Moderated by Rick Badie
The Sandy Springs City Council recently approved a mixed-used development that would demolish dilapidated apartments and replace them with more upscale units, along with office and retail space. Some welcome the project, while others view it as cautionary tale for the city. Here are two views.
By Tibby DeJulio
At a recent meeting, the Sandy Springs City Council approved two measures that will provide a great long-term benefit to the city and our residents.
The JLB Partners/Core Properties “Gateway” project is a $100 million mixed-use project that removes two of the city’s oldest apartment complexes along Roswell Road and replaces them with high-quality housing and commercial uses. Revitalization of our older apartment communities has been a council priority for some time.
The Gateway project was announced last summer. Over many months, the folks at JLB and Core met with city staff as well as residents of surrounding neighborhoods. They heard concerns about density and height and made numerous modifications to their plans. They agreed to conditions ensuring the needed buffers, lighting and noise mitigation.
We know they will produce a quality project that will inject new life in the area and provide benefits to the community. Sprouts, an organic grocery store, is one of the project’s tenants. In fact, it will be the chain’s first store in Georgia. The project also brings in a minimum of four new restaurants.
There is a tax benefit for the city. The two current apartment complexes add $11 million to the tax digest. The JLB project will add $100 million-plus, with our schools benefiting the most as they receive the largest portion of the property tax.
I think this project will produce a positive benefit for our schools. The development will feature one and two-bedroom apartments. We know that this type of housing attracts millennials and professionals.
As we push to attract more high-tech businesses to the city, we want to keep those employees as residents, too. A residual benefit: New, younger tenants should reduce the student populations at High Point Elementary, Ridgeview Middle and Riverwood High, thus reducing the current strain at each of those schools.
The project will also produce a positive impact through environmental and street improvements. The re-alignment of the Roswell Road/Windsor Parkway intersection will create a safer environment for commuters and pedestrians and improve the current stacking of cars along Windsor. Based on the proposed funding options, we hope $3.4 million of the $3.7 million needed for these road improvements will be paid through developers, not the taxpayer.
The environment also sees a benefit. The new construction will be built with better stormwater measures and will completely pull the development out of the stream buffer where it sits today. It increases green space well above what currently exists. Without this development, we would not see these environmental improvements.
We’ve long waited for the economy to turn and for developers to take notice of the opportunities that exist in Sandy Springs. The mayor and the council hope this will be the first in a series of great improvements throughout our city.
Welcome to the neighborhood, JLB.
Tibby DeJulio represents District 5 on the Sandy Springs City Council.
Beware unintended consequences
By Jane Kelley
In 2005, when Sandy Springs became a city, Mayor Eva Galambos and Councilman Tibby DeJulio sold us on cityhood for several reasons: Fulton County was neglecting us and forcing unfair zoning decisions upon us. Our quality of life was being squandered.
So we formed our own city, elected representatives and went about making years of needed improvements. The city has been recognized for it.
Eight years later, you can often tell where Sandy Springs city limits are due to the pavement alone. But our zoning decisions are looking more and more like Fulton County’s. Businesses often trump tax-paying residents. Increasing tax revenues trumps protecting our quality of life.
It’s too bad we can’t see the future to foresee consequences of actions taken today. Our elected representatives often wear blinders. Dangerous precedents are set based only on the present situation, not how they will impact our future. At nearly every zoning hearing, I hear attorneys cite previous decisions that created precedents they believe now condone their requests.
The Gateway proposal would replace 436 apartments with 630, plus add seven buildings of commercial space. This density is way over our Comprehensive Land Use Plan and required review by the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, or GRTA.
GRTA ruled our current infrastructure can’t handle this density, so it conditioned its approval on several things, including relocating the intersection of Windsor Parkway and Roswell Road north of its current location. And since JLB Partners/Core Properties, the Gateway developer, does not have enough required parking for its commercial space, it is asking for a parking variance.
The development will benefit the city because it:
* Replaces aging apartments with upscale ones.
* Likely reduces crime in the area.
* Reduces the number of students attending High Point schools.
* Adds restaurants and shopping in walking distance of residences.
All of these benefit Sandy Springs residents, unless you live in an apartment slated for demolition.
The development’s unintended consequences are that it:
* Adds 8,554 weekday trips and 10,374 Saturday trips to our overloaded stretch of Roswell Road, mainly due to the commercial space.
* Sets dangerous precedents on building height, density and parking.
* Necessitates a multi-million-dollar relocation of Windsor Parkway at Roswell Road. This takes land from residents and severely impacts several existing businesses, and cannot possibly allow an additional 8,000 to 10,000 cars without a reduction in our traffic flow.
JLB has made several compromises with its residential neighbors. We heartily thank them. But the “unintended consequences” of allowing precedents on building height, density and inadequate parking will haunt us for years to come. This development is welcome — but at a lowered density that will not create gridlock, overflow parking onto residential streets, and ruin the quality of life we all moved here for.
Jane Kelley is president of the Windsor Park Community Association. This article, reprinted with her permission, first appeared in Sandy Springs Patch.