To the editor:
I have never been as embarrassed as I was at the City Council meeting on September 18, 2007. I was not only embarrassed for myself, but for every citizen of Sandy Springs. What was supposed to have been a rezoning issue was completely ignored in favor of the personal agenda of the City Council.
Mr. Robert Donner is developing one of the most beautiful residential areas in Sandy Springs. He has been very conscientious about tree removal, maintaining green space and keeping the area as natural as possible. Every tree that is removed is recycled on site and used in landscaping the development. He has been in constant contact with neighbors and neighborhood associations, addressed their concerns and implemented many of their suggestions. This development should be a blueprint for others to follow. It is truly a quality undertaking.
Mr. Donner went before the City Council with an application to rezone from CUP conditional to CUP in order to donate one of the homes to a group of priests with the Catholic Church. This, of course, was after he received approval from the Design Review Board and the Planning Commission. The home was to be multi, individual bedrooms and baths, a common living area and a small chapel or church. A stipulation was that if the priests abandoned the property for any reason that it would be reconstructed back to a single family home.
Instead of considering the application to rezone, the City Council led off by accusing Mr. Donner of improprieties and paying off the Highpoint Civic Association for their support of his request. The truth is that Mr. Donner made a $7500.00 donation to the Highpoint Elementary School, which is the school that the children in his development will be attending. He did not make a donation to the HPCA nor any other organization.
Diane Fries led off with a statement that there were rumors of improprieties and questions of lack of integrity on Mr. Donner’s part. Then Rusty Paul went into a tirade verbally attacking Mr. Donner’s reputation and integrity and essentially calling him a liar. I think there was a misunderstanding between all parties and this should have been handled in private and with all parties involved. It appeared that there were several things taken out of context by both sides. Tibby DiJulio told Nancy Early, President of the HPCA, that the HPCA was discredited because they had supported Mr. Donner and had suggested his donating to the school. The HPCA often makes requests of developers to make monetary donations to various civic projects whether they support or oppose the development.
One of the opponent’s to Mr. Donner’s application was the Ledgemont Condominium Homeowner’s Association. I will also note that there were several Ledgemont residents who were there in support. Mr. Donner was working with several neighborhood associations. No one questioned or accused the Ledgemont Homeowners when Mr. Donner refused to make $90,000.00 worth of landscape improvements to their adjacent property. Did I say that they were opposed to the rezoning? Ms. McEnery asked Mr. Donner if he had given any funds to any member of the City Council. To me, this was a question to clear up any inuendos that Mr. Donner had given funds to Karen McEnery because she was the only one on the council that took the Design Review Board and Planning Commission recommendations and the wishes of her constituents in making her decision to support. Ashley Jenkins just rolled her eyes as she does frequently when Ms. McEnery speaks. This is immature and disrespectful behavior to her fellow Council member and her peer.
One of the council members said, “I have a problem with 12 unrelated men living together.” This is a blatant statement of prejudice and was the whole purpose of the verbal abuse and consequent denial of the application.
This behavior should not be acceptable nor tolerated by the citizens of Sandy Springs.
The mayor should have had the power to have taken control of this meeting and stopped this behavior. In an email response from Mayor Galambos, she stated that she did not have the power to silence elected officials. Perhaps we as a city should give the power to the mayor to control inappropriate behavior. I don’t believe anyone should be silenced, but should certainly adhere to a more ethical code of conduct.
I urge every citizen of Sandy Springs to go to www.sandyspringsga.org and review the minutes of this meeting and form your own opinion. I also urge every voter in District 1 to look closely at the candidates to take Dave Greenspan’s seat in November. If any one member of the Sandy Springs City Council’s “private club” endorses a candidate that should immediately send up a red flag.