Author: Reporter Newspaper Staff

Forestwood homes to give way to new elementary school

Demolition is expected to begin this month on 23 or more homes along Forestwood Lane to make way for a two-story elementary school that tentatively is being called Lake Forrest Elementary. For two years, Fulton County Schools searched for a site for the new elementary school in Sandy Springs, which is expected to handle about 850 students from surrounding schools. One year ago, the school system finally found the site it wanted, negotiated with homeowners in the neighborhood between Cliftwood Drive, Lake Forrest Drive and Sandy Springs Circle. Now, the 1960s-era neighborhood, which seems totally abandoned, is ready for demolition. However, the school system has not totally worked out negotiations with three property owners on the north side of Cliftwood Drive. If negotiations with those owners are unsuccessful, the school system will have to reconfigure the property. With those three properties, the school site would be 14.7 acres. The school plans call for classroom wings that would be stacked atop each other and covered with a dormer roof to soften the architecture. The main entrance drive to the school would be off either Sandy Springs Circle or Cliftwood Drive. If Fulton County Schools reaches agreement on all of the properties by Feb. 1 and is able to begin demolition on schedule, the school is expected to be ready to open in August...

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Taking care of business: SSBA director has finger on pulse of Sandy Springs

Nearly a decade ago Donna Gathers and her family relocated to Sandy Springs from the Cleveland, Ohio suburb of Shaker Heights. Gathers had only just completed her graduate coursework receiving her Master’s of Public Administration from Cleveland State University and also recently had overseen a Shaker Heights’ official’s re-election campaign. She was considering a new career after years of working as a fulltime mother, volunteer and graduate student and knew only that she wanted to pursue her passion of public administration rather than her original field of human resource consulting. “I took a number of years off when my kids were born,” Gathers said. “That’s when I got the non-profit bug. I was doing work for the schools and the city of Shaker Heights while finishing my graduate degree.” Gathers’ three children were all teens when her husband’s, Jeffrey, work transferred him to Atlanta, which she said was a complicated age to uproot children. “We moved here with some trepidation, but Atlanta is a very easy place to move to,” Gathers said. “People here are welcoming, and the cost of living is pretty kind to live this close to a big city. Now that we’ve moved to the south we would never leave. We’re addicted, and we’re committed southerners.” Gathers again began volunteering soon after settling into Sandy Springs, this time at North Springs High School. It was there...

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City manager reviews 2006 highlights, 1st quarter plans

Sandy Springs City Council members and city staff on January 9 heard City Manager John F. McDonough highlight the accomplishments of the city’s first year of operation in 2006 and look ahead to what he foresees the city accomplishing in the first quarter of 2007. In addition to two of the most visible accomplishments—the launching of the city’s own police department July 1 with 86 sworn officers and the beginning of operations this past December of the 91-member Fire Rescue Department—McDonough pointed to a long list of accomplishments which he characterized as “very impressive” for the city’s first year. Among the first-year highlights pointed out by the city manager were: The city’s Citizen Response Center took and responded to 70,000 calls. The Community Development Department reduced permitting backlog from eight weeks to two weeks, worked off the county backlog within two months and now offers some next day inspections. It also issued 2,500-plus notices of code violations and issued 340-plus citations. More than 5,000 signs that were littering rights-of-way were removed and more than 2,900 sign permit applications were reviewed. Sandy Springs Municipal Court was operational within 90 days of the city’s start-up, more than 17,000 total tickets were processed, a Traffic Violations Bureau was established, a third judge was hired to improve efficiency and an environmental court was established. The Public Works Department poured more than 1,750 tons...

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First month of fire inspections uncover many challenges

The Sandy Springs Fire Department has been officially operating only since Dec. 29, but by Jan. 9 it already had handled 365 emergency medical service (EMS) calls—an average of 40 per day. And, since December 11, the city’s Fire Marshal’s Office has completed 50 new construction inspections, participated in more than 15 inspections as part of an apartment community sweep in December and conducted 23 overcrowding inspections of clubs on New Year’s Eve. According to a report made to the Sandy Springs City Council earlier this month by Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Jeff Scarbrough, fire inspectors have found challenges with projects previously approved by Fulton County, a general lack of fire inspections by Fulton County in the past and a significant number of violations—which he classified as “mostly moderate, but some serious.” During one recent visit, a fire inspector was told, “I have been the manager of Kinder Care for five years, and I have never seen anyone from the fire department, inspectors or fire trucks.” And a manager of a high-rise on Carpenter Drive told the new fire inspectors, “I have been the manager of this facility for 10 years, and I have never seen a fire inspector.” Through Jan. 9, the Fire Marshal’s Office had approved 32 certificates of occupancy for new construction, inspected 10 of the 29 daycare facilities, two of the 10 assisted living facilities,...

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Tree ordinance: No clear-cut fix

The proposed tree ordinance for the city of Sandy Springs has created a lot of discussion and an apparent breach between many concerned citizens and City Council, but also among members of council as well. The question is which voices will be heard loudest when council votes on the ordinance at its February 6 meeting. Two major issues are the provisions of the ordinance that require a 50 percent tree canopy on residential properties and four recommendations the Tree Ordinance Advisory Committee made for inclusion into the ordinance that many residents in the community want to see included but City Council flatly rejected at its January 9 discussion. The one issue council members, city staff and most of the general public seem to be in concert on is that they all are opposed to the collusion that seems to be going on in the city between some developers and single-family homeowners that is resulting in the homeowners “clear cutting” the trees from their properties under a loophole in the present law so that they can then sell their property to a developer at a higher price. The four recommendations made by the Advisory Committee but left out of the tree ordinance by the city’s staff, included: •Create a “historic tree” designation, which would include any tree associated with a significant historic event or life of a person or group...

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