The Sandy Springs Planning Commission recommended approval of the first request to use the city’s North End Mixed Use zoning designation for the North River Shopping Center during its meeting on March 22.
The zoning request did not require a development proposal, but the applicant, Stream Realty, shared its plans. The developer plans 241 apartments and 81 townhouses, Senior Planner Matthew Anspach told the commissioners. It keeps 35,000 square feet of existing retail and creates 17,000 square feet of new retail space on the site.
City Council will hold a public hearing on the rezoning request at its April 18 meeting.
Several residents told commissioners that they weren’t opposed to the development, but they were disappointed it wouldn’t provide affordable housing.
Sequoia Hanneman, who described herself as a longtime resident and renter in the city, said the city prioritized homeownership over affordable housing for this project, but its policies don’t guarantee or support either. The city can’t assure that the proposed townhomes will be owner-occupied to offer people like her an opportunity to transition into home ownership, she said.
“We’ve seen a similar project but the townhomes across from them, Dunwoody Place, be bought entirely from one industrial investor just to then rent them out, which squanders the dream of homeownership and affordability for many renters in the city,” she said.
Kristen Carter, an 18-year resident of the city, said she used to live with her family behind the property on Windy River Drive. She said she wasn’t opposed to the development.
“What I am concerned about is the development coming in, rents being raised as they have been over the past 18 years and my family and I not being able to afford neither rent nor home ownership because of the increase in property and in values,” she said.
Herman Bailey, who represented the developer, said the city does not have an affordable housing requirement and the proposed development aligns with the zoning proposal. Construction costs will be lower compared to if they were required to use concrete and steel construction.
“As a part of the development we are talking about reserving some of the multifamily units for fire and police,” he said.
The conceptual site plan shared by the developer wasn’t intended or required as a condition of the commissioners’ approval recommendation.
Commissioner Andrea Settles asked if the developer’s representative knew the Sandy Springs Fire Department didn’t want the city to require the developer to use the proposed site plan shown in its rezoning application. The design in that site plan has streets that are too narrow for fire engines to move throughout the property, according to the Fire Department.
Jennifer Losurdo of Genesis Engineering Collaborative said they’ve been working closely with the city on the layout of the site. The staff report with that comment was the first time feedback was received from the Fire Department. The problems the fire Department found will be addressed as the plan moves forward, she said.
“During the permit permitting process we – all the different departments and divisions – look at it for compliance with fire code, with building code, with planning and zoning and development code. And they have to comply with everything,” Community Development Director Ginger Sottile said.