To the editor:

I am baffled by Sandy Springs’ leadership and the mayor’s vision for building the Sandy Springs downtown center out of suburban sprawl. Each week, the pages of the Sandy Springs Reporter bring fresh news of how our tax dollars are being spent: on outside consultants, failed traffic control ideas, and beautification projects that are not adding value, community or efficiency to this newly-formed city.

I read about the vision for a new downtown City Center, which displaces or destroys existing businesses. I read about grand ideas for European-style traffic roundabouts, which won’t improve traffic flow. I read about out-of-state consultants being paid for beautification and landscaping schemes to welcome visitors to see what? And I wonder who is filling our leaderships’ heads with ideas that clearly don’t work or won’t add community value? Can we not hire a local city planner, traffic engineer and landscaping architect who know the area and can come up with viable solutions that make sense for residents?

The mayor wants park-like landscaping to welcome visitors on the Roswell Road exit from I-285. The additional lane recently added to the bridge has not helped solve Roswell Road traffic one iota, as it was promised to do. I hope our guests, once lured off the highway, will enjoy the attractive shuttered bars and pubs between Allen and Cliftwood as they sit in the unbearable traffic on Roswell Road, waiting to get to the run-down visitor’s center.

While I applaud the idea of a thriving downtown area, I question the action to get there. The mayor threatens eminent domain on small businesses in the proposed “city center” area, while offering the business owners no options for how to survive and thrive in new locations.

  • Why not supplement the displaced businesses’ leases and build-out expenses by offering tax incentives or cash incentives for them to stay in the “city center”?
  • How about offering a deal to the landlords of strip shopping centers along Roswell Road? Fix up your shopping center and we’ll help you fill your unleased space with the aforementioned businesses.
  • How about helping poor CityWalk attract some businesses that can sustain life in that center? This center should be the crown jewel of the ‘downtown area’, but is instead mostly shuttered.
  • Want a great idea of where to put an ice skating rink? Instead of the inaccessible Roswell Road/I-285 intersection, how about CityWalk? How about the Prado? How about one of the many run-down shopping centers with traffic lights, parking and better egress?
  • While we’re at it, how about incentivizing renovation of the Bank of America building and neighboring Northside Tower to attract the live/work crowd to downtown?

While I believe our city leadership’s intentions are good, their execution is far from good. What I hear and see makes no sense, is not a long-term plan, and is using valuable resources ineffectively.

If the city of Sandy Springs wants a heart, it is going to take a lot more than the current fluff, squabbling and squandering to form a true thriving downtown. It takes vision, commitment, community action and leadership.

Patrick Farrell