Sandy Springs’ new Comprehensive Land Use Plan is in place after 18 months of work culminated in a Feb. 21 City Council vote to adopt it.

Mayor Rusty Paul praised the new Comp Plan, as it’s known, for bringing a fresh “stability and predictability” to city zoning decisions. But the adoption came with residents disputing an unannounced, unexplained change to the plan’s land-use map, similar to another controversy late last year.

The Comp Plan, as it’s commonly known, is a 10-year policy and planning document guiding land use and redevelopment. Its vision serves as the basis for the city’s zoning code, which is being rewritten in a process that will kick into high gear with a series of meetings in March. The new Comp Plan also includes “small area plans” giving more detailed attention to Roswell Road, Perimeter Center, MARTA stations and Powers Ferry Landing.

Under the new Comp Plan, about 67 percent of the city’s land area is designated as “Protected Neighborhood.” Higher-density redevelopment is limited to major road corridors and public transit nodes.

The final draft of the Comp Plan had some tweaks before the adoption, according to city officials. The most significant was changing the wording in the Roswell Road Small Area Plan to specifically allow redevelopment to replace apartment complexes on the corridor’s northern section, according to a staff memo. The exact language was not presented at the City Council meeting.

“I think this one of the crowning achievements of the last four years that we’ve done,” Mayor Paul said. “No plan is perfect, but all the issues we can foresee are dealt with.”

However, the plan was again criticized for unpublicized changes to the land-use, or “character area,” map made internally by staff members. The first such controversy arose in November when residents realized eight properties along Johnson Ferry Road and Hilderbrand Drive were changed from single-family “Protected Neighborhood” to denser “Urban Neighborhood.” A proposal to replace the eight houses with 28 townhomes was one reason city staff changed the designation. The filing of that redevelopment plan was the first that neighboring homeowners learned of the land-use change. That change was reversed—also without public notice—in the final draft.

At the Feb. 21 council meeting, Dean Perry, a property owner on Lorell Terrace, complained of a similar secret change in the opposite direction. In a Feb. 14 letter to city officials, Perry and several other local property owners complained that eight Lorell Terrace lots went from Urban Neighborhood to Protected Neighborhood, limiting the redevelopment potential. The change happened sometime between Nov. 17, when the city Planning Commission voted on the final draft, and Dec. 6, when the City Council voted, the property owners say.

In the letter, the property owners suggest the city may have made the change for its own benefit. The city is studying a concept of widening nearby Hammond Drive and is already acquiring property there for right of way. The letter suggests that gives the city motivation to devalue the area’s land.

“This change appears to intentionally limit the use of our properties and to monetarily devalue their potential resale value to anyone other than the city of Sandy Springs,” says the letter, which Perry handed out at the Feb. 21 council meeting. And making the change without notice was a “very misleading gesture,” the letter says.

None of the many officials at the council meeting offered Perry any explanation for the change. However, Paul told him to “hang tight,” saying that options for appealing the land-use designation are coming in the new zoning code.

A milder Comp Plan criticism came from MARTA, which submitted a letter complaining about the lower-density uses planned around the existing North Springs and potential future Northridge stations on the Red Line. MARTA is in a burst of transit-oriented development around its stations to profit from redevelopment and boost transit ridership. Councilmember Gabriel Sterling noted the densities came from local residents’ input, so “I’m happy to pass this plan as is.”

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

6 replies on “Sandy Springs Comp Plan approved with some changes, dispute”

  1. Council Member Sterling,

    I don’t see your resident’s as offering input so much as crying out, for education on a teachable moment. They’ve utterly failed the Civics course given in Junior High School, public schools even.

    Public spaces are communities and your district is part of the community of Sandy Springs, which is part of the Atlanta Metropolis within the State of Georgia.
    IF you’re looking to keep others out and don’t want’ Marta to bring people to your part of Sandy Springs nor people driving to and parking in your community then I think you’re saying you want to live in a gated community. Give up the car, walk should you ever leave sounds wonderful, the rest of Sandy Springs hope you find it. If you’re staying, Sandy Springs is going to set up an electronic device for your car that puts it into “Limp” mode when you leave your district. Reverse will not work because those who can’t park have no need to stop and back up.

    Again, Sandy Springs looks to change the makeup of the rental community. Dollars to donuts says this going to result in the bottom of the economic ladder being pushed out and more expensive, higher quality than exists now will take it’s place. It’s the “Lower Roswell Effect” we all have witnessed and heard talked about quietly. The “New Georgia” same as the “Old Georgia”.

    Good Luck Sandy Springs
    Scooter Boy’s final SSR comment

  2. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The majority of the City’s plan for “North Sandy Springs” hinge on Marta expanding. I hope the City can now drop the NorthRidge Station “sideshow” now that they realize their plans really don’t match up with the MARTA’s TOD without making zoning even more dense.

    Please, please, please, PLEASE instead focus that attention on developing the city’s trail network, along 400 and along the utility right of way, The Morgan Falls Trail has been on the Regional plan items of attention since 2006 and yet little has been down apart from the Overlook park which is a considerable distance away from most residentials. I personally have asked Sterling about the trail, to which he responded, “There’s just a bunch of apartments.” Not true! I’m a HOMEOWNER, who lives off Morgan Falls Rd and see countless people walking by that blocked off utility corridor every day. It’s deplorable that the City has abandon North Sandy Springs as they plan to move City Hall to “Downtown”. We have already lost WorldPay who had there HQ on Morgan Falls.

  3. So, the New Comp Plan is nothing more than an updated document. Nothing is legally enforceable. Same old, same old.
    And, certain areas are ripe for overdevelopment and other areas can’t be touched?
    Are the developers scared of the New Comp Plan? If not, how have things changed?
    So, when a developer buys a tract of homes or land without your knowledge, beware! The deal is already in the works and your neighborhood just might be next.
    The screams of your neighbors can’t be heard above the construction noises in Sandy Springs. Just look at Roswell Road, Hildebrand, Bolyston, Hammond Drive, Abernathy Road, Mt. Vernon, Sandy Springs Circle and Glenridge. Thousands of apartments and retail space and the infrastructure cost to the developers are nil. Infrastructure improvement costs will be a thorn in future years. That’s after the developers have sold their initial works for additional profits.

  4. Instead of gyrating around with empty catch phrases like community character and protected neighborhoods, why not join the rest of GA and put places on a historic register? SS could get tax breaks and tourism money like absolutely every one of our neighbor communities. GA Department of Historic Preservation, look it up sometime. Your tax money is funding it.

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