City Council on March 17 discussed changes in how new sidewalk projects will be prioritized in the 2016 budget.

“What I care about is a good public policy that allows us to prioritize and build projects that get people from where they are to where they want to be, and also addresses safety issues,” said City Councilman Andy Bauman.

Under the new model, potential new sidewalks in capital improvements programs would be scored on a 50-point scale, taking into consideration factors like right-of-way availability, anticipated utility relocations, constructability, pedestrian activity, type of road and whether the project would close a gap. New factors this year would be proximity to parks and schools, and project cost.

For 2015, the city budgeted $925,000 for sidewalks.

Jason White with the Chastain Park Civic Association said that he thought cost was too much of a factor, and that would cause the city to “build sidewalks where it’s cheap, not where people will want them.”

But Mayor Rusty Paul later said that cost has to be a factor. “If there’s a project out there that we don’t have enough money in the budget for, the six of you can change the budget,” he told the council.

Council members were also concerned there was not enough emphasis on safety in the scoring model.

“Where do we talk about safety?” asked Councilman John Paulson. “It doesn’t jump out at me.”

City Manager John McDonough replied, “Safety is implied. . . . The reason we build sidewalks is it’s a safe way to move up and down the road.”

Paul said he and the council would like some recognition that safety was a factor in the plan. City staff members agreed to clarify that safety would be a priority.

City Councilman Ken Dishman said that he was comfortable with the overall plan, which “addresses the feasibility of projects. We can always adjust it as we go.”

Sandy Springs approves, defers, denies zoning requests

The city of Sandy Springs on March 17 approved a request to rezone 5996 Lake Forrest Drive from a single-family district to allow for 10 townhomes.

Resident Jeff Mitchell said neighbors supported the proposal since the developer listened to their concerns, resulting in a lower density and not encroaching on a stream buffer.

Meanwhile, the council agreed to defer a request to rezone 5575 Glenridge Connector to construct a 10,000-square-foot restaurant and a 299,999-square-foot office building with a use permit to exceed the district height.

The council also denied a request to rezone 4920 High Point Road to allow for two lots.