The Sandy Springs City Council Tuesday approved the purchase of a photography studio for $1 million as part of its plan to acquire properties for its city center project.
The city had threatened to use eminent domain to purchase Eric Bern Studio, located on about half an acre at 161 Mount Vernon Hwy., and other properties located in the footprint of the proposed city center, which will include a new City Hall and other buildings. After months of negotiations, the city and Bern came to an agreement Jan. 30, and the council approved the transaction 6-0. Bern will also get $137,000 for moving expenses and can stay in his studio rent-free until January, when he must relocate.
“My hope all along for my business and my building was to remain a stakeholder in the Sandy Springs [city] center,” Bern said. “That was my goal. I tried for seven months or so to have them change where the [new] road was going to be and it wasn’t going well. I’ve had a really great relationship with the city of Sandy Springs. I have been their portrait photographer. I knew the [former] mayor [Eva Galambos] as a client for years. With my negotiations, I tried to keep it on a personal basis.
“Ultimately I had to face the reality that I was going to be selling my property, but it wasn’t just a real estate transaction. It was losing a business location and a city center presence. I have been operating in Sandy Springs for 35 years and owned that building for 23 years. When this all started, I shared [the story] with so many people, and I’m so grateful for the outpouring of support from the community during this past year.”
But the council did approve the use of eminent domain to buy properties at 6087 Roswell Road, 6094 Boylston Road to build a street connecting the two roads.
In other news, the council:
o approved by a 6-0 vote to defer to the March 18 council meeting the council’s Dec. 17 action to defer the overlay district amendments.
o approved by a 6-0 vote an amendment to the intergovernmental agreement between the cities of Sandy Springs and Johns Creek to provide a five-year term for 911 communications through the joint Chattahoochee River 911 Authority.
o denied by a 6-0 vote Alan N. Larsen’s application to rezone 183 Mystic Place from office and institutional to office and institutional conditional so he could redevelop an office building on the property. The matter had been deferred for 30 days at the Jan. 21 council meeting.
o denied by a 6-0 vote David L. Kuniansky’s application to rezone 4890 Northland Drive from single-family dwelling (R-1) to single-family dwelling (R-2A) to develop two single-family lots.
The four other rezoning applications were approved, though some were passed with conditions.