The likely final draft of Sandy Springs’ new zoning code has been posted in advance of an Aug. 15 City Council vote where it is expected to be adopted.
The biggest change in this draft: It once again removes almost all existing “conditions” on previous rezonings that limit redevelopment to suit neighborhood demands.
Another change: The number of zoning categories in which adult businesses, such as strip clubs, are allowed has been expanded further, from six to seven. And some contentious items that haven’t had significant change: a new policy mandating affordable housing in large multi-family residential projects, and a ban on a new gas station opening within a half-mile of an existing gas station.
The draft Development Code, as it is formally called, and the latest draft of the zoning map can be viewed on the city’s “Next Ten” planning process website at thenext10.org/zoning.
Wiping out conditions
Conditions are limits or improvements that a developer agrees to in exchange for rezoning a property, often with neighborhood input. Conditions can be nearly anything, from new roads to landscaping, building heights and landscape buffers.
With many rezonings dating back to before the city’s 2005 incorporation, conditions can be hard to apply years later, officials say, and the new code aims to do without them as much as possible. City planning officials want to wipe out most existing conditions, except for green space easements, traffic-related mitigations for large-scale developments, and landscape buffers and setbacks.
But residents who have won other types of conditions want to keep them, as do the attorneys representing some of them. The city Planning Commission previously recommended the preservation of all existing conditions, and that was written into a previous draft.
It appears the City Council decided to side with its planning staff, as the latest draft again wipes out all existing conditions except for those particular green space, traffic and buffer types.
For almost its entire existence, the city has been embroiled in various lawsuits attempting to limit the location and operation of strip clubs and adult bookstores. The original draft of the new zoning code restricted such businesses to industrial areas, which in practice means only one small spot in the city’s north end.
After getting advice from its attorneys, however, the city has continually expanded the places adult businesses will be allowed to operate. Assistant City Manager Jim Tolbert has said the legal advice was to basically let such businesses operate where they exist today.
A previous draft expanded adult businesses as a limited use to six commercial and industrial zones. The latest draft adds a seventh zone: Perimeter Medical, a new category that, besides medical uses, also includes a wide range of commercial uses.