To the editor:

I am writing to discuss redevelopment in south Sandy Springs, specifically the proposed Gateway project.

Starting in the mid-1960s, numerous apartment complexes were proposed along Roswell Road – and the Fulton County Commissioners went ahead and eagerly approved them. Then, back in 2005, Sandy Springs finally became a city, due to a group of citizens led by Mayor Eva Galambos and City Councilman Tibby DeJulio.

Re: Roswell Road. As soon as the city was formed, standards were established to provide developers incentives whereby, if they could assemble properties in excess of five acres, prevailing height and other density standards could be relaxed. Also height maximums were established at various intersections ranging from five stories all the way up to a no-height limitation at I-285.

And it was understood that for new projects to be economically feasible, their densities might have to be increased. In other words, if an old property of 200 units was replaced, the new property’s break-even would perhaps be 300 units.

The city established a good redevelopment plan, but then the real estate recession hit and it took until 2012 for the market to come back to life. Gateway would replace 438 existing apartments with 700 (or quite possibly less) upscale apartments, along with several restaurants, a custom grocery store and some retail establishments. This application will be re-presented to the Planning Commission on June 20. Then the council will conduct a final vote in July.

Gateway will provide – as its name implies – an improved presentation to people as they enter Sandy Springs from Buckhead, and enhance our quality of life. But the biggest benefit will be a reduction in the number of students at High Point Elementary, Ridgeview Middle and Riverwood High schools.

High Point Elementary would be the prime beneficiary – which would trigger higher home values, especially for the older homes within a 2-mile radius of the school. These relationships can be proven by looking at Sarah Smith Elementary, directly south of High Point Elementary. Also, people in rush-hour traffic would no longer have to contend with stopping to sit and watch the four-plus school buses that block Roswell Road every morning and afternoon.

Over the last nine months, the applicant has had numerous meetings with citizens to discuss density, parking, water issues, and effects on adjacent property owners – and I believe these concerns will be substantially resolved. I would also like to see the Rite Aid property included in the final design of this project.

Re: road improvements. The Windsor Parkway intersection at Roswell Road will be re-aligned. The design, costs and funding sources of these improvements have not yet been finalized, but preliminary plans have a cost estimate of $4 million-plus.

The city’s contribution would come out of operating funds and reserves, but no debt would be incurred. Also, until this intersection is improved, it is likely that no large redevelopments of any old apartment complexes can occur on Roswell Road.

Re: traffic, the Windsor improvements will offset any traffic increases brought about by Gateway. The peak traffic loads will be improved with the reduced number of school bus loadings. The West Wieuca and Wieuca intersections, which are in Atlanta, also will see increased traffic. Atlanta will need to add a turn lane on West Wieuca at Gateway’s south entrance.

I hope the long-anticipated redevelopment of Roswell Road finally starts soon – along with the required road improvements. We have waited long enough.

Bill Gannon

 

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