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Blueprint Sandtown


          Blueprint Sandtown summarized the history of the Sandtown Community's creation of a land use master plan for the Sandtown Community Village that would impact the traffic flow of Campbellton Road.  The land use master plan for the community includes an analysis of educational needs, development of a live/work/play village that would incorporate elements of a walkable residential development, parks and traffic calming of Campbellton Road.

          With the DOT’s retreat from the Campbellton Road Widening, the Sandtown Community Association and NPU-P had to work zealously to implement land use ideas that had been presented in the Campbellton Road Corridor Study.  Supposedly, the Georgia DOT had withdrawn the widening but the community had been warned that the DOT could reconsider the widening fairly easily.  Additionally, it was important to pursue the community’s visions while the community was still committed and the vision clear.

"Sandtown ARC LCI Award Amount $100,000 The Sandtown LCI study area is generally bounded by the Fulton Industrial and Camp Creek Parkway on the west, I-20 on the north, New Hope Road to the east, and Enon Road to the south. The Sandtown LCI has been spearheaded by the community residents who have been actively working on preserving and promoting a better quality of growth in the face of development interest. The goal of this study is to promote sensitive design, planned development, better street networks, increased safety, reduced congestion and increased connectivity. Resultantly, Sandtown can continue to be a community of choice in accordance increased growth in residential and economic development activity"

In the meantime, Sandtown began to have more and more developers interested in the community.  In order to make thoughtful and informed decisions, significant amounts of planning had to take place to handle and monitor the far-reaching effect of zonings on the environment, traffic congestion, infrastructure, schools, recreation etc.  In other words, could a master plan be created for the community?

Frankly, we had all seen too many communities that were in decline. No one wanted Sandtown to have that type of fate.  One of the most prevalent reasons for decline in some communities was that leaders and residents of those communities had either made bad choices or had allowed bad choices to be made for them.  Moe and Wilkie in their book Changing Places emphasize that we can keep on accepting the kind of communities we get or we can insist on getting the kind of communities we want.  We could choose or be chosen.  The concept is that of pro-action v. reaction.  Sandtown Community Association made the decision to choose and be proactive.

To help the Sandtown Community make sustainable decisions, a master plan had to be created.  Sandtown lobbied the Office of Economic Development for $125,000 in funding to embark on the Sandtown Visioning/ Master Planning, later to be called “Blueprint Sandtown.”    Fulton Board of Commissioners, Fulton County Planning, Public Works, and Parks supported the efforts and participated. The Fulton County School System also partnered with the community.  Board Members Zenda Bowie, Linda Bryant and the Fulton Board staff were active participants. Support was also received from state legislators, Representative now Senator Kasim Reed and Senator Donzella James.  The model put together by Sizemore for the Sandtown Community was so popular that former Commissioner Mike Kenn and the late Commissioner Bob Fulton had funding set aside for the same type of plan with the same experts in the Crabapple and Birmingham communities.

The Sizemore Group directed a team of experts which now included: Ian Lockwood who had joined the transportation firm of Glatting Jackson, Gibbs Planning- detailed market analysis, Mack Cain of Jordan, Jones, and Goulding- park planning and landscape design; Tom Sayre of Sizemore Group with expertise in schools; Hightower and Leathers-land use and public policy; Precision Planning, engineers with expertise in infrastructure needs, Day Wilburn, engineering and costing services for proposed road improvements, and Paulette Jones as Community Project Manager. Months of preplanning involving members of the entire community occurred. 

The major goal of Blueprint would be to create the village and protect Campbellton, but it was also hoped that Blueprint would answer the following:

  • How can Sandtown grow yet still avoid the traffic issues and sprawl seen in North Fulton County?  Prevent the widening?

  • How can the village Lockwood envisioned in the original Campbellton Road Corridor study be created?  

  • How can it be designed to slow the traffic on Campbellton?

  • How can we make our streets safer?

  • How can we develop better connectivity within the community?

  • How do we plan for growth so as to meet our needs for schools, especially a community schools?  What is the best location for the middle school?

  • How do we plan for recreation in the community private or public?

  • How do we have a sustainable mix of housing?

  • How do we encourage businesses that will promote our community’s vision yet give Sandtown the uniqueness we desire? 

  • How do we present a plan that minimizes economic risk for investors?

  • What are the needs of seniors in our area?

  • How do we create policy that will make this study more than a shelf document?

