By Amy Wenk
Sandy Springs planners want to make good neighbors out of Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church and School and adjacent homeowners.
Hoping to settle deep-rooted discord, the city staff suggested July 29 that more than 40 conditions accompany Holy Innocents’ pending master plan. Proposed are limits on student enrollment, indoor and outdoor lighting, and loudspeakers — issues neighbors have raised for nearly a decade.
The proposed stipulations echo those set forth in a 2002 private agreement between residents and Holy Innocents’ but give the city enforcement powers over the limits.
“It is intended to be an enforcement and compliance issue,” Director of Community Development Nancy Leathers said.
The school and church are seeking city approval to expand and revamp their shared 40-acre campus on Mount Vernon Highway. The application was introduced June 1 and will go before the Planning Commission on Aug. 20.
The master plan details $60 million to $80 million of improvements to the campus in three phases. The major goal of the 12-to-15-year redevelopment is to redesign the heart of the campus to improve connectivity and increase green space. That includes consolidating the six structures of the circa-1950 Riley building (once an elementary school) into three buildings that will form a half-circle around a new carpool lane.
Other improvements include about 13,000 square feet of church additions, including a new chapel, and some 10,000 square feet of athletic support space.
The school proposes no increase in enrollment. The maximum number of kindergartners through 12th-graders will remain 1,300, with a cap of 176 for the preschool. As of April 1, those enrollments were 1,236 and 176, respectively.
As part of the draft conditions, the private school and day care would have to provide the city with annual enrollment totals “so we know you are in compliance,” Leathers said.
Other stipulations tackle outdoor loudspeaker use and volume on the school’s football and baseball fields. Holy Innocents’ is conducting a sound system analysis, and specific days and times will be laid out based on the results.
Lighting conditions are included but are not final. Preliminary measures state all outdoor lighting will be screened from neighbors, and indoor classroom lights will be turned off by midnight.
Six conditions address variances for the Irene Jones property, a 2-acre tract in the southwest portion of the site.
Along with the approval of the master plan, Holy Innocents’ is seeking the revision of three use permits for the church, school and day care facilities. Changes are necessary to accommodate the pending acquisition of the Jones land.
Laurie Robbins, who has lived in the nearby Avalon neighborhood since 1987, said the conditions don’t clarify uses allowed on the Jones site or its future appearance.
“I think the purpose was to allow a little flexibility” because vacant residences can attract troublesome activity, Holy Innocents’ attorney Amy Hillman said, “not to sneak in additional uses.”
Leathers assured residents they will have a say about anything built on the Jones site.