By Katie Fallon
One local developer has hit another hurdle in his plan to build 28 single-family homes on seven present home sites along Glenridge Drive—a plan that includes saving the historic Wagon Stop House.
Jason Yowell and Metropolis Homes are asking for five concurrent variances for a plan that includes building the 28 homes on 7.28-acres along Glenridge Drive between Johnson Ferry Road and Hammond Drive. Within the plan, Yowell has committed to creating an easement that would have the Wagon Stop maintained in perpetuity by the homeowners’ association of the development.
At the July 19 Planning Commission meeting, however, Yowell’s plan was rejected in large part because of his insistence to stay at his requested density of 3.85 units per acre.
The Wagon Stop House sits on one of the seven lots currently in the area of the development. Built in 1835, it is one of the oldest surviving structures in Sandy Springs and was used to host travelers and as the area’s first courtroom.
Today, the home has retained only a small portion of its historic nature. The original space now serves as the dining room of a home located at the corner of Glenridge and Johnson Ferry Road. Some logs from the original structure remain in the face of several additions made over the years.
City staff recommended conditional approval of Yowell’s plan, but the conditions included a density reduction and denial of all five variances. The Design Review Board also recommended at its July 12 meeting that the site plan include a larger area for the park planned around the Wagon Stop, that the minimum heated floor area be increased and the density be capped at three units per acre or 21 units, whichever is less.
Yowell said staff’s “approval” amounted to a de facto denial. He told the commission he was not willing to accept the recommendations.
“Twenty one units is not economically viable,” Yowell said of the homes that are slated to be priced in the $900,000 range. “I didn’t come with a plan that was designed to be knocked down and reduced. I think it’s a good plan.”
Yowell also said that because Glenridge Drive is a high-intensity traffic corridor, his requested density is not unreasonable because 28 units would have a negligible impact on traffic. He further stated that no other development is protecting a historic site while creating a park at the same time.
“I’m providing a one-acre private park and in that private park is one of the oldest structures in the city of Sandy Springs and certainly some of the oldest trees in the city of Sandy Springs,” Yowell said. “I don’t think there’s a better development plan out there right now.”
Critics of the Metropolis development included resident Dick Farmer, who said the plan violated one of the central tenants of the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
“It encroaches on a protected neighborhood,” Farmer said. “For Sandy Springs to maintain its identity and character, it must protect its neighborhoods.”
Farmer said the development would also disrupt the flow of the Long Island Creek Watershed and create downstream erosion and infrastructure burdens.
“It’s an example or poor urban planning and should not be allowed to proceed,” he said.
Although commission vice chairman Bob Wiley suggested delaying approval until a hydrology study could be completed, commission member Lee Duncan suggested outright denial of the plan. The commission voted unanimously to deny Yowell’s application.
Yowell, however, did get some support from the crowd at the July 19 meeting.
Resident Betty Perry called the development a win-win situation that would preserve the living history of the community. She said she felt the plan was appropriate for its location.
“It’s an attractive development,” Perry said. “It’s not exceeding the density that could happen.”
A final decision on the development will be made by the city council.