A controversial Pill Hill apartment plan was deferred again by Sandy Springs City Council Oct. 20 pending renewed talk of a new roadway through the area.

The Perimeter Center Improvement Districts are moving ahead on an old plan to extended the “flyover bridge,” said Councilman Tibby DeJulio. That bridge takes Perimeter Center Parkway across I-285 to Lake Hearn Drive. PCIDs may have blueprints for an extension down to Johnson Ferry Road ready by next month, DeJulio said.

“I think we really need to see what [PCIDs] have in mind,” DeJulio said, and not “eliminate the possibility of doing this [connection] in the future” by approving a redevelopment on part of the possible site.

Both the road and the apartment project—planned on Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital land at Johnson Ferry and Old Johnson Ferry—are pitched as partial solutions to the Pill Hill medical area’s traffic tangles. Mayor Rusty Paul revealed that on Oct. 19, he had his long-planned traffic-planning meeting with administrators of Pill Hill’s three hospitals—also including Northside and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta—though he did not give details.

“What keeps me awake at night is [the idea of] an incident like a tornado or something where we can’t get people in for treatment,” Paul said of Pill Hill traffic.

Heather Dexter, CEO at Emory Saint Joseph’s, voiced similar concerns. Commute times for doctors and staff is another concern, she said. The hospital sold the land for the housing use—which also mixes some office, restaurant and park space—because it needs “apartments that employees can afford,” she said.

Richard Munger of North American Properties, the developer, took his emphasis of the project’s “walkability” to hospitals and MARTA further than ever, claiming it meshes with a recent US surgeon general’s report. He said North American created a similar project near Vanderbilt University’s medical center in Nashville, where they waive fees for doctor-tenants.

But the project continued to receive criticism from some Sandy Springs and Brookhaven residents as potentially worsening the traffic issues, among other concerns. Dozens of residents showed up at the council meeting, many clearly there to restate the opposition that has flamed since the project was proposed in August. They said North American had agreed to reduce the apartment count from 305 to 270, but that didn’t appear to satisfy anyone.

While the council chose to defer a decision with the PCIDs plan in mind, some councilmen leaned toward approval. “Until we locate housing where people work or…near mass transit, we’re not going to impact traffic,” said Councilman Ken Dishman.

As mayor, Paul doesn’t get a vote on the project unless there’s a tie, but he indicated some Brookhaven residents aren’t helping their cause in private communications with him.

“I’ve been a little bit testy about this,” Paul said. “I’ve never been accused of criminality before, and corruption and being in the pocket of developers…Our own folks haven’t talked to us the way people in Brookhaven have talked to us.”

The council tossed the project back to the city Planning Commission for another review and will rehear it on Dec. 15.

In other business, the council approved final details of the massive bond issuance for constructing the City Springs redevelopment. A total of $159,475,000 in bonds will be issued and will produce about $179 million in funds because of some “premium” sales at higher-than-face values. The council previously authorized issuing up to $222 million in bonds, and can still do so, but only with a separate action.

The interest rates are complex, but have a total “weighted average” of 3.659 percent, according to advisers with the financial firm Raymond James.

The bonds, sold in denominations of $5,000, were put on the market earlier that day for orders in advance of the actual issuance later this month or in early November. That helped determine the rates approved by the council, said city attorney Wendell Willard.

“I bought a couple [of the bonds],” Mayor Paul said.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

7 replies on “Sandy Springs council delays Pill Hill housing, issues bonds”

  1. Simply putting apartments / townhomes / homes near MARTA stations is not going to solve the problem. People need to get where they are going and MARTA is not the answer yet. If it were people from the existing homes / townhomes / apartments would be using it instead of sitting in already bad traffic.

  2. Emory St Jos and Northside Hospital are not able to handle their patient loads now … period.

    This is subterfuge for two for profit hospitals who want to increase their b u s i n e s s and nothing more.

    God forbid if we had a tragic occurrence anywhere near Sandy Springs! M a n y would suffer as these guys concentrate on more business instead of patients and how to properly administer care to our community.

