By Katie Fallon
katiefallon@reporternewspapers.net

Following a long debate at its Aug. 28 meeting, the city’s Design Review Board approved by a 5-1 vote a partial rezoning within the Prado that will bring a 20,331 square foot Circuit City to the shopping center’s redevelopment.

Located on Roswell Road just south of the I-285 interchange, the Prado is undergoing a massive development by the Sembler Company. While the entire site is approximately 27.15 acres, the rezoning in question was a 2.07 acre tract of land that has partial frontage on Roswell Road. The electronics giant is scheduled to occupy the space and will join other so-called “big-box” retailers such as Publix, Home Depot and Target.

The vote, which came with board member Marlise Landeck in opposition, included stipulations that Prado LLC, the applicant for the rezoning, provide screens from the development’s “mechanicals” for the neighbors, create a similar façade on the Circuit City building that has been planned for the northern elevation of the Publix and that the developer confirm that the project will have a limited effect on traffic.

The DRB previously deferred the matter during its Aug. 14 meeting. However, Prado LLC, Sembler and its legal representative Pete Hendricks drew the ire of the board at its Aug. 28 meeting because the group chose to take the matter to the Planning Commission after the initial deferment rather than waiting for the board’s recommendations.

Within the city’s rezoning procedures, the applicant normally goes before the board, then the Planning Commission and finally the City Council. The rulings of the DRB and the Planning Commission are merely recommendations that, coupled with the city’s Planning and Zoning staff’s recommendations, are sent to the council before its vote.

The vote was initially deferred because of neighbors’ desires to see elevations for the project. Developers, however, are not required to submit elevations. In fact, Sembler representative Victor Ellis said anybody can find the project’s elevations online with no problem. He said the neighbors have already affected the progress of the development.

“Moving this project forward does not compromise the ability to impact it.” Ellis said. “Certainly we want to take into account all of the comments we can get and pass them along to our design team and use every chance we can to interact [with the board], with our tenants and the neighborhood, but at some point, it gets repetitive and ultimately, unproductive.”

An overall issue that many speakers had a problem with during the public comment portion of the meeting was they felt they were not getting what they were promised. In fact, the co-owners of 5 Seasons Brewing, a current restaurant in the Prado, both spoke about their disapproval over the rezoning and the redevelopment.

“We’re sort of in a situation now that what has been promised has not been delivered,” said 5 Seasons partner Dennis Lange. “The existing tenants have suffered and we really don’t want to anymore. I understand during a project that things change, a project evolves and you’ve got to make adjustments. That’s the nature of any business. I’m still supportive of the concept of what this development is, but I just don’t want it at the expense of existing tenants or the neighbors.”

Specific to his own complaints, Lange said the Circuit City will dramatically affect the visibility of his establishment. Co-owner David Larkworthy also said Sembler promised to re-do the restaurant’s façade, but that the current site plan does not include that change.

Similarly, Landeck said having a “big box” retailer like Circuit City in the planned location does not benefit the area aesthetically.

“There’s no neighborhood feel along Roswell Road at all,” Landeck said. “I think this whole project affects the citizens of Sandy Springs. It’s where we live and where we shop and where we have investments in the community.”

The matter of the rezoning of the 2.07-acre tract of land will now need final approval from the City Council for rezoning.