After outcry, Sandy Springs tables amending underground utility policy

Steven Cadranel, a commercial real estate developer, said there’s no way his company’s two recently completed, adjacent Sandy Springs projects – The Cliftwood apartments and The Plaza at City Springs shopping center – would have been built if the city had then instituted a stricter underground utility policy.

The amended ordinance, if approved, would require developers to either bury utility lines themselves on their own dime or pay into a city fund, at a cost of $2,000 per linear foot, that would require Sandy Springs to do it for the builder. Under the current ordinance, due to confusing language in the code, enforcement of utility burial, which is required for certain projects, has been inconsistent, according to city documents.

“As a developer I can tell you you’re asking us to choose between two impossible options,” said Cadranel, owner and president of Sandy Springs-based Arris Realty Partners. “Left with that choice, I can tell you as an example, if we had to clear this hurdle as part of our redevelopment project, it would be more difficult. Because we were able to avoid this obligation, we now have a retail center. If our choice would have been to pay into the fund, it would have increased our project costs by approximately 15 percent. I can only sincerely tell you that if those were our options: bury it ourselves or pay into the fund, we would still be looking at the vacant (American Pie) and Cocktail Cove (properties), which would not have been a sustainable development on any front.

“When I take the fee and apply it to the (potential) project just south of Dalyrmple Road on Roswell Road, I find the incremental costs to redevelop that challenging property would be an additional $3 million. … I think this ordinance deserves additional study.”

Cadranel was one of two individuals who spoke out against the proposed amended policy at the April 2 Sandy Springs City Council meeting at City Springs. The council was sympathetic to their pleas.

After Mayor Rusty Paul asked for a motion to approve the first of two votes regarding the issue, there was a long pause and silence from the council. Then District 3 Councilman Chris Burnett motioned to table the measure, it was seconded by District 6 Councilman Andy Bauman and then approved 5-0. District 1 Councilman John Paulson was absent. By tabling the issue, it could come up at any future council meeting, and no timetable is set.

Michael Paris, president and CEO of the Council for Quality Growth, a Sandy Springs-based nonprofit trade association supporting quality growth and development, also spoke against the amended policy.

“We’re concerned about the implementation of this ordinance,” Paris said, adding he hoped the council would table the measure.

Paul responded by defending the ordinance and saying, “As you know, Mr. Paris, that’s only one option. Your members have the ability to bury it themselves. So if they don’t like that price, they can do it themselves. It’s based on what Georgia Power is telling us the cost is. So we’re giving you the options. You don’t have to pay money into the fund if you don’t think we can manage it properly.”

Rusty Paul

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