Sandy Springs City Council rejected a rezoning request to turn an extended-stay hotel on Barfield Road into an apartment complex despite support from neighbors.

The council vote was a 3-3 tie during the June 15 council meeting, which Mayor Rusty Paul broke by voting against the rezoning.

The developer planned to use the existing 128 units in the 17 buildings as apartments after renovations. (City of Sandy Springs)

The property is the Hawthorn Suites hotel at 6096 Barfield Rd.

Utah-based developer PEG Companies, which has completed several conversions of extended-stay hotels, was proposing to rezone the site from OX-3 (Office Mixed Use, 3 stories maximum height) to PR-3 (Perimeter Residential, 3 stories maximum height). PEG wanted to repurpose the hotel into 32 two-bedroom apartments and 96 studio apartments, keeping the number of buildings and units the same. 

The Autumn Chase townhome subdivision, which sits immediately north of the property, supported the change in zoning.

“While apartment homes are never a positive popular topic, consideration must be given to the property’s current state … It is in disrepair, and the current owner may be in financial distress, which would not be surprising given the economic economics driven by the pandemic,” said Melissa Mueller, who represented Autumn Chase subdivision.

The subdivision only wanted to support the rezoning if the city required the developer to keep the existing 128 units.

Ronda Smith, president of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, said after four months of discussions and negotiations between the neighborhoods and the applicant, the community expected the city to meet its request in limiting the site to 128 units.

Council member Chris Burnett explained his motion to approve the rezoning, with a 10-year condition of keeping the 128 units. He said coming out of the pandemic the hotel business has suffered. 

“This property is in need of repair. It’s old. It’s got deferred maintenance,” he said.

Council member Jody Reichel said she hoped the property could include fee simple affordable housing. If the zoning was changed to allow multi-unit housing, the city would always have apartments there, she said. She also was concerned that the 139 parking spaces would not be enough.

“This violates everything we’ve been talking about with zoning [that it’s] not for a specific project, but zoning is supposed to be about land use. And I think we can agree that there’s a problem out here with this project,” Council member Andy Bauman said.

He said it was a 10-year restriction with permanent rezoning. This rezoning request sounded like a conditional use permit, he said.

“I can’t support this. I think this is the dead wrong use of zoning,” Bauman said.

Council members Burnett, John Paulson and Steve Soteres voted for the rezoning, with Bauman, Reichel and DeJulio voting against it. In case of a tie, the mayor can vote to break the tie, and Paul voted against the rezoning.

The Barfield Road property retains its original zoning after the application was rejected, leaving it as an extended stay hotel. (City of Sandy Springs)

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.