By C. Julia Nelson
cjnelson@reporternewspapers.net

Times are changing at the northeast corner of Hammond Drive and Peachtree Dunwoody Road in Sandy Springs.

During the April 15 Sandy Springs City Council meeting, council voted unanimously to approve an application to rezone the commercial property at 1140 and 1150 Hammond Dr. from MIX (Mixed Use District) Conditional to MIX. Requested by developer Patrick Chesser of Corporate Campus, LLC, the approval came with limitations on how tall two condominium towers can be built.

The application as presented included two 30-floor age-restricted, independent living condominium and office buildings atop six-floor parking decks and a 10-story, 160-room Intercontinental Hotel on the 19.42-acre property. Council’s approval limits the special use permit to exceed the maximum allowable height of 60 feet for the residential towers to 30 stories, compared to the 36 originally requested for inclusion of the parking decks.

Despite the limitation, Chesser said the progress of the development would not be impeded.

“It’ll move forward,” he said. “I think we can fit more units on two towers with 30-story structures than before.”

Previously the application had included only one tower, but approval from council cites two.

“I expect the parking to be less impactful than a standard condominium project,” Chesser said. “A lot of these residents don’t have cars; they will take a bus or towncars, provided by the (future) developer.”

Chesser told council they could anticipate a future application from a developer, which he would not name, relative to the independent living structures once council finalizes a new zoning classification ordinance relating to such developments within the city.

“It’s in the queue,” he said.

Pete Hendricks, attorney for Corporate Campus mentioned that the eventual developer of the two towers may come back before council with additional requests relative to the allowable height restrictions.

Additionally, council required that pursuant to the issuance to the applicant of a land disturbance permit, a right-hand turn lane be incorporated from westbound Hammond to northbound Peachtree Dunwoody.

Speaking on behalf of Dunwoody Chace residents, Avra Hawkins shared concerns about the proximity of their community to the project, which is within 500 feet. She said their quality of life would be negatively impacted if the project would be built as proposed at 36 stories.

“Thirty-six stories is unimaginable at this close of a distance,” she said. “Six stories for parking doesn’t sound like much, but it’s that much more skyline that we lose. We’d like to see the buildings back to what the code (allows).”

She said the neighbors favored reducing the height of the proposed office and hotel facilities to keep them within the required zoning limitations, which allows for four stories.

Additionally, she cautioned council against traffic congestion, noise, air and light pollution, noting that the neighbors would appreciate a traffic signal at the entrance to their neighborhood.

“There’s already gridlock every day at the intersection of Hammond and Peachtree Dunwoody,” she said. “There are already at least 12 towers, existing or approved for future construction, within two miles of this region (adding to the traffic problem). (Corporate Campus) is adding to our general discomfort that we’re already experiencing. This really does change our lifestyle and quality of existence.”

She explained that the neighbors have extreme difficulty simply leaving the neighborhood.

“In peak hours it takes us 30 minutes to get to the hospital,” she said. “In off-peak hours it takes three. That’s not acceptable in emergency situations.”

Under the suggestion of Council member Karen Meizen-McEnerny, council stipulated that if the applicant can secure an agreement with adjacent land owners, that an additional north/south inter-parcel access road be connected to the planned east/west road, High Street, through the office/condo complex. Council agreed this should be built to provide an alternate route for Dunwoody Chace residents onto main roads.

The approval also included variance requests for an additional monument sign on Peachtree Dunwoody Road and internal directional signage. The third approved variance would allow the applicant to eliminate the landscape strips in areas currently developed with buildings or parking along Peachtree-Dunwoody Road.

This decision comes based on a recommendation from the March 20 Planning Commission meeting whereby the commission voted unanimously for approval.

In other business, Sandy Springs City Council members:

Deferred a request to modify zoning at 1100 Johnson Ferry Rd. Council voted 5-1 with Karen Meizen-McEnerny issuing the opposing vote. The matter has been deferred for 60 days to allow council to examine the “developer’s credibility” based on misinformation provided to Councilman Rusty Paul.