A six-story condo development proposed for Cliftwood Drive got approval from the Sandy Springs Planning Commission at a Feb. 19 meeting. The board recommended the City Council approve the rezoning request despite objections from one member and some residents neighboring the development.

Commissioner Andy Porter said his reason for supporting the rezoning goes back to a statement a former member of “the first generation” of the commission said nearly 20 years ago and that the “second generation” of commissioners need to follow the same principle.

“His statement was always ‘The more you shelter these zonings, the longer you postpone the redevelopment of an area,’” Porter said. “I think in this instance…we need to watch what we do from the second generation.”

The developer, Gary Unell under the name NexCity Development LLC, is requesting a rezoning to build 30 for-sale condos in a complex called Cliftwood Flats at 135 and 145 Cliftwood Drive.

An artist rendering of the six-story residential condo complex on Cliftwood Drive that has been proposed by a developer (Special).

The 0.84 acre property is currently in the CS-3 district of the zoning map, or the City Springs district, which allows buildings to be up to three stories. Unell is requesting a rezoning for the property to be considered CS-6, which would have the property still fall in the City Springs district but would allow the complex to be up to six stories.

Jason Peck, the managing partner of The Peck Group, LC, spoke in opposition, citing concerns with the height of the project. Peck said he spoke on behalf of himself and 10 other business owners who work in a building located at 5855 Sandy Springs Circle, immediately behind the condo site.

Gary Pearson, a resident of the Cliftwood Court subdivision across the street from the project site, spoke in opposition, saying the complex would clash with the neighborhood of single-family homes.

Unell said he reached out to nearby neighborhoods and received no negative feedback. At a Nov. 18 community meeting, the project was well-received by residents and believed to be something new and exciting that would add value to the city.

Commissioner Dave Nickles was opposed to the rezoning, saying it goes against the Next Ten comprehensive land-use plan and the new Development Code, adopted in 2017, that the city spent extensive time creating.

Nickles questioned if the condos would provide affordable housing, as the city has been asking for with similar developments. Unell said he does not plan to have any because the condos are luxury and for-sale.

The nearby Cliftwood apartment complex at 185 Cliftwood Drive offers workforce housing affordability as part of a deal made with the city during the zoning case prior to its opening in 2018.

The agreement with the city will last 10 years and applies to 10 units, with three of the units required to be exclusively offered to public safety employees. The deal specifies that if the deal is broken, the city could prohibit further leasing at the apartments and file a lawsuit.

City staff recommends approval of the rezoning. The board voted to recommend approval of the rezoning with a 5-1 vote, with Nickles voting to deny.

“Other than a developer wanting to get more units built, I don’t see any positive that this brings to us,” Nickles said. “I’m absolutely opposed to it.”

The council will vote on the rezoning at a future meeting.

If the application is approved, the construction is slated to begin in fall 2020 and be completed by the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022.

Hannah Greco

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