A controversial plan to build 23 houses at the woodsy intersection of Roberts Drive and Sunnybrook Farm Road was rejected by the Sandy Springs Planning Commission on Dec. 17.

The commission, city staff, the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods and many local residents agreed that Roberts Drive Townhomes LLC’s plan to redevelop the nearly 6-acre site is too dense and doesn’t match the city’s land use plan.

Sunnybrook Farm resident Irene Harding said the plan is a “complete conflict and not compatible with our neighborhood at all…We welcome your vote to deny this basically greedy request of an application.”

For months, the developers have revised their plans to replace the current two single-family homes in response to neighborhood opposition. They originally proposed even more units in multifamily townhomes. Now they have chopped up the plan into single-family homes, but so closely spaced they would require zoning variances for side yard and minimum separation violations.

Pete Hendricks, the developers’ attorney, acknowledged that “obviously, clearly, this application does not fit the bounds of the land plan.” But, he added, its context is important for judging density. A dense subdivision along Northridge Road abuts the property to the north—a resident there gave comments in support—and a large office building stands across Roberts Drive.

That failed to convince commission members, some of whom said those high-density developments happened under old Fulton County zoning for unclear reasons and would never be approved today. Commission Chair Lee Duncan said he was one of the office building’s developers decades ago, “and we still aren’t sure how we got that approved.”

The project, with the commission’s recommendation of denial, now heads to Sandy Springs City Council for a final vote.

An aerial image of the Roberts Drive site with the property's boundary outlined, from the Roberts Drive Townhomes LLC filing.
An aerial image of the Roberts Drive site with the property’s boundary outlined, from city of Sandy Springs project filings.

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