The Georgia Department of Transportation’s Ga. 400 toll lanes project could require the demolition of more than 40 buildings in Sandy Springs — including single-family homes, an apartment building and offices — the agency revealed at a Feb. 28 public meeting.
The majority of the buildings are concentrated in two neighborhoods south of Spalding Drive. Nineteen homes are targeted on Northgreen Drive and 11 are targeted on Talbot Colony. The other properties are spread along Ga. 400 and include two multi-family structures and a commercial building. A billboard on Roberts Drive on the west side of Ga. 400 is also marked for demolition.
Rekha Desai, a Talbot Colony homeowner, said finding out her home would be taken is “a shock.” She and her husband have lived in the house since 1993 and they have “a lot of emotional investment” in it.
“But if we have to do it, we have to do it,” said Desai, one of several local residents who trekked to Alpharetta for the meeting.
GDOT has said the concept design is still preliminary and could change after an environmental review process. To see the designs and other meeting documents, including an illustrated video, visit GDOT’s website.
GDOT is working on two projects that would add four new toll lanes, called “express lanes” or “managed lanes,” along I-285 and Ga. 400 in the Perimeter Center area over the next decade, with the intent of improving overall traffic flow. Parts of the toll lanes are expected to be elevated, including a high flyover atop Northridge Road, to use existing right of way. The toll lanes are part of a system being built metro-wide, including recently opened lanes on I-75 and I-575.
The toll lanes project has become controversial for the limited information being released and the property impacts, some of which were privately being discussed with homeowners. For months, GDOT had refused to release information about possible property-taking, saying the public had to wait for this meeting.
“It’s surprising to come and find your home is going to be taken,” said Mary Louise Austin, a Talbot Colony homeowner for 35 years, referencing the initial private meeting with the neighborhood. “We thought this would be our forever home.”
GDOT recently shifted the section of Ga. 400 south of the North Springs MARTA Station into the I-285 toll lanes project, which is undergoing a separate planning process on a later timeline. That means many other property impacts and access points likely will not be presented by GDOT until that project’s public meetings start in December.
The Ga. 400 project’s potential property impacts were revealed in GDOT’s first public information open house for the project held Feb. 28 in Alpharetta. A local meeting for the Perimeter Center cities is set for March 12 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Sandy Springs City Hall, 1 Galambos Way.
GDOT’s plan showed toll lane access points would potentially be located at the North Springs MARTA Station and Northridge Road.
While the project has not been fully approved or finished the environmental review process, GDOT is beginning the process to acquire properties.
“There’s not a lot of flexibility in this area, so there’s a need to do early acquisition,” Phil Copeland, a consultant working on the project, told a Talbot Colony resident.
The Ga. 400 lanes also would carry a new MARTA bus rapid transit route. MARTA officials attending the meeting and displayed basic information about potential BRT stations, which included none in Sandy Springs.
The BRT system would replace a Red Line extension beginning with a station Northridge Road MARTA had been planning for years and Sandy Springs had prepared for. The BRT station at Northridge Road is not currently part of this project, according to the list presented by MARTA.
The stations are proposed for Holcomb Bridge Road, North Point Mall, Old Milton Parkway and Windward Parkway, all north of Sandy Springs.
Other plans revealed at the public meeting include replacing the Pitts Road bridge with a version long enough to cross the toll lanes and realigning the road near it, which would require demolishing several homes. The Spalding Drive and Roberts Drive bridges over Ga. 400 would also be replaced.
The Reporter previously revealed that 20 houses were targeted for demolition on Northgreen and Spalding drives. At that time, Ronda Smith, the president of Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, which represents homeowners associations in the city, said the organization is planning a strategy to help those who may be affected by the project.
“As a board we are gathering as much information as we can from the affected parties (HOA’s or homeowners) so we can be most effective with any efforts we undertake to assist these parties in working towards mitigation,” Smith said in an email.
Sandy Springs Councilmember Jody Reichel, who represents a large part of Ga. 400 that may be affected, including Northgreen Drive, said the city is working to gather information to reduce the impact on residents and has met with GDOT several times.
“Even though our influence is minimal, the GDOT has committed to continue meeting with the city as final plans are created and to listen to our feedback and input,” Reichel said in a written statement. “I want my constituents to know that I will stay informed and, together with the mayor and city council, will push GDOT as hard as possible to reduce the impact on our neighborhoods and to be transparent with our citizens as this project moves forward.”
Rafael Celedon, a homeowner on Talbot Colony, said he is disappointed his home will likely be taken for the project, but is now just hoping to get enough compensation from GDOT to afford a similar property nearby. If he doesn’t get enough, he fears he’ll have to move far away, he said.
“It’s only fair that we be compensated appropriately,” Celedon said. “That is a big unknown. It’s causing a lot of uncertainty and anxiety in our life.”
GDOT follows the federal guidelines for property acquisition and offers fair market value, Copeland said. Once an offer has been made, property owners are given a minimum of 60 days to relocate, he said.
GDOT is already acquiring property for the I-285 toll lane project as well.
One possible property impact already revealed for that southern portion of Ga. 400 now folded into the I-285 project is a proposed toll lane access point on Crestline Parkway, instead of one GDOT is currently planning on Mount Vernon Highway. The Crestline option was requested by Sandy Springs city officials, and would require demolishing eight homes.
The full list of properties marked for demolition in Sandy Springs for the Ga. 400 project:
West of Ga. 400 south of Spalding Drive
- Two houses on Wessex Court, a street off of Mabry Road
- 19 houses on Northgreen Drive
- One house on Spalding Drive
East of Ga. 400 south of Spalding Drive
- Townhouse building on Village Creek Trace
- 11 houses on Talbot Colony
West of Ga. 400 south of Pitts Road
- At least one apartment building at Colquitt Road in the Parc at Dunwoody. The map marked one building, but was imprecise.
East of Ga. 400 south of Pitts Road
- Four houses on Pitts Road
East of Ga. 400 north of Pitts Road
- One house on Spindlewick Drive
West of Ga. 400 north of Northridge Road
- A building in a commercial complex on Dunwoody Place that is the location of several law offices
West of Ga. 400 north of Roberts Drive
- A building in Lexington Crossing Condominiums
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified two houses marked for demolition as properties on Mabry Road. The houses are actually on Wessex Court, a street off of Mabry Road.