The Sandy Springs City Council approved rezoning for a condo development on two Cliftwood Drive parcels that increased the height allowed from three to six stories despite some opposition from neighboring businesses and some concerns that it does not meet needs for affordable housing.

The property is at 135 and 145 Cliftwood Drive, within the City Springs zoning district, and is called Cliftwood Flats.

An artist rendering of the planned Cliftwood Flats condominium project at 135 and 145 Cliftwood Drive. (Special)

Alexandra Horst of the city’s Planning & Zoning Department told the council at its June 16 meeting that staff and the city’s Planning Commission recommended approval of the zoning change. She said previous zoning of the property allowed six-story structures. And the “Next Ten” Comprehensive Plan for land use prioritizes redevelopment of underused property, including higher-density housing in mixed-use areas.

Attorney Pete Hendricks of Sandy Springs represented the developer, telling the council that plans called for a 30-unit condominium development on the property.

He said they worked with the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods representative Rhonda Smith, and that organization did not oppose the use.

Sandy Springs has a need for upper-end, single-level housing like this, Hendricks said.

“It is just not simply available in Sandy Springs and there is a huge demand,” he said.

Sandy Springs residents who want to downsize and move to this kind of housing don’t want to move to Buckhead, Roswell or Alpharetta, Hendricks told City Council.

Other multi-story buildings nearby include Sterling Place to the south, a six- to eight-story senior living facility. And to the southeast is the Cliftwood apartment building.

Todd Henningsen, an attorney and president of the Big Sandy Condo Association, a commercial property with 12 businesses just south of the proposed condo site, said he was very concerned.

He said the project doesn’t meet the character of what he described as a well-thought out master plan.

“[The] city’s plans can simply be altered one parcel at a time. Not only is rezoning requested, they also asked for variance on setback for three upper floors,” Henningsen said.

Hendrick said that that the Big Sandy Condo property’s rezoning reduced its own buffers,.

“So I think it’s important to note that the squeeze was put on that particular property from… that property where the opposition is coming from,” he said.

Councilmember Tibby DeJulio opposed the rezoning, saying that such changes to plans are one of the reasons Sandy Springs incorporated.

“One of the reasons we did that was because Fulton County was dumping so much zoning [change] on Sandy Springs,” DeJulio said. “What has changed in the last two years where the planning department, which was in favor of the plan and sticking to the plan… is in favor of changing the plan?”

Sandy Springs has a problem where people can’t afford to live in the city, and yet this developer wants to build $900,000 condominiums. DeJulio also said that Sandy Springs has a problem with a lack of affordable housing that the $900,000 condominiums will not address.

“I think this absolutely should be denied,” DeJulio said.

Councilmember Chris Burnett, who made the successful motion to approve the rezoning with a limit of 36 condo units, said the city has a shortage of housing for high-income older residents who are “rolling out of a 5,000-square-foot house.”

They want security, gated parking and want to live in a neighborhood with residents of the same age. But there are not a lot of products like that in Sandy Springs, he said.

“I will be the first to tell you this is not affordable housing. The question is, where do you put affordable housing?” Burnett asked.

While the City Council discussed the rezoning proposal, Katherine Robillard posted on the comments for the Facebook livestream, asking, “Will the condos be ‘luxury’ condos? We need affordable housing, not just more ‘luxury condos.’”

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Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.