Formerly outraged neighbors of Sandy Springs’ Glenn West development are now its allies, reaching a compromise deal that slashes the housing density and restricts its rental component.
It’s a remarkable turnaround for residents who strongly opposed the plan for 6500 Glenridge Drive—and who once threatened to sue developer Ashton Woods over its similar housing plan around the future Mercedes-Benz USA headquarters across the street.
Matt LaMarsh, one of the neighborhood leaders, chuckled at finding himself in support of Ashton Woods as he spoke to the Sandy Springs Planning Commission Oct. 15.
“While it’s not everything we’d love to see in our back yard, it’s the best plan we could have asked for,” LaMarsh said of the new Glenn West plan.
“The quick story is, we worked very hard to reach a plan agreeable to the community,” said Mike Busher, a senior vice president at Ashton Woods.
The Glenn West project would turn a 36-acre wooded site into housing built by Ashton Woods and new sports fields for the neighboring Mount Vernon Presbyterian School.
The original plan called for 123 total units of housing, with 80 townhomes and 43 detached houses. Ashton Woods has agreed to slash that to 99 total units and change the mix to 50 townhomes and 49 detached houses. The amount of rental units would be restricted to a maximum of 10 percent of the total units.
In addition, Ashton Woods and the school will agree to a long list of other community demands, mostly related to landscaping and the operations of the ball fields. It is unclear which items on the list can be incorporated into any zoning approval. But Carl Westmoreland, an attorney for Ashton Woods, said the developers are willing to sign the list as a formal private contract with neighbors.
The deal includes boosting setbacks and buffer zones, though that also means pushing the ball fields deeper into the buffer zone of a stream on the site, Westmoreland said.
No one spoke in opposition to the plan at the Planning Commission meeting, a big difference from Ashton Woods’ recent trips before Sandy Springs review agencies, and an apparent surprise to commission members.
The negotiations were unusual, especially compared to residents’ complaints that Ashton Woods failed to offer meaningful input or changes for its nearby Mercedes site plan. City staff already recommended approval of the project last month, but Ashton Woods and the school voluntarily sought deferral to keep negotiating with residents. Trisha Thompson, president of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, previously said Ashton Woods appeared eager to avoid another “firestorm” like it faces at the Mercedes site. At the Oct. 15 meeting, Thompson spoke in support of the project’s “lovely” units, new sidewalks and “preservation of green space.”
Commission Chair Lee Duncan praised the residents and developers for reaching a compromise. The commission voted to recommend approval of the project, which requires rezoning and variances for setbacks and buffer encroachments. Glenn West now heads to Sandy Springs City Council for a final vote.