Bolder city leadership on traffic and transit—and a spectacular plan for a 20-acre park capping Ga. 400 in Pill Hill—were among the detail discussed at the final community meeting for Sandy Springs’ new Comprehensive Land Use Plan Nov. 16.

After 18 months of public input through the city’s “Next Ten” process, the roughly 60 people attending the meeting at the Sherwood Event Hall on Roswell Road seemed generally accepting of the proposed land-use plan. Most questions were about details of such ideas as a tree-lined “Roswell Boulevard” or better sidewalks.

An illustration of the proposed park over Ga. 400 on Johnson Ferry Road in Sandy Springs’ Pill Hill medical center area, from the draft Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

The Comp Plan, as it’s commonly known, is a 10-year policy and planning document guiding land use and redevelopment. It serves as the basis for the city’s zoning code, which is also undergoing an update that will kick into high gear early next year. The new Comp Plan also includes “small area plans” giving more detailed attention to Roswell Road, Perimeter Center, MARTA stations and Powers Ferry Landing.

In general, the draft Comp Plan proposes retaining the city’s suburban neighborhoods and targeting the “small area plan” sites for higher density development. About 67 percent of the city’s land would be “protected neighborhoods” preserved as single-family homes, consultants said.

One repeated resident concern was the land-use designation of some parcels changing without notice since the previous draft in July. Especially concerning were residential parcels switching to mixed-use or commercial areas. One such proposed change has become controversial for being partly influenced by the needs of an active redevelopment plan.

“It’s not finished,” Assistant City Manager Jim Tolbert told the crowd about the proposed land-use map. Any parcel designation can still be changed, he said.

The current land-use, or “Character Area,” map can be viewed at The presentation does not include any highlighting of properties whose land-use designation changed, so residents should examine it carefully and notify the city of any concerns.

“We flipped [the land-use designation of] a lot of parcels,” Tolbert said in an interview after the meeting. “Maybe a hundred around the city.”

The city had some new details of its own to discuss. The most eye-catching was the proposed park over Ga. 400, south of the Johnson Ferry Road bridge, in the medical center area. Consultants from the Next Ten team, led by the firm Rhodeside & Harwell, likened it to a similar 400-capping park under consideration in Buckhead. Both proposals are inspired by a similar park that already exists in Dallas.

But most of the city’s ideas were about policies, not a day in the park. One previously announced change was reducing the proposed density of new development on southern Roswell Road and around the northern stations on MARTA’s Red Line.

Another change was a call for the city to take a stronger role in directing traffic and public transit policies. Consultant Joel Mann of Nelson\Nygaard said the city must expand the type of collaborative traffic and parking planning it recently leveraged Pill Hill hospitals into agreement on. The city also needs stronger policies on requiring streets to be open to bikes, pedestrians and transit as well as cars, he said.

Tolbert said that as mixed-use developments with better connections between properties go up, the city will require shared-parking deals so that customers can park near one business and walk to another without getting towed.

Sandy Springs Assistant City Manager Jim Tolbert speaks to attendees at a meeting about the draft Comprehensive Land Use Plan Nov. 16 at the Sherwood Event Hall. (Photo John Ruch)

Mann also pushed for the city to stop dancing around the future of the Hammond Drive corridor. “The city should take a position” in favor of transit running through there and connecting Cobb County’s Cumberland area with Doraville’s Gold Line station, he said. In fact, the previous draft Comp Plan declared that as a “key action,” but the city quickly edited that language out at the last minute before a public presentation. A possible widening of Hammond Drive is locally controversial; city officials are currently buying houses along the corridor and preparing to study and design a widening plan that includes some kind of transit right of way, but have been highly cautious in saying no construction decisions have been made.

One reason for the new Comp Plan and zoning code is to greatly reduce the need for rezoning requests. Tolbert said the city staff will propose a process change for rezoning cases. It would require developers to first get a land-use plan amendment approved before filing for the rezoning. And those land-use amendments might be allowed only once or twice a year, he said.

The draft Comp Plan is slated to go before the city Planning Commission on Nov. 17 and could go before the City Council for its first review on Dec. 6.

John Ruch

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

8 replies on “Stronger traffic policy, park over Ga. 400 are in Sandy Springs draft Comp Plan”

  1. North Sandy Springs continues to be ignored! One of the things that became very clear from the beginning of the meeting was that expanding Marta is a pipe dream, even though more detailed plans were presented for each potential station(not referenced in article).

    The first few questions all revolved around increased bike/multi-use/off-road trails (Path 400 trail expanding north from Pill Hill to the Chattahoochee River, which seems to be heavily dependent on Marta expanding) I wish the city showed more desire to make this happen instead of focusing on increased density or the adding to the bucket list with the park over 400. While I admit there has been progress on Path 400 around Pill Hill, the fact remains that a complete network hasn’t been studied and won’t be built any time soon.

