The city of Sandy Springs has reversed a change to its draft land-use plan that would have permitted a controversial 28-unit townhome project to replace eight houses in the Glenridge Hammond neighborhood.

The city decided to keep the properties as a “Protected Neighborhood” rather than a higher-density designation in response to “strong community input,” said city spokesperson Sharon Kraun. The draft land-use plan, known as the Comprehensive Plan, is headed to a City Council vote Dec. 6.

A map of the townhome project proposed on Hilderbrand Drive, from a city filing.

It is unclear what impact the land-use reversal has on the townhome plan by Sandy Springs-based Monte Hewitt Homes. The company could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Character Area map in the city’s current Comp Plan does not allow such higher-density replacement housing on the properties, which are bordered by Hilderbrand Drive and Johnson Ferry and Harleston roads. The first draft of the new Comp Plan, issued in July, had the properties remaining as a “Protected Neighborhood”—meaning a single-family home area.

In an unannounced change, the next draft in October switched those properties to the higher-density designation. Nearby residents learned of the change when Monte Hewitt Homes filed plans for the townhome project with documents that noted the new land-use plan would allow the project.

Assistant City Manager Jim Tolbert said the land-use change was made partly due to the eight homeowners looking to sell out for redevelopment, and partly because the city thought a higher-density “transition” area works there.

At a Nov. 21 community meeting about the townhome plan, residents expressed strong opposition to the plan and to the underlying land-use change. Members of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods voiced concerns about land-use changes being made to suit a particular development.

The final draft of the Comp Plan, issued Dec. 2, reversed the land-use switch at the Hildebrand/Harleston site, though it retains a higher-density designation on two abutting commercial properties currently occupied by an auto parts dealer and a bank. The reversal also was made without announcement.

If approved by the council, the Comp Plan will undergo state review for a number of months before final city approval. It would then become the basis for a new city zoning code that is already in the early writing stages.

John Ruch

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

4 replies on “Sandy Springs reverses land-use change that fueled townhome dispute”

  1. Comprehensive Plan in the hands of politicians and developers won’t work. As a guideline, the Plan will never work because guidelines are not enforced. Too many people have access to changes to the Plan. Staff, Planning and the good ole pols on the government side. And, developers with deep pockets on the other side. It’s simply too cozy of a relationship.

  2. Congratulations Sandy Springs. Now it’s up to our elected officials to stop this entirely and reign in our Private Company Overlords.

    Ralph said it well above, we don’t need guidelines that are subject to lobbying, cronyism, favoritism or any other ‘ism, we need these to be laws.

  3. I’m thankful for this fencing off of multi-family housing from cracking open my neighborhood. Keeping traditional neighborhoods as buffers between major roads and huge new developments is important because the tree density moderates summer heat, cleanses the air, and provides animal habitat and a respite from the concrete and intensity of increased urban density. Rain is allowed to recharge the groundwater system too. The streets with single-family homes provide a pedestrian and biker-friendly scale so we can move without cars amongst the city, and new families regenerate the neighborhoods and support the local schools. These traditional homes, where kids can play in the yard (and are less threatened by cars), are on the whole are more affordable than the new multi-family housing with $700k prices. Thus teachers, policemen, and others with modest double-incomes can at least hope to live here. If Sandy Springs wants a comprehensive community of diverse housing it has to sustain single-family homes and the green space so valuable to everyone’s quality of life. Finally, keeping single-family neighborhoods intact helps moderate the traffic buildup and road overuse which is chronic now and probably destined to worsen with all the new development underway or planned. If neighborhoods are broken up to hold six or seven times as many people, then all the SPLOST improvements could come to naught. I look forward to the day when people have the resiliency and courage to leave their cars but it still looks a long way off.
    As summer ended I could hear crickets in my neighborhood woods as I biked or walked in the morning to my job. I wondered if that sound was going to disappear soon, and now I’m hopeful it can remain.

Comments are closed.