In a conference call Friday afternoon with the media, Patrick Burke, the district’s deputy superintendent of operations, said it is “not a viable option” for the new campus.
Residents of the neighborhood and surrounding subdivisions opposed the plan, which called for the district to purchase a cluster of six homes in the Riverside area to relocate Heards Ferry’s campus. According to a March 4 letter from the Riley Place Homeowners Association, which also opposed the proposal, the district may use eminent domain to acquire some of those properties.
“We’ve had questions raised about potentially looking for a site on Riverside Drive since early 2013,” Burke said. “After completing our due diligence on that site, including engineering studies, the school district is no longer looking at the south Riverside Drive site. It’s ultimately not a viable option for the school.”
In a March 11 letter to David Knotts, the district’s director of land management, Robert Lynch of 710 Fair Oaks Manor in the Riverside area wrote his property has a natural spring and a small stream on it, making it not a good choice for the new Heards Ferry campus. Burke said Friday he did not have the information on why the site was not viable, but added homeowners’ opposition to the location was also a factor in the decision.
“The land doesn’t suit our needs anyway, but I’m not making light of the residents’ concerns,” he said.
The Riverside area is one of 20 possible sites the district selected as possible future Heards Ferry campus locations, Burke said at a March meeting at Riverwood hosted by District 3 school board member Gail Dean, who represents the area. She emailed residents Friday to inform them the Riverside site would be eliminated from the list of possible Heards Ferry locations.
Burke said Friday the district has narrowed its list to “a few” but could not name them due to the system’s policy on not disclosing future campus sites until one has been chosen and purchased.
“We are getting to a point where we are whittling down options,” he said. “Now that we have some viable options we are looking at, we are starting that dialogue with the city. What do the studies show about the existing sites? At some point we’re going to want to hear input from the city.
“What I can say is we’re down to a few options. We’ve heard from the community loud and clear about those few options. There have been a lot of comments about redeveloping the Riverwood site and we want to be as transparent as possible.”
The plan to rebuild Heards Ferry’s campus and expand Riverwood’s was approved when voters passed the district’s E-SPLOST IV, a 1 percent sales tax devoted to school construction, in November 2011. It is estimated to pay for $912 million in school projects. Burke said the ideal acreage for building new campuses is 15 to 20 acres for elementary schools and at least 50 for high schools.
“The challenge is Sandy Springs does not have greenfield [undeveloped] sites,” he said. “It makes you look hard and look at what else is available.”