By Ralph Ellis

The Sandy Springs City Council plans to obtain a dozen tracts of land mostly occupied by small businesses as a major step toward building a city government complex in the heart of the business district.

The complex would take up the block bordered by Roswell Road, Johnson Ferry Road, Sandy Spring Circle and Mount Vernon Highway. The city bought the old Target store on that block in 2008.

The city hopes to acquire the land by the end of the year. City attorney Wendell Willard said if no purchase price can be reached, he’ll come back to the council to discuss condemnation.

Will Smith, who runs Master Kleen, said the dry cleaning business has operated 43 years at “the epicenter of Sandy Springs” – the corner of Roswell Road and Mount Vernon Highway. Closing down, even temporarily, would put him and nine employees out of work.

Smith said the city is anti-business and acting “in the name of aesthetics and creating a model business district and thoroughfare, that being Roswell Road.”

“The city is in effect creating a monument to the current administration,” Smith said. “They’ll spend, before it’s all over, $40 million to $50 million here. I’m not sure the people understand that.”

The city wants to obtain these tracts: Two vacant lots behind 245 Johnson Ferry Road; the Psycho Tattoo shop at 6214 Roswell Road; Makara’s Sandwich Shop at 6224 Roswell Road; the old Mellow Mushroom restaurant at 6218 Roswell Road; Master Kleen at 6296 Roswell Road; two tracts at the old Color Tile shop, now a mattress store, at 6204 Roswell Road; the Fidelity National Bank at 163 Johnson Ferry Road; the Goodwill Store at 237 Johnson Ferry Road; the Sherwin Williams store at 245 Johnson Ferry Road; and the Waffle House at 226 Mount Vernon Highway.

The complex could include a city hall, a police department and the municipal court. Sandy Springs has operated out of leased office buildings since forming five years ago.

The council also authorized Willard and City Manager John McDonough to hire a company to conduct environmental tests on the land. Any findings about asbestos, lead paint and other contaminants would be shared with the property owner.

City Councilman Chip Collins wondered if the city needed to take all the property.

“It may turn out we don’t need that much room,” he said.

Still, Collins voted with the other council members. The council unanimously approved the acquisitions at its May 17 meeting.

Most of the merchants don’t own the property where the businesses are located. Adam Elkurd, manager of Makara’s Sandwich Shop, said he didn’t know how much the tract was worth.

“We just spent $20,000 on this awning,” he said. “They better come up with a good offer.”

View The old Target property in a larger map