By Gerhard Schneibel
gerhard@reporternewspapers.net

The Sandy Springs Planning Commission put a hold Nov. 20 on Atlanta-based Oxford Properties’ plans to redevelop 1155 Hammond Drive.

The commission suggested the City Council grant the developer a 30-day deferral, which would bring the project back before the Planning Commission in January and before the council in February.

Developers said the Planning Commission’s demands would render the project a financial loss. The plans they presented include 20,000 square feet of restaurants, 50,000 square feet of retail space and 398 apartments, joining a 120-room hotel that is already on the site.

Planning Commission member Roger Rupnow said that because the property is zoned live-work-regional, its minimum density should be 25,000 square feet of building space per acre.

“You aren’t anywhere near that,” he said. “If you want to develop in that kind of a neighborhood, you’ve got to come in with a density that meets the (comprehensive) plan, not 2,000 or 6,000 square feet per acre.”

Oxford Properties should construct buildings taller than the planned six-story ones, he said.

“You’re within a couple of blocks of (the Dunwoody) MARTA station. We’re trying to encourage high-density development at that intersection, and you’re coming in with a six-story building? No, thank you,” he said. “I can’t imagine given the opportunity that somebody would want to develop it at that density when you could do so much more with the site.”

Bill Hargett, a developing partner with Oxford Properties, said building vertically would require a change in “construction methodology.”

“It adds very substantially to the cost. It has been our experience that you don’t just make the decision that you’re going from six to seven floors; you’re going from six to 17. There’s kind of no middle ground there,” Hargett said. “If we were to do that, we would have to get something north of $2 per square foot in rents in a market that is barely achieving $1.40. It just doesn’t pencil.”

Planning Commission Chairman Lee Duncan said Oxford Properties’ site plan is too full and lacks adequate interparcel access. The developer is “not limited by going strictly horizontal,” he said.

“There probably is a point where these two can … provide some reasonable interparcel access that would truly relieve pressure off of Hammond Drive and off of Peachtree-Dunwoody rather than dumping them directly out there, which is what I see us doing now,” he said. “There is a vertical option that could be explored, and it doesn’t need to be spread over every unit on that site.”

Woody Galloway, a Dillard & Galloway lawyer representing Oxford Properties, pointed out his client already agreed to donate 4 percent of the property to Sandy Springs for the widening of Hammond Drive.

“This density works. It provides needed housing in a market that does not have adequate rental housing,” he said.

Planning Commissioner Wayne Thatcher said, “I think maybe you just have the wrong project.”

He noted that the Senior Care Development LLC buildings planned for Perimeter Town Center across Hammond Drive will be 30 stories tall. Those two towers were included in Sandy Springs-based Ackerman & Co.’s original rezoning application for Perimeter Town Center, which was formerly called Corporate Campus.

“Why aren’t you doing 30 stories here and interparcel access?” Thatcher asked representatives of Oxford Properties.

The Senior Care Development buildings at 1140 and 1150 Hammond Drive received a unanimous recommendation for approval later during the Planning Commission meeting. They will include 753,000 square feet of commercial and office space, a 160-room hotel and, 479 independent living apartments for seniors.