Sandy Springs reports progress on building new sidewalks since its 2005 incorporation, but at least one survey finds the city still lags behind its neighbor in Buckhead.
Walkscore.com, a website that ranks cities and communities nationally for ease of pedestrian access, determined Sandy Springs is “car dependent,” with a walk score of 41. Meanwhile, the 30305 ZIP Code that constitutes Buckhead’s core, achieved a score of 85 and was deemed “very walkable” by Walk Score.
In Buckhead’s core, most errands can be accomplished by foot. In Sandy Springs, most errands require a car.
City Council members say they are making progress, but they inherited few sidewalks when voters opted to start the city in 2005. Neighborhood sidewalks are rare.
“Really, none of the neighborhoods in the city have sidewalks,” City Councilman Chip Collins said. “They weren’t put there by the city, and Fulton County hardly ever built sidewalks.”
In April, the city reported that it has built nearly 30 miles of sidewalks since 2005. In Fiscal 2013, the city budgeted $2.6 million for its sidewalks program. In Fiscal 2014, the sidewalks budget was $1.6 million. The sidewalks program is in the city’s capital fund budget, meaning that any unspent money carries over to the next year.
In Fiscal 2013, City Council added an additional $500,000 to the sidewalks program. In Fiscal 2014, City Council added no additional funds and isn’t planning to add any during its mid-year budget review.
City Councilman Gabriel Sterling said constructing sidewalks involves patience.
“Sidewalks are a great thing to have, but it’s going to take time and money to put them into places you need them,” Sterling said.
Even with few sidewalks, many residents in the city walk to get where they’re going.
Sterling said residents of the Mount Vernon Woods neighborhood, close to the site of the new Sandy Springs City Center, do the most walking in his district.
“I know my people,” Sterling said. “They’re close to the downtown. They walk to the Kroger and walk to the Brickery. They’re close to the commercial corridors.”
City Councilman Tibby DeJulio said his constituents walk to attend worship services. “I have a lot of constituents in the High Point area that walk a lot, and the reason they do is I have a synagogue located here and the parishioners at the synagogue walk to synagogue,” he said.
DeJulio said he’d like to see more sidewalks in the city.
“I consider sidewalks to be like crown molding in a living room or a dining room,” DeJulio said. “I think sidewalks finish off the neighborhood.”
City Councilwoman Dianne Fries said residents of the Huntcliff neighborhood walk around it and there are sidewalks along Dunwoody Place used by residents of nearby apartments.
“I think everybody would like to see more sidewalks,” Fries said. “It’s a funding issue.”
City Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny said she sees walkers on some of the city’s older roads, like Mount Vernon Parkway that’s used by residents of the Whitner Estates neighborhood and others adjacent to the road.
Collins said the River Chase neighborhood is one of the few that has sidewalks.
“The most recent sidewalk we’ve built was there on Hammond between Mitchell Road and Lake Forrest,” Collins said. “It was built in response to all the neighborhoods along Mitchell who are close enough and want to walk to the movie theater and entertainment lawn and other things downtown.
“Everybody wants sidewalks.”