The new Mercedes-Benz USA headquarters and a related housing project got Planning Commission approval July 16—but only for half the requested number of apartment units.

Slashing the number of apartments from 399 to 199 was the commission’s nod to a large crowd that turned out to protest the controversial housing element. The roughly 200 residents were not appeased, with commission Chair Lee Duncan repeatedly threatening to throw them out for laughing or shouting out protests.

“They’re splitting the baby,” resident Todd Hennings said after the meeting.

The proposed mega-project combines 75 acres of largely wooded land along Glenridge Drive, straddling Abernathy Road. Mercedes plans its new headquarters at 6565 Glenridge Drive on the southern side. Ashton Woods would build a variety of housing types next to Mercedes, and also on another wooded parcel on the north side. That parcel is where the historic Glenridge Hall was controversial demolished earlier this year.

Residents are largely concerned about density and traffic impacts. The developers say the density would be lower than adjacent properties, and that traffic will be mitigated. Residents say the density calculations are improper and compromise the traffic details, too.

The residents made it clear they support the Mercedes headquarters part of the project. Their concerns focus on housing.

Lawyers on both sides weren’t thrilled by the commission’s decision, either.

Carl Westmoreland Jr., an attorney for housing developer Ashton Woods, said he does not think 199 units is feasible. Community conversations will continue, he said.

Hakim Hilliard, an attorney hired by more than a dozen homeowner associations, said the city has a “real legal quandary.” He claims the city is unlawfully considering two separate properties as one unified project.

The meeting included an appearance by the property’s seller, Caroline Glenn Mayson, who approved Glenridge Hall’s demolition. She said she got higher offers, but that Ashton Woods and Mercedes “show respect for green space” and have lower density—comments that drew laughter from the crowd. Mayson said this project is “head and shoulders, the best deal for our community.”

The commission’s recommendation to approve the project’s various zoning changes now heads to Sandy Springs City Council for a binding vote.

–John Ruch

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