The question of whether neighborhoods are protected from commercial intrusion arose during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
“We have repeatedly promised people in residential areas that we are not going to go ahead and decrease their quality of life,” said Councilman Tibby DeJulio. “We have neighborhoods all over Sandy Springs that could wind up having commercial intrusion.”
Residents booed as they left what was a packed City Council Chamber after Mayor Eva Galambos voted to defer a rezoning decision on a new driveway at Glenridge Medical Center onto Glenforest Road. The building is located at 5730 Glenridge Road and current zoning conditions do not allow for the driveway.
The Mayor cast the deciding vote when the six Council members were split on whether to delay the decision until mid-January.
Building owner Ralph Edwards says Glenridge Medical Center is 70 percent occupied and he can’t lease the rest of the building unless tenants believe their patients have safe access onto the street.
The Glenridge Hammond Neighborhood Association is against it.
“They approached us three years ago,” said association president, Doug Falciglia, to Patch. “We felt that due to the [City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Future Land Use Plan] they really couldn’t do it and they were appealing to us...It’s my feeling if they had the neighborhood buy-in then the city could do what they want.”
The Mayor along with Councilmembers, Gabriel Sterling, Dianne Fries and John Paulson advised the two sides to seek a compromise. However, the neighborhood is already disgruntled over a six-year delay by the building owner to install a wall as a visual buffer.
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Former Community Development Director Nancy Leathers is a consultant to the neighborhood association. The Comprehensive Land Use Plan was adopted to protect neighborhoods and residential streets, she said to City Council, adding that streets along Roswell Road have been protected from commercial intrusion because of it.
“We believe there is a need to provide consistent protection for neighborhoods,” said Leathers. “People are investing in their homes in part based on the fact you have supported this policy over the years since Sandy Springs became a city.”
In support of delaying a decsion to January, Fries noted how commercial access to the shopping center at the edge of her Huntcliff neighborhood has not been a problem.
A lawsuit brings an added wrinkle
City staff normally advises Council on zoning decisions but cannot in this case because of a pending lawsuit on behalf of the property over zoning approval of Lakeside Office Park back in August. City Council settled a lawsuit by MetLife, which co-owns Lakeside, when they approved rezoning for a mixed-use development on the site.
Lakeside is across the street from Glenridge Medical Center.
During the meeting, city attorney Cecil McClendon said the lawsuit is based on the plantiff’s belief that Lakeside rezoning will have a detrimental impact on the Medical Center building.
Some neighbors believe the lawsuit was filed in part to prevent city staff from advising Council members on the building’s rezoning.
DeJulio and Karen Meinzen McEnerny said the lawsuit resembled blackmail.
“I think this is a precedent that will destroy this city if every real estate attorney and every real estate developer realizes all they have to do is sue the city no matter how bad it is for the neighborhoods,” he said.
Before the vote to defer the decision was approved, the Councilman intended to vote to deny the rezoning application.
Mayor Galambos said, “I’m going to vote with the deferral in the hope that you folks will get with these developers and get something out of them that everybody can get ahead with.”
Falciglia and neighbors are not encouraged. "If she is saying get what you can get…It’s not very promising,” he said.
He suggests the building simply hire an off-duty police officer to direct traffic instead of creating a driveway.
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