Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos defended recent measures taken by city officials as a means to an end in bringing the city center project to fruition.
Galambos’ remarks came during a guest appearance at the Rotary Club of Sandy Springs’ lunch meeting at the Hilton Perimeter Suites Monday.
Galambos and Sandy Springs City Council members have invoked the local government’s authority to utilize eminent domain if necessary in acquiring property designated for the city center. That move has been a lightning rod for criticism in some circles.
“We’ve gotten a little flack lately about [eminent domain],” said Galambos. “This community decided it wanted a downtown … so we need to acquire the land on which it will be located.”
That said, the city will continue to negotiate with current property owners until “the last minute” in an effort to essentially make the eminent domain issue a moot point, the mayor added.
The multi-phase city center initiative is getting the bulk — $13.5 million — of the capital improvements’ portion of the Sandy Springs fiscal 2014 budget.
Residents should not expect that to change for the next few years, Galambos said.
“From here on, our revenues should increase rather than decrease,” she said. “The interesting thing to me is that even as our finances tightened, we were able every year to continue to put a lot of money into capital improvements.”
The mayor then addressed the proposed city center — the “crown” jewel of the downtown project and housing a city hall.
“We don’t want a city council chamber that sits empty most nights of the month,” said Galambos. “We want a chamber that can be converted into a performing arts venue, so that on the weekends we can have theater groups working out of that same building.”
Thus, the need to acquire the land on which the public facility will be located, she noted.
“Of course, we’re trying to get an entire block: Sandy Springs Circle, Johnson Ferry Road, Roswell Road and Mount Vernon [Highway],” the mayor said. “That’s the super block.”
Galambos, who is not seeking re-election come November, is an honorary member of the Sandy Springs Rotary by virtue of her position as mayor. She expressed her intention of becoming a permanent fixture there after her term ends.
“We’ve been so blessed in the community to have the mayor [in office], said club President Jim Squire. “And, we look forward, as she said, to continuing her membership afterwards as an active member, … and we’d like to invite everybody in the community who’s business-oriented to come and participate.”