“It was the most contentious thing we have ever done” since the beginning of the Sandy Springs City Council, according to former Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins.
What she was talking about was the debate and final vote over the city’s bid to bring a campus of Gwinnett Technical College to Sandy Springs and locate it on Peachtree-Dunwoody Road next to the North Springs MARTA rail station on 11 acres owned by MARTA.
Most of the time the council votes 6-0 on issues. Maybe occasionally they vote 5-1. This vote was 3-3 with Mayor Eva Galambos casting the tie-breaking vote to pursue the college.
But in the council chamber, which had standing room only, the vote would have been a couple of hundred against and maybe eight, including council members, for the college.
Only three people in the audience rose to signify they were against the college coming to Sandy Springs. The rest were opposed to the selected site, but mainly to the city paying the college $2.5 million of taxpayer money to come to Sandy Springs.
What many probably didn’t even realize is that the city is really committed to $5 million. According to council members I talked to, the city has no signed commitments from corporations to ante up $2.5 million to match a city offering of $2.5 million. So the city could be stuck with the whole $5 million.
Others had problems with the site because: (1) Developer Charlie Roberts, who had chaired the committee that selected the site, owns undeveloped property right across the street that is zoned for three 10-14 story buildings for apartments, offices and retail. A possible conflict? (2) The city will have to spend another $9 million improving Peachtree-Dunwoody Road.
In order to be fair, we must point out that Roberts resigned as chair of the committee on Dec. 29, before the committee made its recommendation to the council.
Asked if the mayor was the one who pushed the selection of this site, one committee member simply said “she was the enforcer…the Don Corleone.”
At least the mayor gave everyone at the council meeting the opportunity to speak if they wanted to, even if their viewpoints were essentially ignored. Everybody knew what the vote would be before the meeting started.
So much for listening to constituents. Contentious it was…and remains so.
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