Homeowners living near the former Highpoint Episcopal Church property in Sandy Springs said they preferred to see St. Martin’s School open a daycare-preschool there over a residential development during a community meeting held virtually and in person Sept. 30 on the rezoning proposal.

Brookhaven-based St. Martin’s plans to open for children from 8 weeks to 5 years old as soon as the beginning of 2021 at the former church at 4945 High Point Road. The school needs approval of its application for a conditional use permit by the City Council in December for that to happen, said Den Webb, an attorney who represents the school.

The Highpoint church property as it appears in Fulton County property records.

He said the pandemic pushed the project later than planned. A Planning Commission meeting set for October has been pushed back to Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. at City Hall, Studio/Theatre, 1 Galambos Way. That pushed the City Council public hearing to Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. in the Studio/Theatre. Both meetings will be held in person and virtually.

Sue Glander, who with her husband, Chris, have their home on property that abuts the former church property, was in favor of the plans. She said they agreed that this project, if completed as stated, would be the most desirable outcome.

“Because we really don’t want to see another development of many, many houses going in,” she said.

Another virtual attendee asked about attendance.

“I hear you are planning for 60 students. Do you think that is what will happen on Day One?” Mary Ford asked.

Webb said it would take a couple of years to reach that enrollment level. St. Martin’s wants the option for a maximum of 100 children, which he called a long-term option to grow.

Ford also asked if it would be more of a school or a daycare.

Webb said that depends on the age of the child. Children ages 2 to 5 generally are referred to as students. “You don’t become a student at 8 weeks, though,” he said.

Instruction will be part of the children’s day, Webb said.

He said the children attending would not have to be members of the Episcopal church or St. Martin’s School. 

St. Martin’s is a private Episcopalian school serving children from 8 weeks to eighth grade. It is located at 3110-A Ashford Dunwoody Road in Brookhaven. The school bought the church property from the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.

Webb said the diocese wants the opportunity to hold services in the chapel occasionally, perhaps three times a year. St. Martin’s also wants to hold a few services each year on site. The children attending at the High Point Road site will use the chapel, he said.

I know this property has been an important part of the neighborhood for 60 years,” Webb said.

Neighbors can continue to use a community garden, he said. St. Martin’s hopes to allow that kind of activity to continue on the property.

Bill Pahl, whose property abuts the former church property, said he plans to do landscaping on his own property. He wanted to know if St. Martin’s planned to do anything with the fence along the property line so he would know whether to start landscape work now, or to wait.

Webb said he didn’t have the answer but would ask the architect and get back to Pahl.

Glander said her property is right next to a playground.

“We have lived here throughout the time when the church had an outreach to the Hispanic community and the playground was used from time to time for kids. “I as a neighbor would be very happy with some kids playing, if they do at the playground.

A traffic study wasn’t required, but Webb said to expect 47 morning trips and 48 in the afternoon.

“But you’ve got a really long drop-off window here,” he said.

Some parents would arrive when the school opens its doors at 7:30 a.m., while others would arrive as late as 10:30 a.m. A similar situation occurs in the afternoon when children are picked up, he said. The facility would close at 6 p.m.

In a virtual chat, Jane Kelley said, “I would be very surprised if this did not get approved. I think the neighborhood is pretty happy with this petition.”

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.