Mayor Eva Galambos fought the City Council but the council ultimately won on April 3, voting 5-1 at its regular meeting to override her first-ever veto.
Councilman Tibby DeJulio was the only “no” vote.
Galambos vetoed the City Council’s March 20 decision to require inspections before developers in the city start projects. Galambos hasn’t used this power since the city incorporated in 2005. Under the city’s charter, a simple majority of council members can overturn a veto.
“I take your judgment,” Galambos said after the council voted to overrule her. “I still think I’m right.”
Before the vote, Galambos read her written explanation of the veto, which is required by the city charter. Galambos called it an example of “personnel creep,” meaning the city would be adding employees it would be loathe to cut in future budgets.
City spokeswoman Sharon Kraun said the city would need to make one of its part-time positions full time or hire another part-time employee to handle the increase in inspections required by the council vote.
The mayor also said it was an example of the City Council micromanaging the staff.
She also said the council’s move was bad for the city’s image with developers.
“There has been some perception that Sandy Springs permitting is cumbersome and not business friendly,” Galambos said in her written statement. “This is not the time to add another step to the permitting process that would lengthen the process. None of the surrounding municipalities requires a pre-inspection before the permit is issued. Thus imposing this on Sandy Springs may make us less competitive.”
The mayor called the council’s decision a waste of taxpayers’ money, in addition to micromanagement. The council’s decision will cost $17,000 this fiscal year and $69,000 next fiscal year if the council decides to continue the additional inspections. Other council members said the additional inspections will save time because they will prevent problems that might crop up in the middle of a project. Several read prepared statements, explaining their rationale for bucking the mayor’s veto.
The inspections would be done by an employee described in city documents as both a landscape architect and arborist, meaning the inspector would also work to limit damage to the city’s tree canopy.
Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny said the inspections are needed to prevent further damage to tree cover and to protect the rights of other property owners affected by new development.
“This is a bulldozer-sized hole we need to close, as residential development activity is picking up in Sandy Springs,” McEnerny said.
Councilwoman Dianne Fries argued that requiring an inspection before the start of the project might speed a project up because it would address potential problems beforehand.
DeJulio again accused fellow council members of meddling in the city’s day to day operations.
“I am not opposed to pre-inspections,” DeJulio said. “I am not opposed to tree canopy. I am not opposed to people following the rules. What I’m opposed to is this council micromanaging the process.”