The city of Sandy Springs’ Next Ten process—a total overhaul of planning and zoning—is ramping up public input, starting with a series of meetings and events this week.
A workshop on a subset of the plan, focused on the Roswell Road corridor, will be held Weds., Oct. 14, 5-8 p.m., at the Sandy Springs North Shopping Center. And this weekend, the city debuts a “mobile planning unit” van that will visit various parks, shopping centers and even a football game to provide information and gain input.
“It’s like a little roadshow,” said city spokeswoman Sharon Kraun.
The city is also adding features to the Next Ten website, thenext10.org, including polls and an interactive map for pointing to areas for improvement.
“It’s important that we get feedback from across the community, and to ensure we meet that goal, we are taking the conversation to where community members work, live and gather,” said Deana Rhodeside, director of the city-hired planning firm Rhodeside & Harwell in a press release.
The Next Ten includes two main pieces: an updated Comprehensive Plan to guide design and a Unified Development Ordinance that will replace the current zoning code. The current Comp Plan and zoning code are frequently criticized by resident and the city itself as outdated, poorly enforced or both.
The Comp Plan covers the entire city, but the Next Ten process includes four “Small Area Plans” targeting certain neighborhoods for more detailed planning. Those include the Roswell Road corridor north and south of the central City Springs area; the Powers Ferry Road corridor along I-285; the area covered by the Perimeter Center Improvement Districts; and the areas around MARTA’s North Springs Station and potential new station at Ga. 400 and Northridge Road. That Northridge area will be planned with the assumption of the MARTA station being built, Kraun said.
The Unified Development Ordinance, or UDO, was added to the Next Ten process by the Sandy Springs City Council on Oct. 6. The UDO will combine a new zoning code with code-related ordinances, design guidelines and permitting processes. The intent of an UDO is to create a single, clear document about city zoning and permitting.
When Sandy Springs incorporated a decade ago, it simply adopted Fulton County’s old zoning code as its own and modified the code over time. At the Sept. 15 City Council meeting, Mayor Rusty Paul described the code as “beyond patchwork…It’s kind of like the shirt I’m wearing today. It’s 13 years old and I found my elbow sticking out of it today.”
The UDO work increases Rhodeside & Harwell’s contract fee by $230,000, said Assistant City Manager Jim Tolbert. That boosts the Next Ten process’s budget to roughly $1.175 million.
Launched in June, the Next Ten process will run one to two years, with the general Comp Plan work wrapping up next summer and the UDO taking the longest. Various meetings and input processes will be scheduled over the next several months.
Some changes to the city’s zoning review process, intended to boost transparency, will come sooner, city Community Development Director Michelle Alexander said at the Sept. 15 City Council meeting. People who want a zoning variance or rezoning will have to hold pre-application meetings with the community and with staff. Public meetings will be held in the affected neighborhood if possible.
Some of those changes could come as early as next month, Alexander said. Paul said that would be good for the public and city officials.
“There’s an awful lot of mystery tied to this [zoning review process],” Paul said. “Even those of us who do this day in, day out have moments of mystery.”
The following is a list of upcoming Next Ten meetings.
Roswell Road Open Studio
Weds., Oct. 14, 5-8 p.m., Sandy Springs North Shopping Center (behind Hudson Grill), 6317 Roswell Road.
Fri., Oct. 16, 7 p.m., during football game halftime at North Springs Charter High School, 7447 Roswell Road.
Sat., Oct. 17: 8:30-10:30 a.m., Farmers Market, Century Springs East Parking Lot, 6100 Lake Forrest Drive; 10:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Prado Shopping Center, 5600 Roswell Road; 12:45-2 p.m., Allen Rod Park, 5900 Lake Forrest Drive; 2:15-3:30 p.m., Highland Springs Apartments, 55 Northwood Drive; 3:45-5 p.m., Abernathy Greenway Park, 70 Abernathy Road.
Sun., Oct. 18: 9-11 a.m., Overlook Park, 200 Morgan Falls Road; 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Spalding Corners Shopping Center, 7708 Spalding Drive; 2-3 p.m., Hammond Park, 705 Hammond Drive.