A dispute about unpublicized changes to Sandy Springs’ new land-use map is highlighting tensions between developers and neighborhood association leaders around a potential widening of Hammond Drive.
The City Council approved the new Comprehensive Land Use Plan at its Feb. 21 meeting. While praised by many officials and residents for reflecting community wishes, the planning process ran into some controversy over unpublicized changes to its “character area” map in the Glenridge Hammond neighborhood.
The first such controversy arose in November when residents realized eight properties along Johnson Ferry Road and Hilderbrand Drive were changed from single-family “Protected Neighborhood” to denser “Urban Neighborhood.” A proposal to replace the eight houses with 28 townhomes was one reason city staff changed the designation. The filing of that redevelopment plan was the first that neighboring homeowners learned of the land-use change. That change was reversed—also without public notice—in the final draft.
At the Feb. 21 council meeting, Dean Perry, the agent for a family trust that owns property on Hammond Drive and Lorell Terrace, complained of a similarly secret change in the opposite direction. In a Feb. 14 letter to city officials, Perry and several other local property owners complained that eight Lorell Terrace lots went from Urban Neighborhood to Protected Neighborhood, limiting the redevelopment potential. The change happened sometime between Nov. 17, when the city Planning Commission voted on the final draft, and Dec. 6, when the City Council voted.
In the letter, Perry and other property owners suggest the city may have made the change for its own benefit. The city is studying a concept of widening nearby Hammond Drive and is already acquiring property there for right of way. The letter suggests that gives the city motivation to devalue the area’s land.
But Steve Oppenheimer, president of the Glenridge Hammond Neighborhood Association, said the change was made after his group checked the map and notified the city that it prefers the Protected Neighborhood status. He suggested that Perry and other owners who had advocated for the Urban Neighborhood status were the ones being secretive.
City spokesperson Sharon Kraun said the map changes were not secret. Revised maps were posted on the city website prior to formal votes, she said. However, there was no process of actively notifying property owners or neighborhood associations of the changes.
Perry said that several developers have approached him and other local property owners to build as many as two dozen houses. One idea involves creating a new road off Lorell due to an assumption the city will widen Hammond and eliminate driveways to speed traffic flow. He indicated that he and others eventually will sell to one of the developers.
At the council meeting, Paul told Perry to “hang tight,” saying that options for appealing the land-use designation are coming in the new zoning code that will be based on the Comp Plan.