A relatively new sidewalk policy in Sandy Springs is running into opposition due to its cost and what city officials called a “one size fits all” mentality that could result in “sidewalks to nowhere.”
New development and redevelopments in Sandy Springs are required to construct sidewalks along road frontage. If a homeowner or contractor must obtain a building permit, he or she has to build a sidewalk. A waiver is possible but only due to drainage or topographical hardships.
“We need to change this and we need to change this right away,” Councilman Andy Bauman said during a May 5 City Council meeting.
Council members decided to delay a decision on changes to the ordinance. They told city staff members to research changes and to propose modifications to the plan.
Following complaints from residents, city staff members had made some suggestions for other ways to waive the construction of a sidewalk, but only in residential areas. They suggested allowing a waiver if there is:
- a sidewalk already on one side of the street;
- a disproportionate effect on protected, boundary or landmark trees;
- no sidewalk within 500 feet on the same side of the street;
- a cul de sac shorter than 1,200 feet.
To get a waiver with any of these reasons, a $150-a-foot fee would be paid into a fund to pay for future improvements, according to staff recommendations.
That didn’t sit well with council members.
.At least 15 e-mails have come into Councilman Tibby DeJulio complaining about the sidewalk policy. “I don’t think this is what we intended to do,” he said.
While there have been a number of new sidewalk sections constructed since the policy went into effect last year, there have been many requests, said Garrin Coleman, public works director, to waive the sidewalk requirements for reasons not related to topographical or drainage issues.
In most cases, he said, the requests have been related to the lack of a sidewalk network or light traffic or slow speeds on the road.