By Gerhard Schneibel
Sandy Springs approved a new set of development regulations in September, and representatives from the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association and the Council for Quality Growth said that the change saves them confusion and delays.
Nancy Leathers, the director of community development, said the regulations were compiled from portions of the existing zoning ordinance, public works policy and subdivision regulations. Doing so has improved their consistency and user-friendliness.
“We want the builder and developer community to be able to find these things and know what’s expected,” she said. “We’re a fully developed community, and people want to know what’s going on.”
Among the elements modified or added:
• An expiration clause was added to land disturbance permits (LDP) to discourage developers from abandoning projects after breaking ground. A developer may reapply for an expired LDP. If a project is abandoned, the city can stabilize the site with grass and landscaping using money the developer deposited.
• The sidewalk conditions were changed to allow developers to pay the city rather than install sidewalks in some cases. Developers used to be required to put in sidewalks along the frontage of the lots they developed, leading to fragmented sidewalks throughout the city. The City Council has moved to centralize this process and build seamless sidewalks.
• When developers put in wells or septic tanks, which are allowed by the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness, they are required to hold a pre-construction conference with the city. The intent is to minimize erosion problems, Leathers said.
• Developers are not required to engineer retaining walls that are 4 feet high or shorter. The new regulations prohibit the staggering of multiple 4-foot retaining walls to create the engineering effect of a single, taller wall.
• New single-family homes now are required to have their addresses posted on a mailbox or a post near the main entrance or driveway. The lettering must be at least 3 inches tall and contrast with the background to aid emergency vehicles.
Possible punishments for regulatory violations include fines, jail time and community service, but Leathers said the development community has been “extremely cooperative.”
The city also could issue a stop-work order if, for instance, silt were washing off a construction site.
“We really have had very, very good cooperation,” Leathers said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had any significant problems.”
Jahnee Prince of the Duluth-based Council for Quality Growth said local government and clear regulations foster a good working atmosphere between developers and planners.
“I think it’s nice to have elected officials and staff people that are closer to the area that’s being worked on,” she said. “They’re closer; they have experience with it. When you mention a piece of property, they can picture it.”
Joe Padilla of the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association said he is trying to get an irregularity in driveway specifications cleared up, but “it’s great to have a city and staff that are focused on the issues in that area. The planning has been excellent.”
Leathers said the regulations were a joint effort with the Public Works Department. “Any time you do a new ordinance, you want to follow it for a while,” she said. “But right now, since much of it was lifted from our existing ordinances, we really feel pretty good about it.”