The Sandy Springs Planning Commission has demanded input on a plan to narrow and add trails to Sandy Springs Circle, a design one commissioner called “stupid.”
The roadway redesign, planned for years and slated to happen in 2017, has drawn questions and criticisms since a public meeting last month. Bicycle advocates have questioned whether the project meets modern design standards, and Mayor Rusty Paul has expressed confusion.
“I know I’ve been briefed on this, but I still don’t quite get in my own mind how we’re going to move traffic through there,” the mayor said at an April 5 City Council meeting, where he and council member John Paulson also noted the “canyon”-like look of the design.
The plan is focused on the stretch of Sandy Springs Circle between Hammond Drive and Mount Vernon Highway. Its controversial points include turning two travel lanes into on-street parking; constructing high retaining walls; and mixing bike and pedestrian traffic on a path that crosses several driveways. It was originally part of a redesign of all of Sandy Springs Circle, but the northern half of the project—which includes lowering the steeply sloped Mount Vernon intersection—recently was made separate and is underway now.
The Planning Commission on April 21 voted to request a staff presentation on the plan so it can take a “formal position.” Commissioner Dave Nickels said Mayor Paul encouraged the commission’s review in private comments.
City Community Development Director Michelle Alexander said the plan is no longer open for public comment and noted it dates to a 2001 study and was approved in the city’s 2012 City Center Master Plan. She suggested the commission review the plan along with several other street projects in a “retreat” to be held later this spring, adding the city has “concern about managing expectations of public input at this stage.”
“I don’t want to just discuss it…I want the public here with an opportunity to provide input,” Nickels responded, also making clear that he is not a fan of the design. “Well, it’s a stupid—I’m going to get blunt. It’s the dumbest idea I’ve seen in [the] City Center [plan]…It’s stupid.”
Paul did not respond to Reporter questions about the commission vote and his current thoughts about the plan.
City spokesperson Sharon Kraun later said the commission will get its information. “The project was a transportation initiative, and typically the Planning Commission is not provided a formal review on transportation projects,” she said.