The Sandy Springs 10th birthday cake served Dec. 1 at City Hall. (Photo: John Ruch)
The Sandy Springs 10th birthday cake served Dec. 1 at City Hall. (Photo: John Ruch)

Dec. 1 was a working holiday for the Sandy Springs City Council, whose regular meeting date happened to fall on the city’s milestone 10th anniversary. Business mixed with pleasure; Mercedes-Benz USA got a tax-break vote and the audience got birthday cake.

Mayor Rusty Paul issued a proclamation praising Sandy Springs citizens for the long battle to achieve the landmark cityhood in 2005 and their ongoing civic activism. Elected officials have “the privilege to sit up here,” the mayor said, but “what makes this community truly, truly great is not us. It’s the people who live here.”

Before the council meeting, about two-dozen people attended a City Hall open house, touring various departments alongside the mayor and councilmen. The traffic management center—where engineers tackle everyone’s favorite local evil with a wall of live camera feeds—stole the show.

Attendees were welcome to share a birthday cake and were given commemorative pins depicting a flying pig—a symbol of Sandy Springs’ founding and later cityhood efforts. It was inspired by a supposed remark by state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, that Sandy Springs would become a city when “pigs will fly.” The cake was served in the Flying Pig board room.

A Sandy Springs commemorative pin depicting a flying pig and balloons was handed out at the Dec. 1 City Hall open house. (Photo: John Ruch)

Long after the meeting, Paul and Councilman Tibby DeJulio remained at the dais—beneath a painting of the late founding Mayor Eva Galambos—and reminisced about Day One. Paul remembered the new council coming in at 12:01 a.m. to hurriedly pass provisional codes so Sandy Springs wouldn’t be “the Wild, Wild West or Dodge City of redevelopment.” DeJulio recounted Congressman John Lewis’s surprise backing of a cityhood vote as a matter of civil rights.

In his remarks about the proclamation, Paul at one point compared Sandy Springs’ fight for local control with World War II’s Siege of Bastogne. “They refused to give in. They fought to preserve the community,” he said of residents. “A community that is as tough and as committed to an idea as this community was must be saved and deserves the best we can give it.”

“So, Sandy Springs, happy birthday,” he concluded. “Now we’ll go on to approve a public alcohol license.”

The council had some more significant business than that. The agenda included approving more than $1 million in waived business taxes and building permit fees for Mercedes-Benz USA’s forthcoming Sandy Springs corporate headquarters. The council also approved about $1.9 million in road and streetscape improvements around the MBUSA headquarters site. That will include giving MBUSA $1,027,000 directly from the impact fees developer Ashton Woods will pay for its residential project next to the MBUSA site.

“We’re using impact fees as the law intended,” said Paul, noting they are supposed to be spent locally for project mitigations.

Mayor Rusty Paul finishes a slice of birthday cake after the Dec. 1 Sandy Springs City Council meeting. (Photo: John Ruch)

The council also approved an additional $13 million in spending on the City Springs project on Roswell Road at Johnson Ferry Road and Mount Vernon Highway. The massive redevelopment will include a new City Hall, housing, a performing arts center and more. City Manager John McDonough said that money will fund construction through February, when the project’s final budget is expected to be set in stone.

The council already set a spending cap of $222 million for the project. McDonough said the project has had 14 rained-out construction days, but is still close to on-schedule “and we are still on budget.”

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.