    Mark my words … this project will be built and will rise out of backroom politics – the people be damned !

  3. The Mayor is thin skinned and arrogant. Talk to people working with him about the proposed green space buyout at Mt. Vernon and Roswell, … .This area is overwhelmed by traffic every morning and evening. Watch for ambulances stuck in traffic. He need not wait for a tornado, he needs to visit the area tommarrow at about 5 in the afternoon. Perhaps the bonds will help with his retirement which can’t come soon enough for Sandy Springs.

  4. Does anyone actually believe that these 270 apartments are going to be filled with medical personal working on Pill Hill and walking to work (in a highly unwalkable area)? There may be a handful of employees that work at the hospital and will live in these apartments, but not many. And of those that do, how many are going to walk to work? How many residents will actually walk to Marta? How about in the sweltering summer heat? Rain? There is no question that 270 apartments are going to add hundreds of cars to the already gridlocked area. Not to mention the traffic from the retail outlets they are planning on adding. People will move into the apartments because it provides convenient access to various areas of metro Atlanta (by car, of course), not because they can walk to Marta. If we’re worried about doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff getting to work, putting in a huge apartment complex with retail in this area is the worst idea since the square wheel. This will just bring hundreds and hundreds of more cars to the area. Is Mr. Paul really worried about a tornado or other emergency or is that just lip service?

    Mr. Munger should not take credit for the walkability of this project. The only walkability of this Sandy Springs project developed when Brookhaven residents worked to include walkability. It was not walkable at all until they stepped in. Also, using Vanderbilt as an example is apples and oranges. Vanderbilt’s location in Nashville bears exactly NO resemblance to Atlanta’s Pill Hill.

    Mr. Paul’s criticism of the people of Brookhaven to the media was appalling. Brookhaven residents have worked tirelessly with the developer, Emory, and Sandy Springs to develop a suitable resolution. In almost all cases, these residents have been professional, patient, and collaborative. All this despite the fact that this project got rolling without ANY notification to the Brookhaven residents that are, quite literally, right across the street. In fact, Brookhaven residents were commended by the Sandy Springs Planning Commission on their professionalism and constructive efforts. It’s unfortunate that there were one or two individuals with unprofessional comments, but honestly, if Mr. Paul can’t handle a couple of comments like this, he’s in the wrong line of work. Calling these people out in the press was his own brand of unprofessional. Also, it’s just pretty whiney.

    While Mr. Paul is calling people out, maybe he should call out North American Properties for the misrepresentations in their application to the city. That would seem, to me, a much more interesting topic to chat about to the press.

  5. Mayor Paul had “his” long planned meeting with the hospitals on October 19th? Were other jurisdictions, entities, concerned parties involved or invited to attend? While Pill Hill does sit within the Sandy Springs city limits the impact of traffic and any decisions or proposals made certainly impact more than this far corner of Sandy Springs.

    One area mayor meeting with three hospitals whose traffic snarls the commute of thousands is not the solution. Hopefully, one of the details not given were the other attendees. Otherwise, we continue with a narrow focus that helped get us into this mess. It’s time, past time actually, for a broader regional point of view. Thank you, Councilman Tibby DeJulio, for displaying that view point. I hope you, along with other jurisdictions, were with Mayor Paul at that meeting on October 19th.

  6. A totally out of touch Mayor and a City Council who just doesn’t care – beyond garnering new tax dollars – thinks that YOU are apathetic a n d gullable.

    What a laugh … “we need apartments our employees can occupy …” ! If you believe that be sure to send in your check for Rusty’s reelection and, don’t make a sound when you wait over four hours for emergency care !!

    I agree with the earlier comment … this project WILL be built and, done so just as those at the hospitals (when did hospitals become equity partners in real estate deals?) want it. Those men are soon to retire and, need to bolster their retirements !!

  7. Today I took my daughter to a doctor appointment on the Emory/St. Joe’s campus. Every employee in that office is dreading the building of these apartments. They complain of already terrible traffic trying to get onto the campus. Looks like the concern is not limited to residents.

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