Lorraine Glynn wanted to find out more about a proposed development that could see the construction of 116 new townhomes near her neighborhood.
The resident of the Lafayette Square townhome community said she had recently heard from members of the nearby Spalding Woods Swim/Tennis Club that they planned to sell the property to Traton Homes, which aims to build the townhomes on the property.
But she had not received nor read any notices about the zoning application that needed approval for Traton to move forward on the project, though the proposal was set to be discussed at a Community Zoning Information Meeting set for Tuesday, April 28.
“I decided to come out to this meeting, hopefully to find out more about what was happening with my own property, but also to find out in general how people fight these things,” Glynn said.
The city’s current and future growth was highlighted at the April 23 annual meeting of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods.
Glynn and several dozen city residents came to the North Fulton Government Service Center to attend the meeting. The event featured the organization presenting a session titled “Zoning 101,” which focused not only on Sandy Springs’ zoning process but also on a number of proposed and recently approved rezonings that could bring thousands of new apartments and hundreds of new townhomes and condos.
“Most people say no to rezoning. Development is going to happen—you must have a valid reason for opposing or saying no,” said Trisha Thompson, SSCN’s new president, who gave the “Zoning 101” presentation. “This includes too much density—a bad precedent—not consistent with surrounding zonings, buildings are too high, or there’s too much multi-family already.”
In all, association officials say, Sandy Springs has nearly 4,300 residential units under construction or coming soon. Of those, nearly 3,400 would be new residences, as in residences not replacing existing or previously existing residences.
All the new homes currently under construction or on the drawing board were a concern to Linda Trickey, a resident of Princeton Square, who said she came to the meeting to learn more about the zoning process and how it impacts not just the area’s traffic but also its schools.
“When you look at the 132-page report for that Mill Creek development that was just approved on Tuesday night, there is one slide from Fulton County Schools that actually shows the impact to the elementary, middle and high schools. It shows significant overcrowding from that one development, and that is one of just many developments that have either been approved or in the pipeline to be approved,” she said. “I don’t think there’s been enough discussion in the city, from the constituents and the leaders, about the impact on schools, because they look at it as, ‘That’s Fulton County Schools’ problem.’ ”
Homes aren’t the only thing expected to add to the city’s landscape as a result of recent rezonings. Based on current projections, officials said, Sandy Springs will see more than 300,000 square feet of retail space approved as mixed use in conjunction with some of the approved townhome and condo projects.
Mark Sampl, SSCN’s outgoing president, said he believed the numbers involved with all the future homes and commercial development may have surprised some in attendance.
“They may see what’s closest to their neighborhood, but to kind of see them all across a map area maybe wakes them up to some of the things going on,” he said. “They’re seeing some of it happen, but some of it are projects that were approved that haven’t actually been finished.”
Sampl said that while the SSCN is an umbrella organization that exists to support any and all neighborhoods of Sandy Springs, it’s ultimately up to the individual neighborhoods and their residents to help shape the developments that could be built around them.
“We’re an all-volunteer organization, we have very knowledgeable people, but it really requires the neighborhoods that are the most impacted or closest to these projects to get involved and to speak up, talk to their council person and to attend some of these meetings,” he said.
Thompson during the presentation highlighted the city’s months-long rezoning process, which gives concerned residents several opportunities to publicly voice their concerns about proposed zonings.
“There are three chances in the rezoning process for you to give public input—help organize your own neighborhood [homeowners association] and your friends to give input,” she said. “Remember that all emails, letters and appearances at public meetings count.”
Trickey said after Thursday’s meeting that she plans on attending more city zoning meetings as well as SSCN gatherings. “I know a lot more now about the process than I did two days ago, and I’m definitely looking forward to become more involved,” she said.
Glynn said her next step after Thursday’s meeting was to take matters into her own hands when it comes to the nearby development proposal since she did not have the support of a homeowners association behind her.
“Because we are not built out yet, we don’t own our own HOA, we have no control over it, so I can’t use the HOA to fight anything,” she said. “I’m going to do fliers, and I will walk around this weekend, and I will put fliers in everybody’s door and hopefully get people to realize what’s going on and get people to go to the rezoning meeting on Tuesday evening, and if they can’t make the meeting, then maybe send emails to the rezoning board, send letters, make phone calls and say ‘We don’t want this.’
For more information on the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, visit sandyspringscouncil.org.