By Katie Fallon
Sandy Springs now has a temporary safeguard in place for those who have been laid to rest in cemeteries within the city limits.
At its Nov. 20 meeting, the City Council approved a temporary, 90-day moratorium on development of land identified as a cemetery or burial ground.
The moratorium, which was approved by a unanimous vote, was introduced by District 3 Councilman Rusty Paul. It was, in part, inspired by the Heard Family Cemetery on Heards Ferry Road, the fate of which in currently in limbo.
“A situation has risen in Sandy Springs that we feel this resolution for a moratorium is required,” Paul said.
The councilman said he introduced the moratorium to give city staff and City Attorney Wendell Willard time to study how the city should proceed in dealing with properties involving cemeteries or burial grounds. That time, in turn, will give staff a chance to make recommendations to the council for possible ordinances that may be needed to protect such areas within the city limits.
Willard said there are already state laws existing to protect burial grounds, but local municipalities can enact their own laws.
“State policy recognizes it’s important to protect those properties for the human dignity as well as for the cultural, spiritual and religious values,” Willard said. “Within that chapter, we have a provision that gives the local government state authorization and the right to declare areas that are cemeteries to be protected areas and there can only be use of these protected areas by use of a permit.”
The council passed Paul’s moratorium in a 6 to 0 vote and staff will have three months to research the issue to develop an ordinance.
Also at its Nov. 20 meeting, the council failed to introduce stricter water usage measures, as discussed in its previous work session. At that session, city staff and the council discussed the possibility of imposing restrictions to deal with current drought conditions, even though residents get their water from the City of Atlanta rather than the City of Sandy Springs.
The discussion, however, brought mixed reaction from council members, some of whom opposed enforcing restrictions that the owners of the water source failed to impose themselves. At the regular meeting, however, the city did approve endorsing a letter of long-term water solutions drafted by Mayor Eva Galambos and the North Fulton Municipal Association and transmitting it to various state leaders.
“The municipal association would love to send a message to the Governor, to the Atlanta Regional Commission, to the Lieutenant Governor and to the powers-that-be,” Galambos said. “Mainly, it addresses that we want things done for the long run. We don’t want to let this crisis go by without explaining the Chattahoochee River’s not big enough.”
“Each of the cities of North Fulton have taken new steps to aid in the conservation of water,” reads the letter. “Such steps include new regulations on low flow fixtures and new technologies, reclamation of ‘gray’ water, reduction of septic tanks and more stringent rules on the use of water by residential and commercial users.”
Citing the limited water supply options from the Chattahoochee and Etowah Rivers, the letter urges leaders to focus on long term solutions to safeguard an adequate water supply even after the drought is over.
“This in no way obligates us to any of those terms that we have yet to consider,” Galambos said of the possibility of the city imposing its own water restrictions. “It really addresses the future. That’s what we’re really focusing on.”
The letter drew a positive response from the City Council.
“I think all of the North Fulton mayors are going back to their councils to demonstrate that we care about the solutions that we need to implement and consider,” said District 6 Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny.