A new city revision to the controversial Sandy Springs Circle streetscape design will eliminate two points of debate: some on-street parking and a sidewalk that doubled up with a multi-use path.
Following an August meeting where residents heavily criticized the plan, city staff looked at “anything to mitigate, minimize, improve” the project, said Assistant City Manager Bryant Poole at a Nov. 1 City Council meeting where the revision was approved by consensus. He said the revised design “resolves concerns” while “still meeting the spirit” of the City Center Master Plan’s walkable street grid concepts.
Poole said the project contract can be altered to make the changes and that the state Department of Transportation and the Atlanta Regional Commission have already reviewed the proposal.
The plan for Sandy Springs Circle between Hammond Drive and Mount Vernon Highway has been highly controversial since it was unveiled in March. Big points of controversy were turning two of four travel lanes into parallel parking and large right-of-way takings due to installing both a sidewalk and a multi-use path.
The Sandy Springs United Methodist Church said it would be particularly affected due to its possible partnership in a private redevelopment on part of its property. The church delivered hundreds of petitions to the city opposing the design.
Now only one northbound lane will be converted into on-street parking, while the two southbound lanes will remain open. The plan also eliminates a 6-foot-wide sidewalk, reduces the need for retaining walls, and keeps the church’s driveway in its current location.
Church attorney Scott Peters thanked city for revising and “coming back with a project the church is comfortable with and is happy to see going forward.”
The changes will increase the design cost of the $7 million project, but also save money due to less right-of-way acquisition and fewer items to build, Poole said. The project also will be delayed somewhat, he said, but not too much, because the city must spend some state and federal funds in the current fiscal year or lose them.
One reason the city wants the on-street, parallel parking is to discourage speeding by making the street feel more residential and less like a highway. Questioned by Councilmember Chris Burnett, Poole said that speeding remains a concern and that the city will look for other “traffic calming” measures to add to Sandy Springs Circle. Poole also said that it “wouldn’t be too difficult” to remove the on-street parking from the northbound lane if traffic volumes demanded it in the future; likewise, he said it would not be hard to add on-street parking to the southbound lane as originally intended if the city wanted to in the future.