The following letter was sent Feb. 13 to a wide range of public officials by a group of Sandy Springs neighborhood associations and sent to the Sandy Springs Reporter for publication.
The undersigned Homeowners Associations located in the city of Sandy Springs are writing to inform you of our objections to the decision represented by the Sandy Springs City Council’s 4-3 vote of Jan. 18 (authorizing a response to the Gwinnett Technical College campus proposal) and our reasons for objecting to that decision.
Following are a few of the key points on which we base our objections and therefore do not support the city vote:
1. The citizens of Sandy Springs strongly object to the use of $5 million of our tax dollars to incent GTC to locate within our community. We already pay taxes to support GTC and other public education institutions and believe this to be a form of double taxation. This practice of seeking incentives from public bodies to locate a public institution is highly unusual and quite out of the norm.
2. The citizens of Sandy Springs have been told “only” $2.5 million of our tax dollars would be used for this incentive as the balance will come from corporate contributions. As of the date of the city vote, no corporate contributions were committed in written form. Whether $2.5 million or $5 million, the citizens of Sandy Springs would prefer our tax dollars be utilized to support other capital projects within our city.
3. The citizens of Sandy Springs do not believe the city of Sandy Springs proposal will meet the requirements as stated in the IOI:
A. Site – The campus would be located on no less than 35 acres of undeveloped land (preferably 100 acres). The North Springs MARTA site falls far short of this requirement and will not allow for future expansion. The MARTA site is only 11 acres.
In addition, this Committee should be aware the city of Sandy Springs site selection committee was originally chaired by an individual who is president of a publicly traded company that owns a commercially zoned site directly across from the North Springs MARTA station. This individual stepped down as committee chair when the North Springs MARTA station was identified as the final site. The city representative who sat on the committee was Mayor Galambos, who cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the proposal which is so strongly opposed by the city residents.
In the Jan. 18 City Council meeting, residents identified other sites suitable for consideration whose owners/managers indicated a strong desire to discuss terms to locate GTC on their properties. The City Council’s passing motion included such additional investigation previously dismissed by the city’s site selection committee. We understand one such site, previously discounted by the site selection committee, is now also included with the city’s proposal along with the North Springs MARTA site.
B. Access to public transportation – As this campus is intended to be a regional campus serving the North Fulton County population, locating at the North Springs MARTA station brings no value as North Fulton residents do not have access to a rail line. Only those coming from South Fulton and DeKalb County will be able to take advantage of MARTA rail service. Other sites within walking distance of MARTA stations, where supporting infrastructure is in place, were discounted or not considered.
C. Evidence of coordination between or among jurisdictions – There has been no official outreach by the city of Sandy Springs to the city of Dunwoody, which is located within a mile of the North Springs MARTA site. Given the location of the North Springs MARTA site, GTC stands to have a greater impact on Dunwoody than on Sandy Springs. In fact, when contacted by citizens of Sandy Springs for input, at least two Dunwoody council members strongly suggested the city of Sandy Springs should reject the North Springs MARTA site.
D. Distance from institutions offering similar programming or course offerings – Georgia Perimeter College and the Art Institute of Atlanta offer quite a few duplicative. or at the very least similar, course offerings within close proximity of the North Springs MARTA site.
E. Adequate utility infrastructure – The single access road to the North Springs MARTA site would require widening, and sanitary sewer would need to be built. No study has been done to determine the current adequacy of water pressure for fire protection, nor for the addition of personnel and equipment to support emergency needs. An estimate to widen the road is close to $10 million dollars, bringing the taxpayer bill to at least $15 million.
F. Multiple points of site access from arterial or minor existing public roadways – The only point of access to the North Springs MARTA site is from Peachtree Dunwoody Road.
4. The city of Sandy Springs proposal, as presented to its citizens, will allow for GTC access to North Springs Charter High School campus after 4 p.m. This committee should be aware the North Springs Charter High School is already a fully utilized facility with over 1,300 students currently enrolled and numerous extra-curricular activities using the campus after regular school hours. Additionally, the facilities are highly utilized by existing community programs from adult soccer leagues to pre-K classes.
5. It is unclear to the citizens who would be responsible for the North Springs MARTA site ground lease, terms of which have apparently been negotiated by the city. Will it be GTC or will it be the city of Sandy Springs? Unfortunately, our elected officials have not been transparent on matters pertaining to this proposal.
6. Environmental considerations – This committee should be aware the North Springs MARTA site is crossed by Marsh Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River. MARTA is bound to comply with all Tributary Buffer Zone Ordinances which will further decrease the available building space on this site.
This committee should also be aware of the Colonial pipeline which is in close proximity to the North Springs MARTA site and the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington (MRSC) requirement that schools should be located 600 to 1000 feet outside the easement for a structure of this nature.
We thank you for your consideration and urge you to locate GTC in a community whose citizens fully support the recommendations of its mayor and city council.
Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods
(Volunteer group of HOA Officers from each city district)
Mary Vorus, president
Drayton Hall Homeowners Association
Lisa Bragg, president
Greater Branches Neighborhood Association
Barbara Malone, president
Mountaire Springs Neighborhood Association
J. Cortne Pappas, co-president
North Riverside HOA
Lisa Azar, co-president
The Oaks of Dunwoody Homeowners Association
Maryalice Buettgen, president
Westfair II HOA