By Gerhard Schneibel
gerhard@reporternewspapers.net

On May 20, the Sandy Springs City Council unanimously approved the rezoning of Hammond Glen Senior Community, 335 Hammond Drive N.E., to allow the construction of an additional, 72-unit building on the 6.2-acre site.

In order to proceed with the project, Hammond Glen Properties Inc., will remove the surface-level parking lot between the existing building and Hammond Drive and move the resident parking to a currently unused parking deck behind the building. Residents of the apartments expressed concern at the meeting that they will have trouble accessing parking on the ramps of the parking deck.

The 11-story tower was built in 1983 as a traditional high-rise, according to project architect Paul Stegenga of the Alpharetta-based Stegenga and Partners.

“We’re asking for a parking variance because we did a parking study and, as many of you know, assisted living and independent senior housing is not a high traffic generating use,” Stegenga told the council. “We’d probably like to go to four stories (with the new resident building) because we can make a better site plan, deal with separating resident traffic from traffic with semis, moving vehicles and the food service people. We’re simply here to ask that you approve our application without condition.”

Prior to its approval, the council removed from its motion a requirement that the developers align the property’s entrance with Boylston Drive to create a four-way intersection with Hammond Drive. For that to be feasible, the drive would have to be constructed on office building property neighboring to the west.

“The city had asked us to reconfigure that intersection, and we felt that it’s certainly an intersection that needs to be addressed, but by the city and not a private landowner,” Stegenga said. “We don’t think – as a private landowner – that we should be burdened by a systemwide improvement.”

Judith Peters, a 4½-year resident of Hammond Glen, explained to council the apartments are the place where she hopes to “finish out [her] life.”

“I do live on the front of the building and I do look into the parking area and I will be looking at the new construction,” she said. “Parking, to me, is a major concern. When you look out the front of the building, there are probably approximately one hundred parking spaces. As of what we’ve been told by the owner of the property, this will be reduced to 18 parking spaces, and most of the parking would be moved to the back of the building and the south end of the building. There is some flat parking space there on the upper level, but most of the parking is on an up-ramp.”

Stegenga told the council requirements of the Georgia Accessibility Act are stricter than those of the Americans with Disabilities Act and access to parking would be addressed during the project’s design phase.

“So it’s your belief that the lady’s concerns would be addressed as you go through that process?” Dist. 3 Councilman Rusty Paul asked him.

“Yes, sir,” Stegenga said.

“And will it be your responsibility to make sure you meet with the residents to make them comfortable to that process?” Paul asked.

“Yes, sir,” Stegenga said.

Stegenga also said Hammond Glen Properties, Inc., is willing to donate the piece of its property fronting Hammond Drive to the city once the drive is widened. Most of the property and the current building are set back from the road, and the piece is used for an entrance and retention pond. The city has not finalized its plans to widen Hammond Drive.

“[Dist. 5 Councilman] Tibby DeJulio has an idea that when Sandy Springs expands Hammond Drive, they want to make it a park-like avenue and not just lanes and lanes of cars, but open space and public space and walking space. So that’s certainly a design opportunity to use that open space,” Stegenga said in an interview.

“They don’t have a timetable of when they’re doing a widening of Hammond Drive, so it’s hard for the owner to make any commitments about what to do with that space other than to say, you know, it’s available,” he added.