Sandy Springs has appointed a new committee to advise and review the forthcoming North End redevelopment conceptual plans. It is unclear what the exact format and duration of the Sandy Springs North End Revitalization Advisory Committee will be.

The members of the committee will represent the stakeholders in the North End of the city, Mayor Rusty Paul said at the Jan. 7 City Council meeting where the new group was approved for appointment.

“They’re there to provide oversight [and] advice, and they represent stakeholders,” Paul said at the Jan. 7 meeting. “They bring a wide variety of viewpoints and people who have a real stake in that community and in the future of that area.”

The committee has been appointed in the wake of Sandy Springs moving forward with its redevelopment concepts for the North End of the city, including discussion of a mysterious “revitalization zone.”

At a Dec. 3 meeting, the council awarded a $307,260 contract to architect firm TSW for redevelopment designs of four shopping centers in the North End. According to city spokesperson Sharon Kraun, the design process will take place this year.

TSW is required to design a total of 12 plans, three for each shopping center. One design will conform to the city’s Development Code, one will potentially require variances, and the third will be “unique” and would not be bound by any code requirements, according to a city procurement document.

The city is requiring that TSW hold at least two public meetings: one at the beginning of the process to take public input; and the second at the end to display the preferred conceptual plans.

Paul said TSW would find a committee useful in achieving what residents want in the North End.

“One of the things [TSW] would like to have is a community team of residents to work with them to identify some of the issues they would like to address,” Paul said.

The list of the committee members was still changing days before the council meeting, with some names added after the initial agenda document was posted and one of the nominees removed and replaced after saying she would not participate.

According to spokesperson Sharon Kraun, a primary requirement was that members live in the North End or have a community role within the area.

The members of the committee are:

  • Nicholas Ardit – Business owner and resident
  • Sarah Cannon – Resident of the Elizabeth Heights neighborhood
  • Tamara Carrera – Executive director of the Community Assistance Center, a Sandy Springs-based nonprofit to help people at risk of homelessness.
  • Ken Dishman – Resident of the Princeton Square neighborhood and former City Council member who supported large-scale redevelopment in the north end during his time on the council.
  • Emile Escalera – Resident of the Lexington Crossing neighborhood
  • Jane Green – President of the Grogans Bluff homeowners association
  • Nakisha Harris – Huntcliff neighborhood homeowners association member
  • Brie Harrison – North End apartment renter
  • Darious Moore – Resident of the Winding River neighborhood
  • Ronda Smith – President of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, a coalition of the city’s homeowners associations.
  • Steve Soteres – Sandy Springs City Council member representing part of the North End who also chaired the North End Revitalization Task Force, which sought ways to spur redevelopment as well as retain and create affordable housing.

The members were recommended by Paul. When asked why there was no public nomination process, the city cited the code, which says that all board members of advisory committees must be nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the council.

“Most of these are people who are actively involved in their local homeowners associations,” Paul said. “I can enthusiastically support these members.”

Paul also said the committee will continue to grow and he wants to see a wide variety of people on the board to best represent the area.

“This is not the end of it,” Paul said. “We want to have a very diverse group of people with a lot of different viewpoints.”

Additional names will likely be brought back to add to the list at the next council meeting, according to Paul.

According to the resolution for the committee, the members’ terms will conclude “upon completion of the committee’s business.” No meeting plans or processes were discussed at the Jan. 7 meeting.

The idea of redeveloping the shopping centers follows a lengthy process and report from the city-formed North End Revitalization Task Force.

The task force worked for several months in 2018 to draft a plan to bring new development to the north end, ultimately deciding on six key proposals: build a multiuse trail; incentivize new mixed-use and mixed-income developments; make Roswell Road improvements; build new streets and pedestrian connections; create new access to the Chattahoochee River; and build a community center and swimming complex.

The plan was opposed by David and Melanie Couchman, affordable housing advocates who co-chaired the task force, because they felt it would lead to the displacement of residents. In February 2019, they launched an initiative opposing the task force’s final report called Sandy Springs Together, which has since been keeping the pressure on for any redevelopment to preserve affordable housing.

Melanie Couchman said SST continues to advocate that the city hires a firm to conduct an affordable housing impact study prior to any redevelopment.

“If a similar recommendation were to come out of the advisory committee, then it would be beneficial. However, it is too soon to know what the benefit of the advisory committee will be,” Melanie Couchman said in an email.

Hannah Greco

Hannah Greco is writer and media communications specialist based in Atlanta.