In January 2002, the Sandtown Community engaged in a two-day master planning and visioning process.  Experts were available throughout the day for community input; in the evening, the day’s input would be reported back at the larger community gathering.  Input was received from citizens, property owners, developers and Fulton County staff. 

Commissioner Edwards was so impressed with what he had heard that he pledged another $100,000.00 toward the community’s efforts.  During that same period, the community had also received notification that Sandtown had been awarded a Livable Center’s Initiative Grant for $100,000.00.  The Livable Centers grant would connect the commercial nodes of the Sandtown Triangle (Campbellton & Boat Rock), Sandtown Center (Reynolds and Boat Rock) and Camp Creek Crossing (Campbellton and Camp Creek).  The study would start the following August 2003.

During the Sandtown Blueprint Workshops, each expert came to the table from different vantage points.  In many ways, the process is reminiscent of the story of the five blind men who each touched a part of the elephant and felt they had something very different.   In our case, each expert developed his own special viewpoint; yet, each was sensitive to the community’s vision and the questions that needed answers.

Sandtown Village Design: It was the Sizemore Group’s task to integrate the expert’s opinions and the community’s visions.  The experts and community created a village on 16 acres at the intersection of Boat Rock, Campbellton and New Hope (Sandtown Triangle).   The Team designed a small village that promoted a pedestrian-friendly environment, gathering places, a town green, a common retention pond as an amenity, retail/flex space.  Across from the retail part of the village would be a Multipurpose Building, which would be constructed from an axial point to the retail main anchor.  Further down Campbellton, west of Randolph Elementary School and adjacent to Mary Jane Campbell Road would be the new Sandtown Middle School.  Note:  In reality, the new Sandtown Middle sits further back on the site.   The experts proposed a village with retail and a housing mix; however, Fulton County Planning would not let the conclusion unfold.  They insisted that retail village with anchor be removed from the final plan. Notice the new right angle of Campbellton.

Village Design as Proposed by Sizemore Group

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The following Initiatives summarize findings from the workshops:

Initiative I:  Campbellton Road and Growth  

Lockwood, who was now with Glatting Jackson, recommended redesigning the road to slow traffic.  Removing the curve and making the road take a right angle would accomplish slowing the traffic.  (This same design is seen on Paces Ferry in Vinings.)  Additionally, Campbellton would be re-configured by adding roundabouts.

He also recommended more connectivity within the community.    Connectivity reduces the traffic burden placed on Campbellton Road.  Lockwood proposed that we have connectivity for the Middle School so that all cars would not have to empty onto Campbellton Road.  A traffic-calmed road between Enon and Campbellton would further reduce the traffic burden on Campbellton.

Furthermore, Lockwood reiterated that a village could add value to the community, achieve our goal of slowing traffic and discouraging truck traffic.  Trucks will not come in areas where they cannot move at peak efficiency.

            Lastly, he observed that we contact the Governor’s office directly and ask for his  assistance:

Initiative II.   The Sandtown Village: 

              Jim Gibbs, Marketing Specialist indicated that by his analysis, Sandtown and the surrounding communities were significantly underserved.  Gibbs felt the Triangle locations had some limitations due to the curve of the road, but essentially retail could be sustained at the Triangle due to the number of homes in the area.  More importantly, retail could be sustained at the Triangle even with all of the currently zoned future retail in the area.

Gibbs suggested that an anchor store, preferably a grocery, be included in the mix.  The retail space could handle 175,000 SF but Gibbs’ recommendation was for about 100,000 SF of retail with a 50,000-foot grocery anchor in the mix.  Studies had consistently indicated that groceries were stronger anchors over the long run than other businesses.  Without an anchor, Gibbs suggested businesses in the triangle would marginally survive and would only serve a commercial node about the size of the gas station already being built. 

            Initiative III.  Housing Mix:

            Additionally, Gibbs and Sizemore felt the community needed more of a mix of housing. The housing mix did not need to reflect cheaper housing but housing options (town homes, lofts etc).   Diversity of housing/ incomes was also encouraged.  The Community planned to address diversity of incomes through the Boat Rock Housing redevelopment and diversity of housing by trying to find standards that would guarantee quality housing at different income levels. 

             Initiative IV.  Education:

          The Sizemore Group analysis supported a need for a middle school; Sandtown would be an ideal location.  The community was also encouraged to lobby the Fulton School Board to land bank another elementary school north of Sandtown, probably in the West Cascade area. 

