At its meeting Thursday night at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods representatives expressed their frustration at being left out of discussions about neighboring Sandy Springs’ Gateway development, saying the proposed development will further cripple traffic on Roswell Road leading into the Buckhead community.
Laura Beall, division director for land use for the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, spoke to the council about the project, which was reviewed by GRTA since it qualified as a development of regional impact. Beall said projects qualify under this category based on a number of factors, but typically are reviewed due to their size, scope and impact on the surrounding community.
While there are about 17 of these projects under consideration in or near Buckhead, the gateway project drew the most ire from meeting attendees. In July, the Sandy Springs City Council approved the mixed-use development featuring more than 600 apartments and retail and office space in a 5-1 vote, despite several residents voicing displeasure, citing lack of input among other complaints.
Beall said GRTA’s responsibility in reviewing each project is to determine whether it qualifies for federal or state funds, not to determine the merit of the land-use proposal. Through the process, GRTA consults with many various stakeholders including local governments in deciding whether or not to approve a project.
While neighborhood groups are not excluded from having input, the local government entity is typically the first point of contact, Beall said.
“City lines don’t matter to traffic,” District 8 Atlanta City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean said. “So when you have a project that’s adjacent to two different governments, … one government has the authority and the other government has the downhill stuff.”
Based on GRTA’s determination, Adrean said Atlanta is required to build a turn lane off Roswell Road for the Sandy Springs project, despite getting no money from the project’s developers.
“We get the bar bill but we don’t get a drink,” she said.
Beall said the turn lane will likely have to be paid for by the developer, based on information she was provided by city staff.
But Adrean maintained her desire to be more involved in the process.
“What happens is the planners get pretty far downstream with [GRTA] and you all go to the same schools of wonkiness,” Adrean said. “What you are trained to think, do, etc. doesn’t always work in an old city with narrow roads.”
Beall recognized Executive Director Jim King’s suggestion as a good one: get in contact with the working parties as soon as word of the development arises.
“Knowing how early in the process this is, we [GRTA and the Atlanta Regional Commission] want to make sure neighboring jurisdictions are notified, so that’s why we got to our points of contact,” she said. “It’s not always a priority on their to-do list, but we always try to get the word out and get them included.”
King, who represents the Chastain Park neighborhood encompassing both sides of the gateway development, said his neighborhood roads are already clogged almost every hour of the day and will be worsened by the project.
“There’s not always a councilmember in neighborhoods [affected by these projects], but those folks know their neighborhood better than anybody,” he said of why community groups should be included in the process.
What's next: The Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods will meet Oct. 10