By Gerhard Schneibel

The Sandy Springs Board of Zoning Appeals decided March 12 to stop stalling construction of sidewalks along Lake Forrest Drive near Lake Forest Elementary School.

A month earlier, the board deferred a decision to grant a stream buffer variance for the city project. Neighbor objections to the sidewalk plans prompted the deferral, which drew criticism from some members of the City Council shortly afterward.

Dist. 3 Councilman Rusty Paul said Feb. 17 the city spent “in excess of $100,000” to design the sidewalks, and the zoning board was overstepping its bounds by making any decision other than whether to grant the stream buffer variance.

Dist. 6 Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny, however, spoke at the February zoning meeting in opposition to the sidewalk project, which she deemed to be unsafe for students of the new elementary school because they would be forced to cross Lake Forrest Drive twice.

The city’s Public Works Department plans to install the half-mile stretch of sidewalk on the west side of Lake Forrest Drive; the school is on the east side. But the east side of the road is adjacent to a steep hill, a stream and many houses.

Mark Moore, a Sandy Springs transportation planner, said the city would probably have to seize more than one property for grading work to put sidewalks on the east side of the road.

Susan Yeosock of the Lake Forrest Summit Community Association last month said she had measured the land on the east side of the road and concluded a standard 65-inch-wide sidewalk would fit most of the way.

“It shows a slight dropoff, but nothing we think can’t be overcome with a little bit of concrete,” she said.

Moore said the required curb, gutter and Americans With Disabilities Act wheelchair ramp would add two feet to the 65-inch width of any sidewalk, making grading necessary for sidewalks on the east side.

He said the gutter would improve water quality in the area by draining runoff into the stormwater system. Rain water now flows down the hill, causing erosion and washing silt into the nearby stream, and both sides of Lake Forrest Drive are in the stream buffer anyway, he said.

Zoning Board of Appeals member Paul Reale suggested just installing a curb and gutter if water quality were the issue.

“The decision of whether or not to locate a sidewalk there has already been made,” board Chairman Mark King said.

“I don’t think it’s our right or reason to decide there shouldn’t be a sidewalk there,” he said.

The zoning board voted 3-2 to grant the stream buffer variance. King, Oz Hill and Lane Frostbaum were in favor, and Reale and Ken Moller were opposed. Ron Carpinella and Ruth Coan were absent.