To the editor:
I want to share with Sandy Springs taxpayers what I have learned. I’m the civic association president for Atlanta’s fourth largest neighborhood, North Buckhead. My neighborhood adjoins Sandy Springs from Roswell Road to Peachtree Dunwoody Road.
The proposed Sandy Springs Gateway project (west side of Roswell Road at Windsor Parkway in Sandy Springs) is almost next door to us, and we will be impacted by its coming surge of traffic. So we have been following the project’s rezoning application closely.
While nearby neighborhoods rightly protest the Gateway’s precedent-setting density and building heights, the Sandy Springs government seems dead set on approving Gateway, seeing it as a badly- needed improvement.
However, Sandy Springs taxpayers might feel differently if they knew all the details, which I’m afraid they won’t until it’s too late. The Sandy Springs City Council can vote on the Gateway rezoning as early as June 18. Coincidentally, the first public disclosure of information about the relocation of the Windsor Parkway intersection won’t happen until June 18.
What’s the Windsor Parkway relocation project? It is the plan to realign Windsor so it meets Roswell Road at a right angle, rather than at a slant. More importantly, the change increases the separation of Windsor from West Wieuca Road by several hundred feet, allowing more stacking space for rush hour cars and smoother traffic flow.
But Roswell Road’s bottlenecks at nearby Wieuca and West Wieuca Road intersections are in Atlanta, which has no money to make any improvements. Worse, the Gateway project is slated to increase Roswell Road traffic in that area by a staggering 24 percent. Will there be a net improvement? Not likely.
If the Gateway is one project and relocating Windsor Parkway is another, why mention them together? The connection is that a powerful metro agency called GRTA has required that Windsor Parkway be relocated should the Gateway project be approved.
In other words, approve the Gateway and you, Sandy Springs taxpayers, will pay to move Windsor – regardless of cost. GRTA isn’t putting up any money. Neither is the Georgia Department of Transportation who “owns” Roswell Road (known to them as State Highway 9). Neither is the developer and neither is Fulton County. (It’s possible the city of Sandy Springs will find some federal money, but that kind of money has been scarce lately.)
So, the only ones left to pay are those paying property taxes and fees to Sandy Springs. If I were one of them I would want to know the cost before approving the Gateway project.
Nobody is saying how much the intersection relocation will cost. The City Council apparently knows something but they can’t talk. Sandy Springs Public Works has identified $4.4 million in potential funding sources, but the total will likely be more. For talking purposes I’ll assume $5 million, including land acquisition. Others I have talked with think it might be double or triple that amount.
The Gateway project will bring in welcome new property tax money to Sandy Springs and Fulton County (mostly to the latter). Sandy Springs may gain as much as $250,000 a year. While sales taxes will be collected at Gateway’s stores, they will be largely cannibalized from nearby stores, resulting in little net change.
So, as good as the Gateway and fixing the Windsor intersection might initially seem, Sandy Springs taxpayers should realize that it might take 20 years of new property tax revenues just to break even. It could take 60 years if Windsor’s relocation costs $15 million. During that time, taxpayers (not the politicians and not the developer) make up the slack. Taxpayers need a firm understanding of what they are being signed up for before there are, to use a traffic metaphor, no more off ramps. The Windsor Parkway price should be disclosed before the Gateway vote is cast.
President, North Buckhead Civic Association