Economic development was among the previously adopted fiscal year priorities given consideration at Sandy Springs City Council’s annual retreat Tuesday at Heritage Sandy Springs.
Public safety, transportation, natural resource protection, community appearance, downtown development and recreation and cultural enhancement are the others.
“Just for some perspective, these priorities have not changed much in the eight years [the city] has been here,” said Mayor Rusty Paul. “We’re going to have to decide in what order those priorities are, so that [City Manager] John [McDonough] and his staff can bring us a budget that reflects that.”
Moreover, District 5 Councilman Tibby DeJulio said he did not foresee any shakeup or alterations to the governing body’s to-do list.
Gauging their importance “one by one, public safety goes without saying, transportation goes without saying and the same for community appearance,” said DeJulio. “All of these things are things that have been just so incredibly important in the foundation of the city and in the founding of the city, so I don’t see any reason to eliminate any of them and I also can’t thing of anything to add.”
Despite the city’s major strides in that department, Paul said, economic development is to remain a chief concern as it is interlinked with other priorities.
“One of the questions that you often get is …‘Why are we [still] spending time and energy on that?,’” Paul said. “Obviously it’s [expanded] our tax base, given us the resources to do more in these areas, but, if done right, economic development is about matching your population and your jobs. About 85 percent of the people living in Sandy Springs leave town to go work somewhere else and 85 percent of the people who work here are from somewhere else.
“If you can more closely align those [figures] — so that more people who live here are working here — it’s going to have a major impact on transportation, which is one of our most significant challenges.”
In other business, officials on hand Tuesday were privy to updates regarding the city center redevelopment project.
The council voted to approve a shortlist of master developer candidates — five firms, each working in tandem with one or more proposed partnering entities, vetted as part of the request for proposals (RFP) process: Batson-Cook, Carter, North American Properties, Seven Oaks Co. and MidCity Real Estate Partners.
“What we’re trying to do with the process is leave as much creativity to these developers as we possibly can while accumulating an adequate amount of information based on the criteria we’ve established [for evaluation],” said Ennis Parker, a consultant for the city.
Parker, a Georgia Tech professor and retired architect, called the city center project complicated due to its various components.
“We started out thinking that the RFQ [request for qualifications] was going to respond just to the public-private portion of the project — the housing and retail components and the parking decks that surround them,” Parker said. “We also have four other projects, [including] the proposed park, government and civic building and infrastructure [roads, sewers, etc.]”
He also noted that officials should consider an underground parking deck that spans the entire site.
In other news, the council named former District 3 Councilman Chip Collins to the city’s development authority.