To the editor:
I must take umbrage with the comments expressed in Dr. Peter Trager’s letter to the editor last issue (Feb. 12-25 edition). The [Sandy Springs] City Council does not operate behind closed doors as he asserts.
As city attorney, I am responsible for counseling city officials on pending legal issues. This requires my candor and assessment of the various legal issues facing the city as my client. To do this with full freedom of discussion of issues, we do so in closed session, as permitted by law.
When this involves an issue of pending litigation over zoning of property or land use permits, it is the council’s policy the matter to be resolved will go forward only after a full review with public hearings, from the neighborhood hearings, Design Review Board, Planning Commission (or, with use permit applications, Board Of Appeals) and finally, City Council where the ultimate decision is made.
To begin this process, City Council will vote in open session to initiate an application in its name. This is to make the process as transparent as possible. It would be very easy for the council to just enter into a “consent settlement order” to do something which would resolve the litigation, but our council does not operate in this manner, and will not.
Let me apprise all of the City Walk litigation issues. First, the developer already had a valid building permit issued in 2005 by Fulton County government prior to our city’s incorporation. The reason the city was able to put a hold on development going forward was the failure by the developer to obtain Georgia Department of Transportation approval necessary for the development, which is on Roswell Road, a state road.
The initial project plan was deemed to be substantially detrimental to the city. Over a long period of negotiations by the city’s Community Development Department, the city achieved many concessions, which brought about a vastly improved development plan for this important property centrally located in the city.
Dr. Trager, a resident in a development adjacent to City Walk, may not be pleased with the development plan, but the property owners have a constitutionally protected right to have reasonable use of their property.
Following a process that guarantees transparency and public input, the city achieved a vastly improved plan for development of this important tract, and achieved a win-win outcome.
This is just one of many examples of the commitment of the elected leaders of the city of Sandy Springs to work in a positive deliberative manner to ensure that the quality of life we enjoy in our city is preserved.
Wendell Willard, Sandy Springs city attorney