St. Martin’s Episcopal School’s plan for a private preschool and daycare at a former church on High Point Road won a recommendation of approval by the Sandy Springs Planning Commission on Nov. 18, but only with an enrollment cap that is lower than requested.
The only issue commissioners and neighborhood representatives had was a last-minute request to increase the student cap from 60 to 100 students. Commissioners stuck with the city’s Zoning and Planning Department staff recommendation of 60 students.
The conditional use permit request for the former Highpoint Episcopal Community Church at 4945 High Point Road moves to the City Council for a final vote on Dec. 15 with five staff recommendations.
In addition to the cap on students at 60, the conditions require St. Martin’s to follow the site plan, which only uses the existing building; a maximum lot coverage of 28% of the site; a building limit of one story; and a stipulation that carpool stacking remain on the site, with information provided on whether deceleration or left-turn lanes are necessary.
“Since at least the early ’60s, the property has been used for worship as well as educational opportunities,” said Alexandra Horst of the city’s Planning and Zoning staff.
The plan by St. Martin’s is to move its early childhood program from the school at 3110 Ashford-Dunwoody Road in Brookhaven to the High Point property. Children from 8-weeks to 5-years-old would attend the school. Minor exterior and interior work would be done to prepare the 16,500-square-foot building, including creating five classrooms inside. The school plans to transfer 15 administrative workers to the site, which is located on 7.54 acres.
Den Webb, legal representative for St. Martin’s, confirmed that drop-off and pickup of students would occur with vehicle stacking within the 108-space parking lot, with curb cuts designated as a separate entrance and exit.
While St. Martin’s would move an existing program, it also wanted the ability to increase the attendance over time.
Webb said that “we need some groom to grow over the long term. The cost of operating the school increases about 3% every year.”
Without the flexibility to increase, adding a few students at a time, the school would have to increase its tuition, Webb said. That also would impact St. Martin’s commitment to diversity, eliminating opportunities for scholarships, he said.
But Ronda Smith, president of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, said the community has supported St. Martin’s based on the cap of 60 students.
Smith said the community hasn’t experienced traffic of note on the two-lane road originating from the church property for at least 10 years.
St. Martin’s can always come back to the city and request an increase to the student cap in the future, she said.
Former church member Duffy Hickey spoke as a neighbor and as president of the High Point Civic Association.
“Both I personally and the civic association want this thing to work,” Hickey said.
The civic association’s primary concern was the cap on students at 60. St. Martin’s would operate the third school within 0.6 of a mile of High Point Road, he said. Those include High Point Elementary School at 520 Greenland Road and Atlanta Jewish Academy at 5200 Northland Drive. Another nearby school is the Chaya Mushka Children’s House Preschool at 5065 High Point Road.
Webb asked that another school zone sign with reduced speed be installed at Maryland Place, just south of the southernmost curb cut of the property.
Commissioners voted to send the staff recommendations with suggested conditions – including the student cap of 60 students – to the council.