Sandy Springs changes language in proposal after resident complaints

Resident push-back against a Sandy Springs proposal led the city to change a plan that would send some design changes to the city manager.

The proposal, which will be heard at Tuesday’s city council meeting, specifies that the city manager would make the decisions for “design modifications to public works projects necessitated by cost, supply or project site conditions, where such modifications are contained within existing or proposed public right of way.”

Changes to other city projects or for work conducted on city property will have to go before city council. Residents were concerned that an initial proposal would have given the city manager carte blanche for changes the city council should weigh in on.

The language was changed from a proposal that said requests for “variances on any city projects” or work on city property “shall be considered solely by the city manager.”

Residents said the original proposal was too broad, and undercut the intent of ordinances that required the city council to vote on development changes.

“Many of us thought it would be abusive to have such broad language,” said Tochie Blad, a Sandy Springs resident. “We want our elected officials to be the ones on the record.”

Dan Lee, the Sandy Springs city attorney, said the altered language represented a misunderstanding. The intent of the change, he said, was to allow the city manager to make changes to proposed designs in the right of way for property the city intended to purchase for sidewalks or other means. The purchases, and the projects themselves, would still be voted on by city council.

“It does not mean we vary from zoning and land-use rules,” he said. “We’re not talking about a fire station in your neighborhood; we’re not talking about development.”

Shea Roberts, a Sandy Springs resident and state house candidate, said she had been concerned that the city would be able to eliminate stream buffers and other setbacks under the original proposal. She said the change was put on the agenda with little notice, and the language was overly broad.

Roberts said as cities move more power from elected officials to appointed ones, she thought there should be more efforts to be transparent.

“I feel like the public has no trust in government lately,” she said.

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