By C. Julia Nelson
cjnelson@reporternewspaper.net

In a 5-1 vote, Sandy Springs City Council deferred a request to rezone property to make way for more medical offices on Johnson Ferry Road because of a traffic concern.

Duke Realty Corporation has applied to modify the zoning (O-I conditional, Office and Institutional District) to convert 170,000 square feet of office space into medical space at 1100 Johnson Ferry Rd. and to add 79 parking spots.

The major point of controversy over the project seemed to revolve around the possible installation of a traffic signal along Johnson Ferry Road, across from the adjacent Johnson Ferry Park townhome complex and at the entrance to the project, to alleviate illegal turns into the project site.

Michael Prochaska, a manager for Duke Realty, spoke on behalf of the owners, BC Center Point, LLC, advocating that upon completion of a traffic study, a traffic signal is not warranted based on current traffic patterns. He said using right-in and right-out only ingress and egress, accompanied by adequate signage, should be sufficient to resolve any traffic issues.

“The (traffic) volumes generated from the project currently work with the geography and existing traffic control can handle what we are proposing,” Prochaska said.

Mark Moore, a Sandy Springs transportation planner agreed with the findings of Duke’s study based on a second, in-house study, but said other alternatives might prove a better solution to the traffic concerns.

“Their study is methodologically sound. It was done correctly,” he said. “I saw his conclusions and took them a step further.”

Two neighbors from Johnson Ferry Park, Bryan Kovacs and Marvin Weintraub, spoke in opposition of the rezoning request based on a concern for public safety relative to increased traffic at the site. Neighbors are requesting the traffic signal be added as part of the rezoning modification requirements.

“Left turn only and right turn only signs don’t make a difference,” Weintraub said. “This is the first time we’ve opposed a development here; the reason is safety.”

“Safety is our concern, but a traffic light is the solution,” said Kovacs, who serves as the president of the Johnson Ferry Homeowners Association. “If you approve this without a light, someone’s going to get killed.”

Council member Dianne Fries provided the opposing vote on the premise that the study presented the necessary verification to disprove the theory that a signal is needed.

“I’m not comfortable denying or deferring this (request) because of a ‘what if’ for St. Joes,” she said. “Their traffic study and our own (city staff) say it doesn’t warrant a light. Everything that (council presented as) an issue, they studied. He’s met the obligations from when it was deferred before.”

Other council members voted in favor of deferment to allow time for the developers and the city to confer with representatives of St. Joseph’s Hospital, which is located just north of the project site, and to seek out alternative solutions, such as additional ingresses and/or egresses in other locations on the site.

The cost to install the traffic signal is estimated at about $250,000.

In other business, council members:

• Awarded an $873,363 contract to Protronix Inc. for the construction of an Advanced Traffic Management Center in City Hall in addition to field cameras for linkage to the city’s web site. Protronix will develop a fiber-optic master plan for all field devices connected to the traffic center.

• Passed a resolution authorizing the installation of traffic calming devices in the Meadowbrook neighborhood with a 4-3 vote. Mayor Eva Galambos provided the tie- breaking vote; council members Fries, Jenkins and Meinzen McEnerny voted against the resolution.

• Authorized the adoption of impact fees.

• Approved a 5 percent bonus for the city manager.