By John Schaffner
The leash connecting plans for a city dog park to Ridgeview Park was possibly removed at the Sept. 11 work session of the Sandy Springs City Council when four of the five members of council present said they favored having the dog park wander to the north end of the city at the planned Great Park at Morgan Falls.
The one hitch in that decision, however, is that developer John Willis, who lives near Ridgeview Park and has vehemently opposed locating the dog park there, must help raise the $200,000 it is projected to cost to develop the dog park at Morgan Falls.
Council members Dianne Fries, Ashley Jenkins, Tibby DeJulio and Mayor Eva Galambos all said their order of preference for the dog park site among the three options presented by City Manager John McDonough was Morgan Falls first, Ridgeview Park second and Hammond Park last, although none really wanted Hammond Park seriously considered.
The lone dissenter was Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny who argued for placing the dog park at Hammond Park and said her order of preference would be Hammond Park, Ridgeview Park and Morgan Falls Park last.
District 3 Councilman Rusty Paul was not at the meeting and the District 1 seat remains vacant until the Nov. 6 election following the late August resignation of Dave Greenspan.
The new consideration of Morgan Falls for the dog park site likely was swayed somewhat by more than 350 signatures that had been collected to an online petition in opposition to locating it in Ridgeview Park. The reasons cited for the opposition was traffic congestion in the single-family home neighborhood and the noise from barking dogs.
Cost of creating the dog park certainly is expected to play a major role in the site selection, since the city has only allocated $25,000 for creation of the facility, including fencing, any land work and providing water at the location.
McDonough estimated the costs of providing a dog park at the three locations would be $50,000 at Ridgeview Park, $100,000 at Hammond Park and $200,000 at the proposed Great Park at Morgan Falls.
McDonough told council members the 22-acre Ridgeview Park would cost less and be easiest to create largely because it already has the infrastructure in place, including water connections where the one-acre dog park would be created.
The city manager said that, although Hammond Park is centrally located and has existing infrastructure, it would require some re-development and additional parking. That is the reason for the $100,000 cost estimate.
The 27-acre proposed park at Morgan Falls is undeveloped at this time and there is no approved master plan for the park at this time. McDonough said the site would require extensive site development and there presently is no water available at the site. The amount of site work required is the reason the cost of the dog park at that location would be $200,000.
Councilman DeJulio introduced Willis, stating that the developer had said he would help generate funds—mainly by getting money from businesses, including such retailers as PetSmart, etc., and organizations such as Friends of Sandy Springs—to help pay the additional cost of building the dog park at Morgan Falls. Willis has been vocal in his support of having the dog facility at Morgan Falls rather than Ridgeview Park.
Mayor Galambos asked Willis for some idea of the amount of financial pledges he could procure, but he said there was no way he could do that at this time.
In the end, there was no official action taken by council. However, a straw vote was taken and four of the five members present favored locating the dog park at Morgan Falls, providing Willis can come up with all or a significant part of the $200,000 from private contributions.
The council agreed there needed to be a two-step process that needs to take place in the next 30 days. First, Willis needs to take the next 30 days to attempt to get the private financing in place. Then council will hold a public hearing on the dog park issue.
In other action, the council extensively discussed a proposal to establish a Sandy Springs Development Authority to facilitate the issuance of bonds for projects such as the planned half-diamond road project at Hammond Drive and Georgia 400 that is a joint project of Sandy Springs with the Perimeter Community Improvement District (PCID).
City Attorney Wendell Willard explained that the city has limitations on financing road projects. Thus, the proposal is for the city to create a seven- to nine-member Sandy Springs Development Authority which then would enter an agreement with the PCID to set up financing through an intergovernmental bonding situation. It likely would seek private investments, which would lower the interest rate on the bonds. Both Fulton and DeKalb counties would participate.
The goal is to raise $5 million through five-year bonds in order to complete the $19 million project.
The city would not be a direct party to the bonding, and would not be pledging any revenue. The city also would not be obligated to paying off the bond debt. The Development Authority would be.
The bonds would be backed by the revenues of the PCID, which at present comes from a 4 mil assessment on business properties within the PCID. No action was taken.