In delivering his first State of the City address Tuesday morning at the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce’s monthly breakfast meeting at the Retreat at the Summit in Brookhaven, Paul, who was elected in November, announced his proposal to merge the city’s design review board with the planning commission.
“We want to streamline the process,” he said. “It’ll make things easier. … If you’ve got a project right now you may have to go to 12 to 15 [board] meetings before it’s done.
“Only people with the passion, energy and the time can go to that many meetings … which limits public input.”
Shifting to the proposed single body would not take the emphasis off design as some may perceive, the mayor said.
“A design review board is really an advisory committee — it has no leverage,” said Paul. “Planning and zoning commissions have tools for leverage, so they can negotiate with people.
“So, actually, it’ll move the design function further up the scale of importance with things we’re trying to do.”
That would include the much-publicized downtown redevelopment project, which Paul highlighted as a chief priority of his administration. The city center edifices will be home to local government offices, a performing arts center and sites for other community gatherings.
“We want only the best; we want something we can be proud of,” he said. “We want to think long-term, not short-term. … We want our kids and our grandkids to look back at us and say, ‘Job well done.’
“I’ve asked [planning and zoning officials] to think in terms of 50 years from now … something that can be a legacy.”
The first-year mayor touched on an array of issues during his time at the podium, including the need to work with neighboring cities as a means of driving economic development and the area’s current business landscape.
He was likened to iconic actor Andy Griffith by chamber Chairman Jim Kelley during the latter’s introductory remarks.
As Kelley said, the favorable comparison stems from similarities between Paul and the late iconic actor’s most famous role — that of a sensible small-town sheriff who routinely outwits shady interlopers.
“Our most important goal … is to focus not just on developing business here, but improving our community as well,” said Chamber Chair Lever Steward. “The chamber believes that we have a very unique opportunity to play a leading role in [that].”