    You could feel people cringe as the consultant talked about how certain neighborhoods would be developed into dense grind neighborhoods. (Riverfront Area and just south of I-285). Two areas that already have tremendous traffic problems. The meeting started 20 mins late due to the bottleneck traffic going to Roswell on Roswell Rd. You could hear people whisper their thoughts, “more people” “more cars” “more traffic”.

    I challenge the city to commit to a trail network that it’s CURRENT citizens can enjoy unless I foresee drastic changes during the next election cycle.

  2. I felt the meeting had the same tone as others, “We will tell you what the plan is. You will like it..” Very discouraging information for people that live here. More building, more traffic, more burden on schools, more crime less quality of life

  3. When are our the city management look out for the quality of life for the existing citizens who are financing these plans. One case is the plans for Sandy Springs Circle.
    I use it to shop in our city. These plans will cause me to shop in Cobb. We became a city to keep Fulton County to dictate plans for us but now have city government doing that. I resent the wasting of dollars like the redesign of the sign. The old was lovely and highlighted
    our trees not concrete.

  4. Sandy Springs Incorporated,

    Please read the above comments. Read most all comments regarding the growth you’re inflicting upon us. I too don’t believe this is what we voted for in a city. Not only was the vote to take control of our future but to control things like Code Enforcement, building and otherwise. It was about controlling our own destiny. Now, the citizens feel their City is being ripped from the hands used to pull the lever and vote for it.

    The park over 400 has to be immediately eliminated. IF one of the companies relocating here and forcing grid lock and development upon us should want to pay for it with no naming, then fine. Otherwise don’t be so quick to guild the lily.
    Especially when you can’t afford it. Sandy Springs shouldn’t be as “Over leveraged and under saved” as many living in houses the can’t afford behind gates they’re not deserving.

  5. While Donald (and we Americans won) the progressives are still mostly in charge of local governments. Their goal is to increase density and force “preferred mobility” (not cars). The only solution is to throw the bums out.

  6. Thinkagain,

    The majority of the USA population voted Democrat and only 27% of registered voters chose The Donald. That isn’t a mandate. The voter turnout is a reaction to both candidates and as always USA is behind in voter turnout as a percentage of population/registered voters.

    The Reporter is reading like a “throw the bums out”. Those bums are republican.
    We didn’t vote for massive development.

    IF you where at all informed with Public Transportation, it exists the world over because the alternative is grid locked cars. Nothing will stop roads as parking lots when development comes first, infrastructure second. Nothing but autonomous vehicles that can all move away from the red light at the same time in synchronized harmony among other things.

    What Sandy Springs Private Company is doing is using as much Federal Government money to build things not wanted which will then result in the City being responsible for all the long term upkeep, maintenance and associated costs. Federal Government our Republican leaders profess to not like but are seemingly unable to live without the Federal money. Living off the Federal Government dime is also something the State of Georgia is doing. Oh, the hypocrisy.

    1. Did I miss something with Trump getting 290 electors? Many of the bums are so-called Republicans. Calls to drain our various swamps will continue for a long time – as long as progressives/elites have the ability to influence and/or run things. We should have IQ tests for people to get Smart Phones. Finally, I suspect having a discussion with you might be hopeless if you think there’s such a thing as “Federal Money”. Every dime either comes from a local person or company or is borrowed on their behalf. Other than military and “real” essential services, get all money back to the lowest possible level – eliminating as much waste as possible.

      1. Electoral votes are not the most votes by the population. Search that along with redistricting. Could be helpful. A “Mandate” happens when you win the majority of the votes.

        The swamp isn’t being drained it’s being used to fill positions for Mr. Trump. Someone who’s never held public office nor done work to help others has no relationships with those who can run a government. Hence, he’s looking to the swamp to fill positions in ‘his’ government.
        It’s also why voting for someone with no experience is never a good idea.

        Blaming the President for a lack of laws by the Congress (that’s who creates law) who’ve done nothing (why they’re called a do nothing congress) is putting the blame in the wrong place. Republicans and Democrats have been unwilling to hold Corporate Executives accountable. So, expect much of the same going forward except now Republicans in Congress will say we need more government. Watch.

        The issue here is Sandy Springs Incorporated is asking tax payers, to fund thru Federal Government, what they can’t afford. Sandy Springs is doing what a lot of residence are doing. Buying more house than they can afford to maintain. It’s Sandy Springs Residence who will be paying to maintain all these grand plans.

        Given that we had a 16% voter turn out in the last SS election I challenge those of you ranting to actually vote. Not saying you didn’t but with only 16% of us voting, most have no voice.

        Some of those “progressives” or “elites” are actually regular people. Some saw the writing on the wall and worked to reeducate, retrain and prepare for what was coming. Others decided nights out, weekends out and continuing on as is was acceptable. Those people who decided continuing on as acceptable are now loosing big. Remembering that history class and the cause and effect of the Industrial Age is now paying dividends for some.

        Apolitical is what most of the people running this country are. That’s true in the DOJ, NSA, EPA and even the Pentagon to name just a few. Hope this has been helpful

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