By Gerhard Schneibel
gerhard@reporternewspapers.net

The Sandy Spring City Council voted unanimously July 15 to accept a draft study on how to make the Roswell Road corridor more livable, but that support came with conditions after council members criticized elements of the plan.

The council does not support the concepts of widening Glenridge Drive or installing mixed-use paths parallel to Roswell Road or adjacent to Long Island Creek. Both ideas were part of the Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) study for the Roswell Road corridor.

The study was presented to the Planning Commission on April 17 and June 19, when it was approved. It sets guidelines for “creative solutions for future land use” and “transportation and circulation options.” The goal is to “promote a healthy quality of life and create a sense of place and identity for the community.”

Having the study in place will allow Sandy Springs to apply for funding from the Atlanta Regional Commission, which set $500 million aside for priority construction projects in 2000. About $140 million of that money has been committed.

Dist. 1 Councilman Doug MacGinnitie said he had a “significant problem” with a part of the study that suggested the city build pedestrian or bicycle (mixed-use) paths across private property.

“It seems to me to be a step too far to suggest to the folks in our community that we’ll be running bike paths in the back of their properties,” he said.

City transportation planner Mark Moore said two rejected ideas for mixed-use paths came out of the LCI planning process, which started in November:

• Build mixed-use paths behind Roswell Road, providing a buffer between commercial and residential property and offering nonvehicular access to the backs of commercial properties. The paths “would function sort of like alleys” and provide “back accesses from the neighborhood.”

• Build a recreational trail system in existing stream buffers.

Mayor Eva Galambos told MacGinnitie that the July 8 council work session made it clear that “much of what the study supports is a dream. None of it can be implemented without the votes of the council. … It’s like all these plans we’ve got.”

MacGinnitie replied: “It would not be my dream to require somebody to put a bike path in the middle of their property.

“These ‘plans’ have a way of taking on a life of their own. If it’s not something we would ever want to do, then I don’t know why it would even be a point.”

Like most of the council, Dist. 2 Councilwoman Diane Fries supported removing mixed-use paths from the plan.

“All the things we’ve been looking at on these were basically city property — enhancements of our roads. Now we’re taking it a step further. I’m uncomfortable with going on private property and having these pipe dreams,” she said. “I don’t want any alleys. I’ve got some up my way; they’re real hard to patrol.”

Dist. 5 Councilman Tibby DeJulio was neutral on the paths but ardently opposed widening Glenridge Drive.

“The only redeeming social value I can find in keeping [mixed-use paths] in the LCI study is if it allows us to have additional funding,” he said. “The streetscapes and the bicycle paths on Glenridge Drive are, you know, a wonderful idea. But the widening of Glenridge, it’s got to die. We’ve killed it before, and we need to kill it again. We need to take out that one word that says ‘expanding.’ ”