The Galloway School offered to reduce the parking at its proposed athletic facility on High Point Road in Sandy Springs at a Nov. 18 City Hall meeting. But the vast majority of about 35 residents in attendance still opposed it due to traffic and flooding concerns.
“You’re having to go around your elbow to get to your head. You’re trying to shoehorn it in,” said one of many residents who questioned the suitability of the site as the school’s off-site tennis courts and softball diamond.
The property’s seller is former NFL football star Warrick Dunn, the discussion revealed. Galloway attorney Sharon Gay later said she understands Dunn intended to build a house there, but was affected by a 2013 flood map change. Flooding of the site is an issue residents repeatedly raised at the meeting, though project engineers said the fields would not worsen local floods.
Galloway, a private school based in Buckhead, says it needs athletic facilities and doesn’t have room on its main campus. Gay said the school searched for 18 months and looked at 24 sites before settling on the Sandy Springs parcel. The site is between the southern dead-end of High Point Road and Nancy Creek.
The plan requires a use permit and two variances: one for creating a new curb cut on a local street, and the other for violating a 50-foot buffer zone.
The plan has been hotly controversial since it was first vetted in another city-hosted meeting last month. Opponents have dotted the neighborhood with signs reading, “Go away, Galloway” and have created a protest website at helpsavehighpoint.com.
One resident who identified himself as a parent of Galloway students spoke up in support at the Nov. 18 meeting, but was the only supporting voice.
Traffic is a major worry. Teams would come by bus, the school says, but the design includes 55 parking spaces for families.
“One thing that we are thinking about…we could consider reducing the size of the parking area,” Gay said at the Nov. 18 meeting. The school’s traffic studies show that 38 parking spaces would meet maximum demand, she said, adding that less parking could mean a bigger buffer area.
However, when a resident asked whether less on-site parking could just mean more people parking on High Point, Gay replied, “That’s the trade-off.” Several residents responded with mocking laughter.
Regarding the curb cut and parking issues, one resident noted that the city’s Comprehensive Plan designates the area a “protected neighborhood,” which means a suburban residential character that should be maintained. Gay said she did not know that term, but added, “I can make an argument for how it’s unconstitutional to deny access to a public street for private property.”
Loss of trees and wildlife on the currently wooded lot was another issue. Gay said a tree survey found 10 “specimen” trees—meaning trees 27 inches or more in diameter under city code—on the property, of which nine would be cut down. Gay said Galloway would follow the city’s tree ordinance, likely by paying into a tree replacement fund.
Residents also expressed concerns that the fields would increase flooding and runoff in Nancy Creek. They also questioned why the school would want fields on a floodplain that, they said, regularly has water standing on it after heavy rains. One resident said nearly 30 inches of water stood on the site after downpours early this month.
Project engineers Wesley Reed of Eberly & Associates said bio-retention ponds would help clean runoff and that the fields must, by law, be designed in a way that does not worsen flooding. Many residents indicated they simply don’t believe that can be done.
The proposal next heads to the city’s Planning Commission on Dec. 17. Public comments are due by Dec. 3 at firstname.lastname@example.org.