Sandy Springs will spend over $950,000 to bury utility lines underground for a streetscape project, and has begun eminent domain takings for right of way that could cost over $980,000 more.

The overall project is a $7 million redesign of Sandy Springs Circle between Hammond Drive and Mount Vernon Highway. It will convert four travel lanes to two, plus a turn lane and on-street parking, and add sidewalks and a multiuse path. Stalled for a while after a 2016 controversy about lack of public input, the project got redesigned and is back on track.

The city prefers to put utility wires underground for aesthetics and to reduce accidental power outages. For this project, AT&T and Georgia Power Co. have agreed to bury their lines in a jointly used trench on the west side of the street, according to Marty Martin, the city’s capital improvement programs manager.

The City Council agreed Feb. 6 to reimburse the two companies a total of $950,795.72 for the work, which could be carried out this summer.

The council also approved eminent domain filings to take right of way property at four addresses. Mayor Rusty Paul and some councilmembers emphasized the filings are just a tactic. Paul said the city “will continue to negotiate in good faith” with property owners to buy the right of way, which collectively could cost up to $982,400 if the city’s offers are accepted. Officials estimated in 2016 that right of way acquisition for the entire project could cost $2.8 million to $3 million.

City Attorney Dan Lee said the eminent domain filings were largely for technical reasons. The project is partly funded with federal money through the Georgia Department of Transportation, and the right of way must be in city hands, at least on paper, by Feb. 20, Lee said. He said some of the parcels have complex ownership, “brownfield” issues or hard-to-locate finance companies. Filing for eminent domain clarifies and simplifies the city’s assertion of ownership, he said.

The addresses and the city’s purchase offers for their right of way are:

135 Mount Vernon Highway (Randy Beavers insurance agency office), $358,800

227 Sandy Springs Circle (City Walk shopping center): $37,600

6010 Sandy Springs Circle (Centre Court shopping center): $305,600

6025 Sandy Springs Circle (Sandy Springs Place shopping center): $280,400

City Councilmember Chris Burnett is market president at the Bank of Sandy Springs, located in the Centre Court shopping center. He recused himself from the specific vote about that right of way taking due to his landlord’s involvement. Burnett said he has no direct financial interest in the matter, but that he thought it “prudent” to recuse himself anyway.

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