The Roswell Road streetscape delays caused the Sandy Springs City Council on Sept. 6 to reassign some grant money previously allocated for the project.
City Council members moved $100,000 federal grant for the Roswell Road streetscape project to the Abernathy Greenway Linear Park project. The Roswell Road streetscape project would improve sidewalks and make other upgrades from Johnson Ferry to Abernathy roads. Abernathy Greenway Linear Park will create the park along Abernathy Road and involve widening parts of the road next to the park.
The city previously received a $700,000 transportation enhancement grant for the Abernathy Greenway project. Both grants are being administered through the Georgia Department of Transportation.
The streetscape project has been delayed because of a dispute regarding billboards in the city.
Councilman Chip Collins said the city’s decision to move the money should not be taken as an indication of where the council is headed on the streetscape project.
“It’s shifting of money to a project ready to utilize those funds and I don’t think anymore should be read into that,” Collins said.
At its Aug. 2 council meeting, the City Council deferred plans to buy up right of way for the streetscape as a statement to property owners considering putting up billboards on Roswell Road. Mayor Eva Galambos said she didn’t want to spend $540,000 to buy the rights of way needed for the streetscape project if property owners had plans to put billboards there. The money would match the $2.16 million in other federal money awarded for the project.
The move was criticized as heavy handed by property owners along the road. The city is still weighing its options in response to a June Georgia Supreme Court ruling that sign companies that had been denied permits under a Fulton County law before Sandy Springs became a city could put those billboards up.
Public Works Director Kevin Walter cited the city’s delay in buying the necessary right of way in his recommendation that the City Council spend the $100,000 grant elsewhere. He said if the city does not spend the grant money, it risks losing it.
“The City is preparing to issue a bid document that will expend the $700,000 for the (Abernathy Greenway) project,” Walter wrote. “By reallocating the $100,000 grant … the City will not run the risk of having the funds withdrawn by GDOT.”
Walter said that moving the money is essentially a wash for the council; it won’t have to pay as much for Abernathy but will have to pay more for Roswell when and if it decides to move forward.