Sandy Springs residents who attended an open house on Nov. 4 got a first look at proposals to change the city’s zoning and building codes via text amendment intended to spur redevelopment limited to three North End shopping centers.

The Lost Corner Preserve was the site where city staff showed displays illustrating how developers might use the proposed changes for a potential NEX-District that the text amendments would create. North River Village, Rivers Springs and Northridge shopping centers were chosen for the new North End specific district. Both properties abut residential development.

Sandy Springs Diner owner Nicholas Curi discusses city issues with Melody Kelley, who was the apparent winner of the City Council District 2 seat according to unofficial results.
Michelle McIntosh-Ross, the city’s Planning and Zoning manager, points out development possibilities under the text amendments with Melissa Mular, who won the District 3 City Council seats under unofficial results from the municipal election on Nov. 2. (Bob Pepalis)

“We’re talking about essentially creating a new district for the north end. And that district would really be tailored to a couple of sites that we’ve talked about as part of that overall North End revitalization plan,” Kristin Smith, assistant city manager, said.

The North River Village and River Springs properties were shown with proposals for NEX-5/6 zoning, which would be limited to five stories – or up to six stories with ground for retail or 10 percent of residential units reserved for residents earning 80 percent of the area’s average median income.

Northridge Shopping Center, which is surrounded by other commercial properties, was shown with an example of NEX-5/10/12 zoning, which permits five stories. However, special allowances would permit 10-story multifamily buildings at the rear of the site, or 12 stories with ground-floor retail or units designated for residents earning less than the average median income.

The text amendments also would require phasing of developments, with an equal percentage of non-multifamily units – single-family homes or townhomes – constructed with each phase of multifamily construction. If they want to build a multifamily building, they can’t build that and get their certificate of occupancy until they build the needed number of single units, Smith said.

“One of the requirements that we’ve added that we don’t have anywhere else in our zoning code is a requirement for single unit. So what we’re requiring is 25 percent of the total units on site would need to be single unit, meaning a single family, a townhome, a cottage or something like that,” she said.

The city’s concrete and steel requirement would be moved from the city’s building to its zoning code and exclude NEX districts.

Nicholas Curi owns the Sandy Springs Diner at 8612 Roswell Road, which is in front of the River Springs Shopping Center, said it was good that even a day after the city election people still came out and are interested what’s going to happen to the city.

 “I hope this is just another step to the developers developing the north end. There is a lot to be done yet. But at least I think the last year we’ve been in the right path to develop the north end,” Curi said.

He said it’s a little step, but if these kinds of things are realized, it’s going to help businesses.

“That’s going to help everything because it’s very important to be in an area that is developed and to look new, and to have more people of all ages coming in,” he said.

“I’m just worried that it might be like a sort of a Trojan horse where they’ll get this zoning passed and then they can use it to push all the lower income housing or affordable housing right out of Sandy Springs to make it just like an enclave for the rich,” Will Vance said at the open house.

Dan Coffer, manager of community relations for the city, said text amendments start the process to enable redevelopment. Zoning changes would come before public hearings only after the text amendments were approved.

The text amendments are scheduled for a public hearing at the Nov. 17 Planning Commission meeting and in December before City Council. Developers could potentially begin rezoning requests in January and February 2022 with community meetings, moving to Planning Commission in March and City Council in April.

“Should council opt to want to proactively rezone those, the city might go through that process, then that could be what a tentative schedule would look like. Otherwise, these districts would then be created and the property owner could come in and ask for rezoning,” Smith said.

To provide input on the proposed amendments, email pz@sandyspringsga.gov.

Ginger Sottile, Sandy Springs Community Development director, discusses the proposed North End text amendments with Ronda Smith, president of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods. (Bob Pepalis)

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.