The final draft of Sandy Springs’ new Comprehensive Land Use Plan will be presented for community review at two meetings on Nov. 16.
The draft is not much different from the previous version put out in July, in which consultants presented ideas for more mixed-use developments, better transit and improved green space. Among the notable tweaks in response to public input, according to Assistant City Manager Jim Tolbert, is lower density of the proposed mixed-use areas around MARTA stations and along southern Roswell Road.
The plan is a 10-year city planning vision and policy document currently under major revision as part of the city’s “Next Ten” process, which is intended to develop a vision for the city over the next decade. It will help inform a totally new zoning code that is also in the works.
The Comp Plan includes a “character area” map showing where various types of development should happen in the city. The Next Ten process also includes four “small-area plans” providing more detailed studies and recommendations. Those small-area plans include the Roswell Road corridor, the city’s piece of Perimeter Center, Powers Ferry Landing and MARTA’s existing North Springs station and possible future Northridge station.
General trends discussed throughout the year-long planning process have been similar: ownership, middle-income housing in mixed-use settings; more street grids; better transportation alternatives; and pedestrian-friendliness.
Since the July meeting, consultants have updated the draft plans based on public and official input. They also completed the Powers Ferry and MARTA small area plans, which were still in early drafts at that time.
“I think the biggest change we’ve made is, we’ve got a lot of comments about the mixed-use development along the south side of Roswell Road,” said Tolbert, adding that much public comment focused on the new Gateway project at Roswell and Windsor Parkway near the Buckhead border. “What we heard consistently was … ‘The Gateway’s nice, but we don’t need that intensity all the way up on Roswell Road.’ That was never our intent for what might happen.”
Consultants came up with a new character area category called “Neighborhood Mixed-Use” that allows what Tolbert calls “smaller-scale” mixed-use redevelopment that is more “nuanced.” Previously, “It was kind of a one-size-fits-all,” he said.
Similar changes were made to the small-area plan for the potential future MARTA station near Ga. 400 and Northridge Road, where public comment was against large-scale redevelopment. “We’re not recommending a lot of new density,” Tolbert said. “If [MARTA or developers] come in a with a good transit-oriented development plan, we could amend … but the neighborhood really doesn’t want high density.”
The Powers Ferry plan remains focused on better organizing the commercial district in the area and on improving traffic flow and access to the Chattahoochee River park system. Tolbert pointed out one thing that the plan isn’t changing — the tangled, curving roadway network that is cut through by I-285. One big reason: the new Atlanta Braves baseball stadium opening next year in nearby Cobb County.
“Let’s see what happens with the Braves,” Tolbert said of the city’s attitude of not building until traffic impacts are clear. “With that big unknown out there, we didn’t want to do anything to expand that unknown.”
The final draft Comp Plan still contains 10 “key actions” for the city to perform:
• Create a new city Development Code
• Revitalize Roswell Road
• Transform Perimeter Center and Pill Hill into mixed-use, live-work areas
• Put high-density uses around MARTA stations
• Achieve a better housing balance in terms of types and income levels
• “Redesign Hammond Drive as an east/west connection”
• Mitigate traffic congestion through many alternatives
• Reduce parking requirements where alternatives are available and create MARTA-accessible “remote lots”
• Develop a trail network and fund at least one pedestrian bridge over the river
• Enhance and beautify the city’s public places
The Nov. 16 public meetings will include a morning meeting from 9:30 a.m. to noon at Chastain Horse Park in Buckhead’s Chastain Park, 4371 Powers Ferry Road, and an evening meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Sherwood Event Hall, 8610 Roswell Road.
Following those meetings, the draft plan goes to the City Planning Commission on Nov. 17 and likely to the City Council in early December. It would then be reviewed by the state and the Atlanta Regional Commission before final adoption by the City Council, likely early next year.
To see the draft Comp Plan and small area plans, see thenext10.org.