Dirty cobwebs cover the front door of the house at 521 Hammond Drive. A neon-yellow code enforcement notice on the garage, dating back to April, cites the property for an untidy yard.
In this case, the city was citing itself, because 521 Hammond is one of two houses the city recently purchased as placeholders for a possible road-widening project.
The controversial widening likely would be a decade away, if it happens at all, and the future of the city-purchased homes remains in question.
The Glenridge Hammond Neighborhood Association is forming a volunteer “task force” to gather information about the city’s plans and a project timeline, said association president Steve Oppenheimer.
“Consistent with everything else, they’ve been inconsistent,” Oppenheimer said of the city’s ideas for the houses, noting officials have various proposed immediate tear-downs, demolitions at some later date, or rentals to police officers and firefighters as affordable housing. In the meantime, he said, “it looks so ghetto” to have vacant houses.
The city is “in the process of working on updates” on the policy for what do with the houses it buys and on a timeline for the widening project, said city spokesperson Sharon Kraun.
Meanwhile, the city’s fiscal year 2017 budget earmarks $3 million to buy more Hammond properties. On June 21, when it approved the budget, Sandy Springs City Council also approved buying another house, at 550 Hammond, a rental whose residents will be evicted by July 31, city officials said.
At the June 21 meeting, resident Erik Boemanns criticized the purchases, saying the “city should not be a land speculator.”
Oppenheimer submitted a letter calling for the $3 million earmark to be redirected from Hammond property purchases to creating an “Office of the City Ombudsman” to investigate residents’ complaints.
Some city officials have long proposed widening Hammond between Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive, the only remaining two-lane section of the street. The idea recently was revived and the city has placed design and land acquisition—but not actual construction—in a transportation sales tax project list that will be on the November ballot.
The city says it has not decided to do the widening yet, but is making “protective buys” of property now so it won’t be gouged later if the project happens. So far, it has purchased four properties—two that were vacant or were sites for new houses in early construction, and two with existing houses—for a total of nearly $1.6 million.
The neighborhood association complains that although no study has proved the need for widening Hammond, the plan keeps moving forward through unannounced moves such as the property purchases and the sales tax project list.
Oppenheimer said a group of neighborhood association volunteers soon will form the “task force” to stay in contact with the city for up-to-date widening project information and avoid “getting blindsided at every single public meeting.”
Pending the results of the eventual project study, Oppenheimer said, “we may not oppose improvements to Hammond Drive.
“But right now,” he said, “it’s a pig in a poke.”