Proposals to loosen stormwater management restrictions designed to control runoff and improve water quality were panned by the Sandy Springs Planning Commission, which voted to recommend denial of the changes for the Nancy Creek area.

Local residents and the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods spoke out against the changes, which were questioned by the planning commissioners.

Staff’s presentation said the reason for the suggested changes was to ease requirements citywide for runoff reduction for small projects. It also was intended to codify a process and development requirements for parts of the city designated as a declared sensitive area.

The standard requirement would now require any new development or redevelopment that added 2,000 square feet or more of new impervious surface to follow the stormwater management measures. That’s if it also disturbed 5,000 square feet or more of land.

The change for the Nancy Creek declared sensitive area would give single-unit residential properties a “specific, less onerous criteria” of a 500-square-feet disturbance.

“The change to the stormwater code which the city is considering adds to an already dreadful situation,” said Holly Mitchell of Carolwood Lane, which she said is on Nancy Creek.

The creek has grown from approximately 8 or 10 feet wide to over 20 feet in some spots, she said, eating away at their land and creating unsafe conditions.

“It’s now not a creek, it’s more like a river. And when there are storms, it’s a rushing river,” Mitchell said.

Karen Meinzen McEnery of Meadow Valley also opposed the lessening of the stormwater requirements, especially in the Nancy Creek watershed. Due to upstream development with increased density, plus more impervious rooftops and surfaces, she said “downstream property owners need greater, not lesser, protections from the damages to their property.”

The Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods also opposed the changes. Impervious surfaces increase with infill homes being built, pools dug and additions or expansions of existing homes, President Ronda Smith told the Planning Commission.

“We installed these regulations that are more stringent than the state’s Blue Book,” Smith said. “We did it to be better, to protect them and to guarantee a better future for our city than those minimum standards would afford.”

Planning Commissioner Dave Nickles asked staff the motivation for the suggested changes.

Community Development Director Ginger Sottile said since the stormwater management reduction policy has been in place, staff has seen a number of smaller projects come through that were a couple of hundred square feet. The property owners were digging a couple of post holes on a small lot and then had to dig a hole for a water quality pit.

“We saw a number of these come through and it did seem quite onerous for such a simple kind of a project, or if somebody wanted to put a 300-square-foot patio in their backyard,” she said. “So it was small projects like these that we saw created some consternation amongst the developing community, whether it’s a homeowner or a contractor working for a homeowner.”

After making complaints to staff and City Council representatives, staff was asked to create an amendment to make adjustments to those requirements, Sottile said.

“What my concern is that I go through my neighborhood, which is undergoing just a massive redevelopment that’s gone on for years and years and years, and I watched the … the erosion of our standards when it comes to the tree ordinance, when it comes to fences,” Planning Commission Vice Chair Andy Porter said.

The Planning Commission voted to recommend the denial of the changes to the stormwater runoff regulations.

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