The Sandy Springs City Council on March 1 approved spending almost $840,000 to buy two more Hammond Drive properties as placeholders for a long-planned street widening.

A Google Earth image of the house at 521 Hammond Drive from the city of Sandy Springs documents about the purchase.

The burst of land purchases for a road project that is years away, if it happens at all, is making local residents “extremely concerned,” said Councilman Graham McDonald. He and Councilman Tibby DeJulio were slated to meet with residents March 2.

Councilman Andy Bauman suggested maintaining a house involved in the latest deal as affordable rental housing for Sandy Springs police officers or firefighters. McDonald said the city promised to tear down any such homes, but Trisha Thompson, president of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, spoke in support of Bauman’s idea.

In February, the city authorized spending $375,000 to buy a residential lot at 590 Hammond. City Manager John McDonough called it a “protective buy” to secure right of way as infill housing makes property costs skyrocket. McDonough said at the time that the city might make more such purchases.

Now the city will acquire residential properties at 372 Hammond and 521 Hammond following a unanimous March 1 council vote.
The roughly half-acre lot at 372 Hammond, at the intersection with Harleston Road, is the midst of a tear-down redevelopment for what city officials say is a $979,000 house. The city negotiated to buy the property for a half-million dollars. The site will be cleaned up and maintained as a grassy lot, council members said.

The 521 Hammond house is on the market, listed at $350,000, city official said, adding that it can be acquired for $338,000.
Bauman suggested renting that house in the meantime to police officers or firefighters. The council previously discussed the general issue of such public safety officials being unable to afford living in the city they served. The council’s vote was only about purchasing the properties, not their future uses.

“We don’t want to make this a dormitory,” Bauman said, but added, “Is there a way we can find a police family?…We got a house in good shape…I’m not ready to authorize tearing it down.”

McDonald replied that the city previously “made assurances to the surrounding neighborhood that we would be tearing [any purchased houses] down.”

But Thompson said she believes the community is concerned about lower-quality rental houses. “I do think Mr. Bauman should have had more support” for his public safety housing idea, she said.

John Ruch

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