Dave Greenspan resigned from his Sandy Springs Dist. 1 City Council post in late August to accept a position as CEO of a golf technology company in Ohio. He sat down for an interview with the Reporter on the morning of Sept. 1. The following is from that interview.
After almost two years as a founding member of the Sandy Springs City Council, Dave Greenspan, the first of the city’s council members to resign, said, “I think we are definitely much better off as a city and the citizens have really embraced what is going on.
“The community went through such a long struggle to get here and really embraced the idea of local governance….bringing government to its lowest common denominator,” the 42-year-old Greenspan added. “It is weird when you think back about how many folks have been involved in this for so long. I think that is why we have had the success that we have had and we haven’t had some of the challenges that some of the other emerging cities have had in Fulton County.”
The governance of the new city of Sandy Springs was one subject Greenspan talked about with the Reporter. But most of the discussion focused on the differences between the north and south parts of the city, the special citizen needs in District 1, which he has served for almost two years, and his personal initiatives, which he hopes his successor will carry on after the Nov. 6 election to fill his seat.
Describing the operation of the city’s government, Greenspan said, “Almost in every way it’s better and far exceeded all of our expectations. Everybody was calling this “an experiment,” referring to the outsourcing of government functions. “We couldn’t have done it without outsourcing….Not in the short timeframe, and considering we didn’t have the start-up money to do it a traditional way.”
Greenspan said it is interesting the way the council districts are divided within the city with north, central and south districts and those sections for the most part split by Roswell Road.
“My district in particular divides into two distinct areas—east of Georgia 400 and west of Georgia 400,” he explained. “East of 400 is almost completely residential”—with the exception of the University of Phoenix office building on Roberts Drive, the shopping centers at Jett Road and Dunwoody Place and Mount Vernon Highway, and the Publix shopping center at Spalding Drive and Holcomb Bridge Road. Aside from that he says the district is entirely residential with synagogues, schools and churches.
“It is really a great district,” he states. “It is almost a bed-and-breakfast district east of 400. You cross 400 and it is an urban community. There are completely different challenges there.
It may be unusual, but 60 percent of the east part of the district is zoned AG-1 (agricultural). “I refer to it sometimes as the farming district of Sandy Springs,” said the former councilman.
The district has two distinct housing styles. “We have large wooded lots with single family homes.” East of 400, the only multi-family housing is one apartment complex of 210 units at the far end of Spalding Drive at Holcomb Bridge Road. “West of 400 is where we have an opportunity to have more density.” That portion of the district is predominantly multi-family, townhouses, condos and apartments.
“One of the platforms I ran on was preserving and enhancing the continuity of our neighborhoods,” Greenspan stated. “In District 1, we have been very successful in doing that. We may well have the lowest increase in density than any other district in the city.
He said the district has “only had a net increase that the council has voted on (not which was inherited from the county) of 13 new houses (all on the east side of 400) and eight of those fit in one piece of property.” Those are half-acre lots.
He agrees that is a very different picture from what is going on in the southern part of the city, where there is a great deal of redevelopment.
“I am very proud that we have really focused in this district and I have been able to live up to my commitment, to preserving our neighborhoods,” he added. “On the west side (of 400) we have had no increase in land user density at all.”
Commercially, district 1 does not have a lot of footage on Roswell Road.
Looking to the future, Greenspan said, “I would like to see this district stay as is….preserve this land use and preserve what is going on here. We live in an urban city. This is about as suburban a community as we have in the city of Sandy Springs. It increases the value of the city by having east of 400 preserved with large wooded lots.”
What are the other issues in his former district?
“Green space is one,” he states. The other issues are road infrastructure. Paving. Sidewalks will be an issue until every street in SS has double sidewalks on it. Police and fire protection.
“The police presence in this district has been incredible,” Greenspan states. “Does that mean you are going to see a police officer drive down Spalding, the main thoroughfare of the district, every minute of every day? No. But, they are on patrol. When we do have issues, they are extremely proactive,” he adds. “Crime in the city is down close to 50 percent. It is a complete feather in the city’s hat that we have been able to be proactive in enforcing laws and in stopping crime”.
A year ago, he took on an initiative to have every homeowners association in the district enrolled in a crime watch program. The are 60 HOAs in the district and a large number are participating in crime watch program, “which I consider to be critical to community activism,” he said.
As far as fire protection, the district is so narrow and it is difficult for public safety equipment to get down Spalding to the far eastern end. “We will always have challenges just the way the city is laid out,” Greenspan explained. “Would I consider a sub station further out east on Spalding? Possibly if there was some kind of joint use with DeKalb and Gwinnett counties,” he added. “I am not sure it would make economic sense for a city-owned facility. I think partnering with DeKalb and Gwinnett is something that should be looked at by the city.”
The city recently has worked with DeKalb County, which is increasing its water intake facility off Spalding Drive and Holcomb Bridge Road, to gain access for Sandy Springs residents through the pump station to a 35-acre National Park Service tract that has been landlocked. “That is going to be a great natural resource as a passive park green space in the city,” he said.
“We don’t have the money to purchase land for parks at $400,000 an acre in my district,” Greenspan said. ‘There is land available for that and it is going to be a concern for whoever comes in behind me.
“There are large chunks of land owned by single land owners that if we are not careful may become high-density residential communities,” he explained. “Along Spalding Drive near Brandon Hall those are all three to five-acre lots owned by a private residential land owner. The way the land is zoned right now (AG-1, one house to the acre) you may well have a developer buy that single lot and put five houses in there without coming before the council for any zoning. We need to be careful of that if the mission is to preserve the community and preserve our neighborhoods.”
One of the top initiatives Greenspan moved forward in the city is Fulton County Board of Eduction city of Sandy Springs joint relationships in utilizing green space around the schools for small parks. Through the partnership the city gains access to the green space and pays for the maintenance, but does not pay anything for the land itself.
“The first park we were able to do back in March was at Spalding Charter School,” he explained. “A two-acre passive park was developed with land that was just about abandoned by the school and the community. It is a phenomenal neighborhood park now. There are picnic tables, benches on the park, the trails are clearly marked. It is a great, great resource for the community and they use it. I am very proud of that,” he added.
A similar deal was just signed for Sandy Springs Middle School. There is a multi-purpose field (football, soccer, lacrosse), a track, four tennis courts and a baseball field. “All of these facilities need maintenance, he said. “What a resource it is going to be. You will hopefully see a soccer program and lacrosse program, and schools using the track.”
He said Ridgeview Middle School, next to Ridgeview Park, may be next.
“If there is a legacy that I leave behind, I hope it is that we are able to enhance our green space through this partnership with the Board of Education,” Greenspan said.
Before the Nov. 6 special election to elect his successor, Greenspan urges any of his former constituents who have questions or concerns to contact City Council members Dianne Fries or Ashley Jenkins.