At a special-called meeting on July 23, the Sandy Springs City Council approved a 60-day moratorium on apartment permits for land zoned as C-1 or C-2 commercial.

City attorney Wendell Willard said the moratorium came about as city officials are concerned about an over-abundance of multifamily uses on the Roswell Road corridor, particularly the city center area.

“Up and down Roswell Road,” Willard said, is what he called “a string of pearls on both sides” where apartments could be built in commercial districts. The current ordinance allows for apartments to be built on top of and behind retail and office uses in commercial zoning districts as a mixed-use developments.

Mayor Rusty Paul said that oftentimes apartment developers will include just a few retail storefronts as a “fig leaf” to cover up the fact that the building is mostly apartments in order to fall into the mixed-use category. “An apartment with just a couple of small stores doesn’t constitute mixed use,” he said.

Councilman Gabriel Sterling said the action will help ensure that the area becomes a true mixed-use, walkable center.

“We did not define retail in the code so what is happening is people are saying we’ll put our leasing office there and that’s retail,” he said. “We wanted to find a way to potentially tighten this up and get the true mixed use, true walkable, true retail situation we are looking for in the long run. Sixty days should give us enough time to do that.”

Councilman Tibby DeJulio asked that, given the short notice of the ordinance vote, if there would be more time and opportunity for the public to comment.

“There will be ample opportunity for public comment,” Paul said. “We do know that notice for this item was very short but we felt there was a certain degree of urgency to take care of this. To compensate for that sense of urgency and the need to move quickly on this item, we will ensure there’s plenty of opportunity to debate both sides of the question.”

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