Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos made local history on March 20 when she promised to veto the City Council’s decision to require inspections before developers in the city start projects.
Galambos hasn’t used her veto power since the city incorporated in 2005.
The City Council during its regular meeting voted 4-1 to require pre-development inspections. Councilman Chip Collins was absent.
City spokeswoman Sharon Kraun said the city would need to make one of its part-time positions full time or hire another part-time employee to handle the increase in inspections required by the council vote.
Under the city’s charter, which establishes powers of elected officials, the mayor has until the next council meeting to veto any action taken by the council. The mayor must provide a written explanation for a veto and the council can overturn a veto with a simple majority.
An action vetoed by a mayor automatically becomes part of the next City Council meeting agenda, according to the charter.
Councilman Tibby DeJulio, the lone “no” vote, blasted his fellow council member’s actions, saying they were meddling in issues that should be handled by city staff.
“This is would be something they’d be proud of in the city of Atlanta or Fulton County,” DeJulio said. “The only thing that’s missing is somebody’s cousin to take the job.”
The mayor called the council’s decision a waste of taxpayers’ money, in addition to micromanagement.
The council’s decision will cost $17,000 this fiscal year and $60,000 next fiscal year if the council decides to continue the practice.
“I do not like to see something micromanaged,” Galambos said. “This did not emanate from the city manager. The city manager was jostled and told to come up with figures.”
City Council members, in particular Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny, requested beefing up the inspections. They would be done by an employee described in city documents as both a landscape architect and arborist, meaning the inspector would also work to limit damage to the city’s tree canopy.
Sandy Springs was recently named a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation for the third year in a row.
But the new inspections also come at a time when the city is trying to improve its relationship with developers, who are complaining that the permit process takes too long. The city in February asked developers to fill out a survey about how well its Community Development Department handles permit applications. In November, it extended the deadline to request a next-day inspection required for permits.
“The staff has been trying to expedite the process to make the permitting faster. This is not going to make it faster,” Galambos said. “I will have a veto message on this particular vote, explaining all the reasons I do not think this is good.”
Other council members said the additional inspections will save time because they will prevent problems that might crop up in the middle of a project. Councilwoman Dianne Fries said the council asked staff to study the need for pre-inspections and said the staff came back with the recommendations the council approved.
“It was by no means something we willy-nilly pulled out of our whatever,” Fries said.
The veto threat capped a tense discussion about the issue.
After the council voted and Galambos promised to nullify their vote, McEnerny asked what the procedure is for dealing with a mayoral veto.
“Go read the charter,” Galambos told her.