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UPDATED: City Council turns focus to I-285
by Everett Catts
April 17, 2013 12:28 AM | 1576 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
(UPDATED AT 4:40 P.M. WEDNESDAY WITH CORRECTED INFORMATION ON GLENRIDGE PARTNERS' LAWSUIT AND ZONING MODIFICATION REQUEST)

Just 2 1/2 months after deciding on a city center plan, Sandy Springs officials are now turning their eyes to Interstate 285, one of the main transportation arteries into the city.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting at City Hall, council members discussed the proposal by Revive 285 Top End, a planning group run by the Georgia Department of Transportation and the State Road and Tollway Authority, to add an exit off the highway onto Sandy Springs Circle.

Revive 285 has given four options on ways to improve the top end: no-build, 4, 6A and 6B.

In his report, Sandy Springs Director of Public Works Garrin Coleman said under the 6A proposal, there would be a managed lane coming off 285, meaning it would be only accessible from a high-occupancy vehicle or high-occupancy toll lane.

Council members’ concerns included the plan’s potential impact on Allen Park, which sits next to where Sandy Springs Circle dead-ends into Allen Road.

“Will the park be left alone?” District 4 Councilman Gabriel Sterling said.

District 6 Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny added, “Can we write this resolution in a fashion that will allow us to say when it comes to the developer to say, ‘Whoa, this is not the plan you gave us?’ … I’m not comfortable signing off on this yet.”

“We can listen to this plan to do this and not support if we want to,” District 1 Councilman John Paulson said.

City Manager John McDonough responded, saying the city did not have all the information on that part of the plan but would provide more in the future.

“I’m inclined to say no to it,” Sterling said.

Mayor Eva Galambos then talked about previous proposals for improving the Perimeter.

“Eleven years ago, [Georgia] DOT came to Sandy Springs Revitalization Inc. on a plan for 285,” she said, referring to the organization guiding the community’s design before it incorporated. “This would have doubled the width of 285. I agree. We need [more] discussion before we go further.”

District 3 Councilman Chip Collins added, “First we’ve got to decide on which plan we like. If we don’t like 6A, that’s fine. I have not studied them all, but it would make sense to have a position.”

During the work session that followed the meeting, Kaye Lynn Johnson, vice president of design at The Collaborative, a Boston-based planning, design and communications company that has contracted with the city for some services, gave a report on the Roswell Road/285 gateway.

In January the council started looking at major transportation arteries and the Roswell Road/285 interchange came first, Johnson said.

“Gateways mark the entrance to an important feature,” she said. “You can think of this like a front door. You can make [it] say something about a place. With this, Roswell Road can be that place. First, Roswell Road may be the most important gateway, since it will be close to the city center."

In its plan, The Collaborative wants to incorporate the city seal into the design on the Roswell Road bridge over 285, and the bridge could be beautified in other ways. The proposal also includes planting trees along 285’s Roswell Road exit ramps. The city has budgeted $1 million for the project.

“What happens if 285 gets widened down the road and we’ve planted all these trees? We want a guarantee [the city will be refunded],” Galambos said.

“We can move trees if possible,” Johnson replied.

After Collins suggested another beautification project at the Powers Ferry Road/New Northside Drive exit at 285, Galambos said that project would have to wait.

“At this point, we have the funding for one gateway, so we don’t want to miss the fall planting season [starting Dec. 1],” she said.

Though the council did not vote on the preliminary gateway plan, it did ask Johnson to move swiftly on providing more information. She said The Collaborative can have it in the works within a month.

During the meeting’s public comment portion, four residents in the Brandon Mill community requested the city add sidewalks to Brandon Mill Road.

Chad Plumlee, who said he represented both the community and a website called www.walkingbrandonmillroad.org, spoke first.

“[There will be] not much more impact for adding sidewalks on the east side of Brandon Mill,” he said of the street. “Fifty years ago, Fulton County started to put in sidewalks.

“We had two [homeowners] opposed and over 50 percent for it. We’re asking to have a conduit between the neighborhood and the parks.”

Dan Berger then spoke, saying he lives on Faunsworth Drive, in the Brandon Mill subdivision.

“Seven sizeable neighborhoods feed off Brandon Mill [Road], about a thousand homes.”

Tom Hayes, who lives on Glencourtney Drive, in the North Springs subdivision, added, “I’ve lived there 12 years and in Sandy Springs for 15 years. I grew up in Gainesville and we walked everywhere there. We would like to walk everywhere here, especially for my 5-year-old and 8-year-old.”

Kevin Farmer, who also lives in the North Springs neighborhood, said he wants public access to the Mark Trail community pool, and sidewalks on Brandon Mill will accomplish that goal.

“I drive on Riverside Drive every day,” Farmer said. “When you drive on a street with sidewalks, people slow down. … If you build it, they will come.”

After the meeting, Galambos said adding sidewalks to Brandon Mill was possible but depended on city revenues and its fiscal 2014 budget.

“All of that would have to be [delayed] until we do our budget. We don’t know what our budget constraints will be,” she said, adding the city would adopt its budget as it gets closer to the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

In other news, the council:

o deferred its vote regarding Pulte Group’s request to rezone property on Glenridge Drive from single-family dwelling district to townhouse residential district so it could build 63 townhomes on the property. The issue will now go back to planning commission, which meets Thursday, before returning to the council in May.

o approved by a 6-0 vote Duke Realty Corp.’s request to rezone a Johnson Ferry Road building from general office to medical office.

o tabled until its next meeting, April 30, a request to amend the city’s booting law.

o approved by a 6-0 vote a request for a no-cost task order change.

o deferred for 60 days a vote on 5730 Glenridge Partners LLC’s request for a zoning modification to allow driveway access onto Glenforest Road to build a doctor’s office on its property, due to a lawsuit that was filed against the city. Glenridge Partners sought the permit because of a potential increase in traffic on the opposite end of the property on Glenridge Drive.

After the council went into executive session to discuss real estate, legal and personnel matters, it voted 6-0 to approve authorizing a consent order, settling a lawsuit filed by 5730 Glenridge Partners in their case.

After the meeting City Attorney Wendell Willard said he is pleased with the consent order because it does not allow the city employees’ discussions on the matter to be used in court in any future litigation on the issue.
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