By Amy Wenk

The Sandy Springs Planning Commission stayed late Nov. 19 to review plans for City Walk Towers, a development proposed for the L-shaped lot at the corner of Roswell Road and Hammond Drive.

The board decided only on more discussion, tabling a decision until December.

“I see a lot of nasty things here,” said Planning Commission Chair Lee Duncan.

Those concerns included the development’s impact on traffic and if its design fits into the coveted center of Sandy Springs.

“This is the city’s first major development along Roswell Road,” Commission member Roger Rupnow said. “We need to make sure it’s a positive example of what you can expect to find in the months and years ahead.”

The proposed plans are to build an eight-story building on the nearly two-acre, vacant lot encircled by businesses like Dunkin Donuts, Burger King and the City Walk Kroger. The development would consist of 273 one- and two-bedroom apartments and 6,409 square feet for retail or restaurants, accessible to drivers and residents via inlets on Hammond and Sandy Springs drives.

“I just see that as a big accident area,” said Commission member David Rubenstein.

City Traffic Engineer Mark Moore agreed it was “not the most ideal access for a site” but reminded the Commission the proposal for City Walk Towers is faced with an unusual situation.

The site, which once housed a lumber company and gas station, was zoned by Fulton County prior to Sandy Springs’ incorporation. In January 2005, the county issued a building permit for the construction of a 10-story building with 309 multifamily units and 15,000 square feet of retail.

Later that year, when Sandy Springs became a city, a stop-work order was placed on the building permit because the site plan failed to include a future transportation project to add a right-turn lane from Roswell to Hammond Road.

The property has been in court since.

“This would be a very different animal if it was start to finish in Sandy Springs,” Moore said.

Attempting to resolve the litigation, Sandy Springs officials revised the development plan to accommodate the right turn lane, and as a result, reduced the size of the structure.

“This one is a tough situation,” said Assistant City Attorney Cecil McClendon, who warned the Commission that deferring the case could eliminate their input since the application will head to City Council for a vote Dec. 15.

Resident Dr. Peter Trager questioned the city’s role as applicant and demanded “full public disclosure about all aspects of this development.”

Trager lives in the townhouse community City Walk Heights, which sits just north of the proposed development.

His neighbor, Howard Austin, also spoke in opposition.

“The hole in the ground is better than the wrong development,” said Austin who criticized the height of the structure. “It would be better for the city to buy out the current owner.”

The financial backer of City Walk Towers is Pacific Life Insurance. The architect is Wallace Garcia Wilson, and the apartment manager is The Hanover Company.