Flooding from the Nancy Creek basin led to the city using federal dollars to buy several houses and subsequently create Windsor Meadows Park on land that could not be redeveloped. (File/Phil Mosier)

Some Sandy Springs City Council members are hesitant to change land disturbance regulations in the Nancy Creek basin before public input from local residents.

Community Development Director Ginger Sottile presented a proposed amendment at City Council’s Nov. 15 work session to the stormwater management ordinance, which would give homeowners leeway to make small land disturbances in that area without having to add stormwater mitigation measures.

She said staff has seen some people walk away from projects because their lots are too small to be able to accommodate everything they want to do, including adding something as small as a 100 square foot deck.

“I am just so, so hesitant for us to do anything to change our disturbance regulations there without an incredible amount of public input,” Councilmember Tibby DeJulio said.

Sottile said public hearings would be scheduled when the amendment was brought before the Sandy Springs Planning Commission and in a regular City Council meeting.

During a hearing in August on the stormwater management ordinance, she said the staff was asked about the possibility of allowing an exchange of existing impervious coverage for new coverage in the Nancy Creek basin. An example given was swapping an existing deck for a new pool. This proposal was created in response to that request.

The proposed changes would property owners to remove up to 500 square feet of existing impervious coverage on property in the Nancy Creek basin, like a deck, and replace it with a new impervious surface, which might be a pool. The existing threshold is zero and requires the addition of stormwater mitigation measures in all cases. Permits would still be required, Sottile said.

“The residents in my district have had such incredible problems with Nancy Creek over the past,” DeJulio said.

He said that’s how they ended up with Windsor Meadows Park.

The park’s site is where three houses were destroyed in a 2009 flood of the adjacent Nancy Creek. The city purchased the land through a federal flood mitigation grant program.

“We’ve all heard all the complaints about how difficult it is to go through the permitting process, and this is a step to kind of deregulate, simplify, without any real impact on the water quality,” Mayor Rusty Paul said.

He said it’s a step in the right direction, so staff won’t have to spend a lot of time dealing with these projects in a simple permitting process. That frees them up to deal with more complex problems and challenges.

Proposed land disturbance definition

The second proposed change to the ordinance would add definitions of land disturbance to the ordinance.

“At the last hearing, the mayor made some comments about digging dirt underneath his deck and wondering whether or not that was land disturbance,” Sottile said.

The proposed text amendment includes the following definition:

  • Any grading, scraping, excavating, dredging, transporting or filling of land.
  • Any clearing of vegetation.
  • Any construction, rebuilding, or alteration of a building, road, driveway, parking area, or other structure, not including routine maintenance such as painting or repair of existing structures or surfaces.
  • Any substantial activity or use that may result in soil erosion from water or wind and the movement of sediments into waters or onto adjacent lands.
  • The land-disturbing activity shall not include activities such as ordinary maintenance and landscaping operations, individual home gardens, or repairs of an existing single-family dwelling.

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