By Amy Wenk

“We’ve sharpened our pencils,” said attorney Amy Hillman of Tatum Hillman Hickerson & Powell at the beginning of her presentation to the Sandy Springs Planning Commission Nov. 19.

In August, the Commission had deferred a decision on the rezoning application of her client, Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church and School.

But that night the planning board voted 4 to 1 to recommend approval after reviewing additional information Hillman submitted in the three-month lapse, such as a sound system analysis and architectural elevations.

“We at HIES are thrilled that the Sandy Springs Planning Commission voted to recommend that our Special Land Use Permit be approved when we meet on Dec. 15 with the city council and mayor,” said Head of School Kirk Duncan. “So far, the entire process has been positive.”

The school and church are seeking city approval to expand and revamp their shared 40-acre campus on Mount Vernon Highway.

The application increases the size of Holy Innocents’ property to include the newly acquired Jones land, located just east of Crossroads Primitive Baptist Church. The tract will one day house administrative offices.

Additionally, the applicant seeks approval of a new master plan that details $60 to $80 million of improvements in five phases. The 12- to 15-year redevelopment includes consolidating the six structures of the circa-1950 Riley building (once an elementary school) into three buildings that will form a half-circle around a new carpool lane.

Other improvements include about 13,000 square feet of church additions and new parking facilities.

The school proposes no increase in enrollment. The maximum number K-12 grade students will remain 1,300, with a cap of 176 for the preschool.

“We believe our revised master site plan was recommended for approval because it considers the needs of our neighbors and our students,” Duncan said. “It will provide more green space, more environmentally sensitive buildings, and bring traffic further onto campus and off Mt. Vernon Highway. All in all, it is a plan that makes sense.”

Although two residents and a representative from Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods spoke in opposition to the application, the majority of speakers Nov. 19 were in support.

“It is such a benefit to the community to have a school,” said resident Lou Bailey. “Holy Innocents’ has done everything to be a phenomenal neighbor.”

Charles Kelly concurred. “They’ve always demonstrated willingness to be a good neighbor.”