Gabriel Sterling has been busy knocking on doors, lately. The City Councilman is running for re-election in District 4.
The theme of residents’ comments vary by neighborhood, he told Patch. In the Branches neighborhood, folks are concerned about stormwater runoff, in Spalding Woods- rezoning on Mabry; and Mount Vernon Woods residents wonder about the City Center project, Sterling said.
In a recent conversation with Patch, Sterling discussed public service, stormwater ideas, residential redevelopment and apartments.
Q: Why did you choose to become active in public service?
A: It goes beyond being active. It goes to the responsibility to people and their communities. Honestly, having worked at all levels at some point in my life. Local [government] is the toughest place in which to work. It is the closest to the people. It has the most impact on their lives.
Q: Was there anything that you discovered after you were elected that you didn’t expect?
A: It was harder and it took more time than I ever thought it would…trying to help people understand what’s going on while trying to achieve the best outcomes for the environment, for economic development, for neighborhood protection, for trees. It’s so granular.
Q: Do you recall a specific instance to describe what you mean?
A: A person had a special needs child who worked at a store that [he] had to walk to every day because [he] couldn’t drive. We were putting in a new sidewalk on Abernathy with [Georgia Department of Transportation]. The original plan was going to take 40 days. That would’ve meant the mother would have had to come out of her business day to drive him back and forth…I was able to get with our city staff and GDOT. We got the thing pushed forward. We got it done in five days. It’s that level of granularity, that level of detail that is so important when you have somebody in this role.
Q: Outside of the City Center project, is there another project or issue that is really important to you?
A: Stormwater, water quality. It is utterly unsexy. It is difficult to explain. It is expensive, but it is vital for the long term of not just Sandy Springs but the entire metro area and all of Georgia.
I just had a meeting today with representatives from [University of Georgia] and Trees Atlanta, talking about putting an integrated system together, probably starting with the pilot program at the Marsh Creek Watershed.
Q: How would that work?
A: What I’m talking about doing with the neighborhoods program is having private dollars come in and do planting on private land to help filter water. The more trees you have closer to the streams the better filtration you have. And an oak tree is going to provide better filtration than a pine tree. So I’m looking at having a subsidy for these people on private land because the city cannot pay to plant trees on private land. But we can coordinate a program and have targeted areas where you have our development ordinances, our tree ordinance, and private organizations all working hand in hand to enhance the water quality on endangered streams like Marsh Creek.
Q: There’s a lot of residential redevelopment going on in Sandy Springs. Is this potentially a place where some people can’t afford to live?
A: It depends on how you want to live and where you want to live. I have two bedroom condos where I live that are going for $75,000. That’s pretty affordable. There are apartments renting for $600-$800 that’s pretty affordable. If somebody wants to have a one-third acre lot with a home, you’re going to be paying a decent amount of money. You’re going to be paying $300-$400,000.
Q: I’ve heard developers say some new luxury apartments would rent for $2,000 per month. And I’ve heard folks who work here and live elsewhere, say they can’t afford to live in Sandy Springs.
A: The market will drive redevelopment. If people can’t afford it the prices will go down…We’re trying to get to a place where we have more of a workforce that actually lives here. And that’s going to be better for the environment, the workers. And it’s going to be better for the companies.
There are over 7,000 class C apartment units in the city right now. That’s over one third of our apartment inventory. You’re not going to wave a magic wand and have that decrease in a year. Your Bs will go to Cs over time. Some Cs will get developed to A. Some Cs will get developed to mixed-use, and you will have new Class A.
Instead of a snapshot, it’s like a motion picture. You’re going to get rid of some of you’re oldest inventory with something new.
Q: Is there anything additional you would like citizens to know?
A: I’ve only had two and a half years on the job. I’ve managed to help Sandy Springs taxpayers save millions of dollars and I’d like another four years to have an opportunity to do more.