Skip to comments.Subdivision planned next to battlefield [GA]
Posted on 01/26/2004 4:56:49 AM PST by stainlessbanner
The largest available property bordering Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is set to become a residential subdivision, sparking the latest debate over development around the historic Civil War site.
The 60 acres on which developer Weaver & Woodbery wants to build single-family houses is part of the Hays Farm in Cobb County. The property, off Ga. 120 near John Ward Road, is under contract, according to the Atlanta-based firm and a family member of the 93-year-old woman who owns the land.
Park Superintendent John Cissell says he's frustrated to see developers take another piece of land that the National Park Service has eyed on and off for 70 years. The federal government unsuccessfully tried to buy the Hays land in the 1930s and again in the 1960s, Cissell says.
Cissell, who has been superintendent for 12 years, rattles off a decade's worth of construction next to the park: about 540 houses and nearly 600 apartments and townhouses. Another developer is framing plans to build 32 houses on 14 acres on the side of the park adjacent to Kennesaw Avenue.
"We have probably battled that many proposals that were never built," Cissell says.
Civil War historian J.D. Fowler of Kennesaw State University says that bordering development "detracts from the enjoyment and history of the park."
"This is hallowed ground," he says.
Developers, such as Weaver & Woodbery, say the park adds value to the homes they want to build and sell.
"It's a beautiful piece of property. It's a great location," says Weaver & Woodbery partner David Woodbery.
An undeveloped acre near the park can sell for $100,000 to $175,000, and the price of houses can reach $3 million.
"The opportunities are very rare, and the demand is great," says Skip Harper, chief financial officer of Red Oak Construction of Marietta, which has developed property near the park.
In October, Carla Durham, the niece of longtime landowner Elizabeth Hays, wrote a letter to neighboring landowners outlining the family's reasons for signing a contract to sell part of the land.
"Finally, taxes and expenses led me to have no other good options," wrote Durham, who declined repeated requests for an interview.
Hays, who lives in an assisted-living home, could not be reached for comment.
Woodbery would not disclose the price of the land under contract.
War trenches nearby
Although it is on the perimeter of one of the South's most famous battlefields, the 100-acre Hays Farm is not an actual battle site. While the 40 acres the family is keeping contains Confederate or Union army trenches, the 60 acres it plans to sell probably does not.
The farmhouse that was on the property in 1864 is mentioned as a landmark in reports written by commanders during the battles fought around Kennesaw Mountain, says Bill Scaife, an architect turned military historian, who has written extensively about the Civil War's Atlanta Campaign. "They fought all around that area," Scaife says.
Some neighbors would prefer to preserve the land, and they fear more traffic on the stretch of Ga. 120 that cuts through the park. The Georgia Department of Transportation estimates that that part of the highway is used by 27,000 motorists daily. The highway leads to I-75.
"We need some green space," says Robert Trulove, assistant pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church, which is adjacent to the farm on Mount Calvary Road. He says more houses "would mean more congestion on the Mount Calvary and Dallas Highway intersection."
Environmental groups also want the land -- which contains scrubby fields, forests, hills and wetlands -- to stay undeveloped. Like the 2,889-acre battlefield park next to it, the Hays land is home to coyotes, deer and great blue herons.
The Trust for Public Land, a preservationist group, early last year tried and failed to buy some of the Hays property. "It was clear that they weren't interested in negotiating for the conservation of the property," says David Kuechenmeister, a project manager.
In the letter, Durham called the land "special" to herself and Hays and said Hays has "an interest in making sure the [subdivision] is built in a way that will enhance the value of the land she is keeping."
If the Federal Government wants the land, it can purchase it on the open market at open market price. What would relieve Cissell's frustration? To see the federal government steal the property from its owner?
It is already completely surrounded by development. We ride horses frequently in the park, and just about any time you come over a hill you can see a busy road, a subdivision, or a commercial area. The highway the article mentions has commercial development, a brand new enormous high school, and a huge shopping center (complete with Home Depot and an array of fast food restaurants and grocery stores) already built. Cheatham Hill and John Ward roads, which run north/south through the park, are already lined with individual homes and subdivisions.
This horse is long since out of the barn. So long as the subdivision isn't one of those horrors with 6 bedroom plastic stucco McMansions on 1/4 acre, it isn't going to be out of line with what's already there.
Where 120 passes through the park, there's only a couple of miles at most without development. The Marietta High School is crowding the park on the east side, and the Home Depot on the west. Oddly enough, there are cemeteries bracketing the park just inside the high school and the Home Depot on either side.
I don't know exactly where the "Hays Farm property" is, but I could probably figure it out with a map.
And you're right about this entire region being a battlefield. The Battle (or Battles) of Atlanta were really a running fight all the way down the railroad from Chattanooga into the city. There are old entrenchments and stuff almost anywhere you look. Our house sits just south of the Chattahoochee River Line (just north of the river), and a house we almost bought up at the top of the hill has trenches and a gun emplacement in the back yard (at least it did - until the new owners built a garage smack dab on top of it).
"Save a condo for me! I won that battle after all!"
Yes y'all are.
Sherman's lines spread all the way from Roswell, on the NNE side, down to Newnan on the SW side, once he got to the hooch.
That's friggin impressive.
I have friends that search for artifacts. Anywhere between Douglasville and Marietta/Dallas, it's not hard to find them.
To some, money is the single most important thing, period.
And yes, it is sickening.