John F. Schaffner
Sandy Springs City Council recently authorized issuing a request for information (RFI) to developers regarding a future city hall.
The council vote was not unanimous. District 6 Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny voted against the RFI.
I met with McEnerny to explore her reasons — beyond what was made public at the council meeting. Her logic is two-fold.
First, she does not feel there is a firm commitment to solicit opinions of Sandy Springs residents as to what type of city hall they want — whether it should be a campus environment, should be integrated into a multi-use office complex or maybe something else. Also, where do residents want city hall located?
Second, she feels the wording of the RFI pre-determines that the city hall will be within a multi-use office complex located in what is being referred to by city officials as a town center. That generally means the area along Roswell Road between I-285 and the Sandy Springs Plaza shopping center.
McEnerny is correct when she says there are many residents in the city that have stated they would like a campus-style city hall complex. Some have even been very specific and suggested it should be where the Target store and Goodwill facility presently are located on Johnson Ferry Road between Roswell Road and Sandy Springs Circle.
One group voiced the opinion that the Target site would tie in the complex with the city’s historic site down the road.
Whether that can be accomplished or not — or even if that is what most residents want — is yet to be seen.
But McEnerny and others feel that idea may have been pushed off the table by the RFI authorized during a council work session Feb. 12.
One such person, Charles Maddrey, copied me on a letter he sent to Mayor Galambos and members of city council on Feb. 22. He said he is concerned about the RFI for two basic reasons. These are his words:
“First and foremost, I feel very strongly that we should have a concerted effort to get the citizens of Sandy Springs involved in the vision and in the discussions of what we really want and what we are willing to pay for. One of the founding principles of Sandy Springs was community involvement in the decision making. To date this has been one of the greatest benefits of having the city. Whatever the council’s sense of urgency is, I find it difficult to think that it should override getting the citizens of Sandy Springs totally involved in the process.
“Secondly, I question why you restrict the proposals to a redevelopment project. On the surface that would make the most sense and might lessen the cost to the city. However, I see no reason to restrict developers from looking at all of the options. Why not? Someone may come up with a good proposal that does not include redevelopment.
“Furthermore, it may be that you find the citizens are more interested in the viability of a city hall for the long term versus the most economical method at the moment.”
He concluded his letter by saying:
“Any new city hall will be the face of the city for years to come. I think council should take its time, involve the citizens to as great a degree as possible, and make certain this is done correctly.”
City council might have tried to get a sense of the community before issuing the RFI so the door would be open to any and all proposals.
But, since RFI has been issued, it seems to me to be imperative that the city go overboard in providing opportunities for citizen input on what and where the new city hall complex will be.
It is that openness in city government that I seem to recall the Sandy Springs residents sought, and in fact demanded, when they voted for cityhood.