Sandy Springs officials will hold public meetings about a new affordable housing deal, after their previous waiver of that required process triggered backlash from the city Planning Commission.

The deal would create 10 units affordable to public safety employees and middle-income households in the Cliftwood, a new luxury apartment building at 185 Cliftwood Drive owned by ECI Group, in exchange for allowing three model units to be occupied. Allowing the new units, and thus the entire deal, requires a rezoning for technical reasons.

The Cliftwood apartment complex as it appears in a marketing photo on its website at

At a Dec. 21 Planning Commission hearing, city planning officials admitted they had waived two public meetings required in the rezoning process, and that the code appears to have no provision allowing them to do so. Ginger Sottile, the city’s Community Development director, did not explain the waiver to the commissioners, but defended it by saying there was no sign that the public cared about the deal. She also noted that the commission’s votes are only advisory and that staff could take the case directly to the City Council for approval.

City spokesperson Sharon Kraun later said that the meetings were waived by Jim Tolbert, the assistant city manager for planning and neighborhood services.

“That decision was made by the assistant city manager,” she said. “The reasoning behind it was, the [overall apartment building] project was already constructed… We didn’t expect we’d get a different result.”

At the Dec. 21 commission meeting, several commissioners criticized the meeting waiver, and the body voted 6-1 to recommend deferring the case until the required public meetings were held.

Those meetings have now been scheduled, one for Jan. 22, 6 p.m., at the Cliftwood, and the other Feb. 12, 6 p.m., at City Hall, 7840 Roswell Road, Building 500. The case will return to the Planning Commission on Feb. 27 and is scheduled for a City Council vote on March 20.

The proposed affordability deal would last 10 years. Three of the units would be made available to city public safety employees for $500 a month, and seven of the units would be priced at rates affordable to middle-income households. Kraun said that documentation verifying the offering of affordable units and income qualifications of tenants would be collected and monitored by a Community Development staff member to be determined.

The few comments from Planning Commission members and the public about the substance of the affordability proposal were favorable, but with some questions as to why it could not offer more affordable units for a longer period.

John Ruch

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