By John Schaffner
After months of reviews and revisions to the city’s proposed new Comprehensive Plan, the Sandy Springs Planning Commission finally on June 7 approved and sent to city council the plan with 10 amendments and a stern note that the commission believes the plan to be basically flawed and “bogus.”
Commission members Donald Boyken and Lee Duncan led much of the attack on the validity of the plan during the three-and-one-half-hour session, claiming that the 6,800 new residents projected for the city over the next 20 years only represents about one-quarter of the real numbers now being projected by the Atlanta Regional Commission and other groups.
Boyken said the number of new residents projected for Sandy Springs over the next 20 years should be about 27,000 not 6,800. He said the estimate of new jobs in the city over the next 20 years also is inaccurate.
“It is a basic flaw” in the entire Comprehensive Plan, Boyken stated, contending that, because of that basic flaw, all of the projections in the residential and transportation portions of the plan are likely meaningless.
Boyken asked if the residential plan provides for 13,000 added housing units, which he claims would be accurate, or 3,300 units, which would be based on the projection of 6,800 new residents over the 20 years.
Nancy Leathers, director of Community Development for the city, said the City Council had approved using the figure of 6,800 new residents for the development of the new Comprehensive Plan, so that was the figure the hired consultants and those serving on committees to develop the plan were required to use.
It was confirmed that to date there have been no “what-ifs” done considering any other numbers in any part of the plan.
Boyken re-iterated that the transportation planning is based on what he called “under-sized numbers.”
Duncan attacked the transportation plan as being inner-city oriented with little focus on interconnectivity with other surrounding communities.
Duncan summed up why the Planning Commission needed to go ahead and approve the plan—flawed or not—explaining that the real purpose of the exercise was to send a plan to the state to meet a required deadline, regardless of its accuracy.
City Council will take action on the Comprehensive Plan at a June 19 meeting, following a public hearing.
In the end, the plan was approved with the 10 amendments and the attached stern note to city council urging that it reevaluate the numbers used as the basis for developing this plan and that the plan be reviewed and updated based on more correct projections.
One of Duncan’s amendments dealt with offering incentives or bonuses to aid in the redevelopment of “obsolete” properties along Roswell Road. Duncan also wants the city to develop such incentives to attract young people to make Sandy Springs their home.
Wayne Thatcher and Susan Maziar got into a direct argument over development density versus green space and Maziar ended up on the short end of the argument.
Thatcher said the plan provides for “insufficient density in the nodes to handle anticipated growth and be economically feasible.”
In contrast, Maziar wanted to change the requirement for 15 percent open or green space in the town center and I-285/Roswell Road nodes to a minimum of 10 percent green space and 5 percent open or green space. In all other nodes, she wanted the requirement of 10 percent open or green space changed to only green space.
After the votes were taken, the town center and I-285/Roswell Road nodes stayed at 15 percent open “and” green space and the remainder of the nodes were changed to 5 percent green space and 5 percent open or green space.