Local News Archive
Print Issue: October 21, 1999
Cobb Catholics Urged To Support Proposed School
BY KATHI STEARNS
MARIETTA--Catholics who support building a parochial school in west Cobb County are urged to attend the Cobb County Board of Commissioners meeting at 9 a.m. Oct. 28, arriving no later than 8 a.m.
The Archdiocese of Atlanta has applied for a special land use permit (SLUP-18) to build a 1,000-student Catholic elementary and middle school at a 40-acre site at the intersection of the new West Cobb Loop Road, which is scheduled to open in 2001, and Villa Rica Road. The County Commission will vote Oct. 28 on whether or not SLUP-18 will be granted.
The Archdiocese of Atlanta has this land under contract and will close contingent upon the successful application for SLUP-18 and zoning.
According to Msgr. Peter Dora, vicar general, the archdiocese would like to move St. Josephs School from its current site at 81 Lacy St. in Marietta to this new location. St. Josephs currently has an enrollment of 482 students with a capacity for 500. The school has outgrown its physical location and has no room for expansion.
The proposed west Cobb school site is intended to better serve St. Josephs School in Marietta and allows us to double the number of students we educate, said Msgr. Dora. In order to keep the personal touch of these institutions they would be essentially structured as two schools. The site in question is ideal from a construction standpoint. Furthermore it will enable us to address the future growth which is now just beginning in west Cobb County.
Currently there are more than 19,000 Catholic families registered in Cobb County parishes. These families are currently served by St. Josephs School and by Queen of Angels School, Roswell, which was built for 500 students. Each school is at capacity and has a waiting list.
According to George Barrie, president and CEO of Catholic Construction Services, the opposition has come primarily from a few families in the west Cobb neighborhood.
The proposed school would touch approximately seven contiguous properties and they are the people behind most of the opposition, Barrie said. The number one fear is that this proposed school is going to hurt their property value. There is data that repeatedly demonstrates that a good school in a neighborhood helps the property value rather than hurts it.
To protect the land of those who are closest to the school, the proposal calls for a minimum 150-foot setback, which is the size of half a football field, from the property lines.
We are doing everything we can to meet the needs of the neighbors, Barrie said. The reality is that if we dont build there, someone else will and they might not be as attentive and considerate to the neighbors needs as we are trying to be.
In an open letter to citizens of Cobb County which appeared in the Marietta Daily Journal Oct. 17, Msgr. Terry Young, Secretary for Education, addressed the neighbors concerns about traffic, storm water run-off and land usage.
We have a good record of working with our neighbors, and we intend to keep it that way, Msgr. Young said. We want to build our school, but we are especially concerned about addressing any negative impact that our construction could have on the property of the 7 homeowners whose property is adjacent Although our site analysis to date indicates no adverse effect to our neighbors, we are having additional engineering studies done to address their concerns. We will not build on this site if their concerns about serious negative impact are verified.
The countys planning and zoning staff have said the proposed school is consistent with the land-use plan for west Cobb County and recommended that the zoning be permitted. The county Department of Transportation and Daymes and Moore, an independent traffic consultant hired by the Archdiocese of Atlanta, have also given the project their approval.
In the same open letter Msgr. Young demonstrated that the proposed school would benefit Cobb County directly. Parents of children in Catholic schools continue to pay public school taxes even though they are not receiving a direct benefit. Cobb County spends approximately $5,700 per year per student. The 1,000 students at the proposed Catholic school could translate into a windfall of $5.7 million to Cobb County for children it would not be responsible for educating.
On Oct. 5 the Archdiocese of Atlanta suffered a setback when the Cobb County Planning Commission, which reviews zoning requests, recommended by a 5-0 vote that the county deny permission for the proposed school.
That makes this Oct. 28 meeting crucial for the success of the project, Barrie said. We need to get three of the commissioners five votes.
If the archdiocese receives SLUP-18 it hopes to build a 145,000-square-foot school by 2001, a 35,000-square-foot church sometime in the near future and a 750-space parking lot.
Busloads of parishioners from St. Anns Church, Marietta; St. Josephs Church, Marietta; St. Catherine of Siena Church, Kennesaw; St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Smyrna; The Church of the Transfiguration, Marietta; Holy Family Church, Marietta, and St. John Vianney Church, Lithia Springs, are expected to attend the Oct. 28 meeting. Parishioners at St. Francis de Sales Church, Mableton, are also supporting the effort. Parishioners should contact the following people to find out the specific arrangements from their parish: Carla Bailey, Transfiguration, (770) 924-1295; Gary Shirley, St. Catherine of Siena, (770) 429-4904; Karen Mitchell, St. Thomas the Apostle, (770) 438-0539; Eenie Farrano, Holy Family, (770) 956-8867; Sheila Thacker, St. John Vianney, (770) 941-5792 and Jay Mehaffey, St. Joseph, Marietta, (770) 795-1858. For the Church of St. Ann and St. Francis de Sales Church contact the parish.
We need everyones presence at this meeting, Barrie said. Please dont rely on others to attend this meeting and express your support for Catholic schools. Each persons voice counts.
Those unable to attend the meeting are asked to call their commissioners assistant and ask their commissioner to vote yes for SLUP-18.
The commissioners are: Bill Byrne, chairman, (770) 528-3305; Louie Hunter, district 1, (770) 528-3313; Joe L. Thompson, district 2, (770) 528-3315; Samuel Olens, district 3, (770) 528-3317 and G. Woody Thompson, district 4, (770) 528-3311.
The Cobb County Board of Commissioners office is located at 100 Cherokee St. The meeting will be held in the board room on the main floor.