SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — After a 13-month comprehensive review of the city’s unified development code, the Sandy Springs City Council approved a series of updates Dec. 5.
About 40 people attended the public hearing, including leaders of community organizations, lawyers and small business owners.
The comprehensive review process, which began in November 2022, included a Sept. 26 open house and a submittal period, which allowed community input on development code updates.
The most contentious updates to the development code centered around the use provisions in Article 7 of the code relating to gas stations and neighborhood eateries.
Most speakers Dec. 5 said they wanted to preserve language that requires gas stations be located at least one-half mile apart. An earlier proposal had called for removing that requirement.
Rhonda Smith, president of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, also served on the advisory committee for the city’s 2017 Next Ten Comprehensive Plan.
Mayor Rusty Paul speaks during the presentation of amendments to the Sandy Springs Development Code at the Dec. 5 City Council meeting. Paul said he hopes modifications to the development code reflect the wishes of residents.
HAYDEN SUMLIN/APPEN MEDIA
Smith said there was overwhelming public opposition to removing the distance requirement for gas stations.
About 75 percent of the public comments received between Sept. 26 and Oct. 18 advocated against removing the distance requirement, the other 25 percent did not mention the proposed change, Smith said.
Representatives from the RaceTrac on Roswell Road spoke in favor of removing the half-mile distance requirement for gas stations.
“We are fully in support of the City of Sandy Springs, its past development initiatives and future development endeavors,” RaceTrac Real Estate Director John Priede said. “RaceTrac would like to be a part of it.”
Priede argued that denying Article 7 and removing the half-mile restriction would spur competition.
While representatives said they’d like to see more flexibility, the council voted to keep the distance requirement.
Residents also raised concerns about another portion of Article 7 of the code that addressed eateries, particularly those that might increase density along Roswell Road.
The High Point Civic Association, a nonprofit organization of Sandy Springs residents south of I-285 and east of Roswell Road, has been engaged in the code review process throughout each phase.
Mary Ford, the organization’s president, spoke at multiple public hearing in the lead up to the Dec. 5 City Council meeting. She opposed changes to the office neighborhood district, which uniquely affects High Point south of I-285 and would allow for neighborhood retail and eateries along Roswell Road.
Ford said the civic association was created over 30 years ago to protect the neighborhood’s interests as the surrounding community continued to grow. Specifically, the High Point Civic Association fought against allowing the commercial development of Windsor Parkway and Roswell Road.
While the Community Development Department recommended approval of all development code amendments, the Planning Commission recommended some conditions for the updates.
One of the conditions, related to neighborhood eateries in office neighborhood, called for an amendment to require a community meeting and specific operating hours as a requirement.
A map of the Crossroads Small Area Plan 2023 Update provides a guide for development along Roswell Road south of I-285. The Crossroads was identified as an area to study during the 5-year update of the city’s 2017 Next Ten Comprehensive Plan.
CITY OF SANDY SPRINGS/PROVIDED
Another amendment requires Community Development Director Ginger Sottile or another department member to conduct a physical inspection of construction zones that may impact existing trees.
In other business at the Dec. 5 meeting, the 5-year update of the city’s 2017 Next Ten Comprehensive Plan also recommended a study of the Crossroads area within the Roswell Road Small Area Plan.
The 2023 update to the Crossroads Small Area Plan was approved by the council with Councilman Tibby DeJulio voting against the motion.
The plan seeks to preserve the surrounding multi-family residential apartments, while also setting development requirements at The Prado on Roswell Road.
DeJulio raised concerns about incentivizing property owners to sell to developers because of new zoning. He recommended holding off until the council could discuss the matter further.