At a special called meeting Wednesday at City Hall, the Sandy Springs City Council voted 6-0 to authorize a 60-day moratorium on accepting permit applications for multifamily uses on parcels of commercially zoned (C-1 or C-2) land.
“Inside C-1 zonings, essentially we have an undefined section where if you build retail, you can then put an apartment there and we did not define retail in the code,” District 4 Councilman Gabriel Sterling said. “We want to find a way to potentially tighten this up so that it [accommodate] true retail and true mixed-use retail situations for the long run. … Sixty days should give us enough time to do that.”
The council’s decision can perhaps be viewed as both reactive and proactive regarding its applicability to the looming materialization of elements making up the city center development project. It does not, however, affect applications for zoning projects designated as apartment or mixed-use sites.
Although the matter was hastily added to the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, residents will be given opportunities to weigh in during a to-be-scheduled public hearing, officials said.
“I’ve had several meetings with [developers] and it was real obvious that the retail they were bringing to the table was a fig leaf to cover up their apartment and that’s not what we intend in the city center,” said Mayor Rusty Paul.
“We do want to create residential and we want to make it walkable … but we intend that district to be a true mixed-use district — not labeled mixed-use as a cover just for apartments.”
Elsewhere on the night’s agenda, those in attendance were privy to a presentation updating the options and the inherent implications for a proposed city center performing arts facility and meeting space.
John Jokerst, program manager for Atlanta-based Carter Inc., estimated the total cost of the endeavor to be between $169 million and $197 million.
Sandy Springs City Manager John McDonough later discussed potential funding options for the project, including issuance of private placement bonds and the city’s historically embraced pay-as-you-go model. The latter entails proposed funding to be set aside each year for the next three years to help reduce long-term debt obligations.
“We have to pay for the cost of construction,” McDonough said. “If we take on a [$190-plus million] project, we simply wouldn’t have the funds on hand to pay the bills.”