affordable I mean like, homes for $250,000 and less," said Alingu.

Cupid responded that she was not county chair in 2020, and said while she never committed to removing exclusionary zoning, she did express a commitment to addressing affordable housing. She also acknowledged the "disproportionate amount of homes that are below average median income" in south Cobb.

"And don't get me wrong, I think everybody should have a place to live, but having a place to live means more than just having a place to sleep," Cupid said. "It means having a place to buy groceries, it means having a laundromat, it means having other community amenities, and if you look where Habitat is concentrating their homes, they don't have those amenities."

While stressing that she is for mixed-income communities that are able to support commercial development, Cupid said that development companies avoid bringing business to areas where only low-income housing is being built.

Cupid reminded attendees that demand for homes in Cobb is higher than the number available to prospective buyers. She also speculated that the cheaper homes for sale were being bought up by investors, making it difficult for her to justify continuing to seek approval for more homes around the $250,000 mark.

Cupid also tied the discussion about housing back into the proposed wage increase for county employees to $17 an hour included in the commission's county budget, unveiled last month. She reiterated that county employees should not be priced out of living in Cobb.

"People should be able to live where they serve," Cupid said.

At the end of the meeting, an attendee brought up proposed rezoning in Mableton that Johnny Crawford, a resident in the Dra Mar subdivision for more than 30 years, opposes.

"They're trying to rezone an area on Factory Shoals Road and trying to make it a movie studio and a restaurant and 20 apartments," Crawford said.

Crawford's subdivision includes about 25 residences, and he said that the vast majority of his neighborhood is opposed to the rezoning.

Crawford also expressed opposition to the Mableton cityhood proposal. The main reason?

"Taxes," Crawford said.

Crawford rarely goes to town hall meetings, telling the MDJ this was only the second he has attended since becoming a homeowner in south Cobb.

He thought it was important to hear what Cupid had to say about his community.

"We wanted to make sure, just in case they start talking about cityhood or that rezoning, that we wanted to be able to voice our opinion," Crawford said.

The town hall was the third in a series that began June 23 in west Cobb. Cupid's next town hall is scheduled for Wednesday, July 20, at 6:30 p.m. at Sewell Mill Library and Cultural Arts Center in Marietta.