Man of Mystery

Austin Powers was the “international man of mystery.” Well, the East Cobb cityhood tricksters have their own man of mystery, a fellow who may well be pulling the strings like the Wizard of Oz. And like the Wizard, the promoters are touting an Emerald City, but don’t want you looking behind the curtain.

There you will find the man in the center of the cityhood circus.

Meet G. Owen Brown. (“Call me Owen.”) He’s listed as one of the dozen “advisory committee” members, but that doesn’t begin to tell the story. As sure as you are reading this, he is the point person for the whole cityhood shakedown. And, according to the Marietta Daily Journal, he’s paying for it too.

You see, this seemingly informal group of concerned East Cobbers is, in fact, a corporation registered with the Georgia Secretary of State: Committee for Cityhood in East Cobb, (Inc.) No doubt you’re wondering why this selfless “dirty dozen” would go to the time, trouble and expense of incorporating. The reason is simple: protection.

You see, a corporate structure shields the individuals within it from personal liability. So any unforeseen consequences deriving from the hustlers’ actions accrue to the corporation. The individuals are only liable to the extent of their proportionate ownership. Beyond that, they’re shielded from further liability. But, hey, what could go wrong? Besides everything, that is.

Every corporation must have a “registered agent.” This individual is the corporation’s designated contact person to accept service for lawsuits. And the registered agent for the Committee for Cityhood in East Cobb is none other than G. Owen Brown. (“Call me Owen.”)

So who, exactly, is this guy? Mr. Brown is, in fact, the founder, owner and President of Retail Planning Corporation. According to his website, “Owen has developed more than 50 new retail shopping centers and completed more than 15 redevelopments over the past 40 years.” In fact, seven of his shopping centers are in Cobb County itself. Do you think the registered agent and bankroller for the promoters may want to develop more shopping centers in the City of East Cobb? Far fetched, I admit, but it kinda makes you wonder.

Personally, I give Mr. Brown a lot of credit. Here he’s built more than 50 retail shopping centers and I can’t put an IKEA table together without a few parts left over and a trip to the emergency room. And it certainly makes sense to have him right in the middle of things. After all, he has all the resources and relationships necessary to build more shopping centers in East Cobb. Which is, ultimately, what this rush to cityhood is all about.

To see what rampant development looks like, try driving on Roswell Road between 285 and Abernathy during rush hour. Better yet, don’t. Yet despite the gridlock, Sandy Springs is building more and bigger projects with no expansion of infrastructure. East Cobb may be “built out,” but for an enterprising guy like “call me Owen” it’s no problem. Just build up!

Currently, the tallest building in Cobb County is the 362-foot Riverwood 100 building in the Cumberland area. Who’s to say we won’t wind up with a bunch of similar eyesores in East Cobb? The promoters aren’t denying it. And I bet they think it’d be fun to try.

It seems a successful developer involved in a cityhood push would want to tout his accomplishments. Instead, Mr. Brown seems content to lurk in the background manipulating the levers of power. Just like the Emerald City of Oz, though, when you pull back the curtain you’ll find it’s all smoke and mirrors.