            Blueprint Sandtown funding did not permit the study of high school needs.  Sayre did point out that good schools could improve the value of homes in the area by $10-15,000.00

            Initiative V.   Recreation:

Mack Cain, park specialist, encouraged trails and sidewalks to be developed in the community.  Sandtown needed to also lobby the Board of Commissioner for funding for recreational facilities or lobby private funding sources.

 Blueprint Sandtown: “More Than a Shelf Document”

             The Blueprint Sandtown Team felt that the Triangle could provide a site, which could encourage an epicenter and the sense of neighborliness often lacking in communities.  This area could also integrate a middle school, recreation center, and a very small retail village. 

The Village Triangle would add value while accomplishing the goals of the Campbellton Road Corridor Study (1999).  The planned roads surrounding the village and connectivity would slow Campbellton Road thus making Campbellton less attractive for truck traffic.  Essentially, the village became the most important goal of the Campbellton Road Plan strategy.

            While pursuing the village, there were other initiatives that were also important- the Campbellton Road expansion, education, parks and recreation.  The Sandtown Community Association began immediately to petition the appropriate government sources to make Blueprint more than a shelf document.

 Initiative I:  Sandtown Village Zoning

             During the planning phase of Blueprint Sandtown, two developers, the Noro Group and the Callaway Group became interested in the plans for the retail part of the Triangle. Noro proposed a 15 million dollar development on the Northside of Campbellton to be anchored by a standard size Kroger Grocery.   The proposed Sandtown Village on 16 acres would have been approximately 100,000 SF of retail with the standard 54,000 SF Kroger Grocery.  A 3-½ acre buffer was proposed between the village and adjacent homes.  The Noro Sandtown Village would be developed with the same standards seen at the Smyrna Town Center and at Main Street in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

           Calloway had plans for the Southside of Campbellton, which included the multipurpose recreation facility.  The community was unclear of his final plans and was unanimous in their opposition to Calloway.  In spite of the fact that villages were being successfully created throughout the metropolitan area and that homes near Kroger’s at Cascade had increased in value, some of the persons who lived closest to the village felt the village and the “big box” grocery would devalue their homes.   The Sandtown Community experienced a rancorous split with respect to the Noro development.

 Noro Sandtown Village Zoning Proposal

 

          The Sandtown Association supported the Village believing the village was the answer to a goal started five years earlier with the Campbellton Road Corridor Study.  The Association felt the overall architecture could become more “rustic”; the grocery store footprint could be reduced in size and hours limited.  All of these changes could be accomplished through the Board of Commissioners zoning decisions.  With those changes, the proposed Sandtown Village would add value to the Triangle, create a better sense of community and also achieve the goal of slowing the traffic on Campbellton.  The Village and Campbellton Road’s future became the same.

              In March 2003, the Noro Sandtown Village zoning came before the Board of Commissioners.  The BOC denied the zoning on the grounds that the land use was inconsistent with the zoning. After 5 years of planning for a village in that location, the County Planning Department had never made the land use changes.    The Calloway Project was denied unanimously.

 

Noro Sandtown Village Zoning---Denied

 

 

Initiative II:  Transportation

Campbellton Road.   The Village with retail had been the recommendation of the experts in Blueprint Sandtown.  The experts had felt the village would change the look of Campbellton Road and the manner in which drivers treated the area.  The experts also felt that the DOT would think long and hard before destroying a 15 million investment in this community.  Lastly, even if Campbellton Road were ever widened, the village would still buffer homes and provide a valuable community amenity. 

While the community still resists the traffic and truck implications of the DOT’s plan to widened Campbellton Road, the focus must now be on recreating another vision.

Connectivity.    Lockwood’s presentation emphasized that more connectivity in the community will keep the road expansion from occurring.  SCA is working with the Board of Education, Randolph PTA and the Fulton Parks Department to make sure there is ample connectivity between Sandtown Middle and the community.

Initiative III:  Diversity of Housing

Housing diversity refers not only to a mixture of housing types but to diversity of persons living in the community.  Located within the Sandtown Community was the site of the former Boat Rock Housing Project, which had been leveled in 1999. The Federal Government mandates proceeds from the sale of properties such as Boat Rock must contribute to housing for the residents who formerly lived on the premises.  As Fulton County Housing Authority focused on how to maximize the value of the Boat Rock site for the aforementioned purposes, the Sandtown Association lobbied to be a part of that decision.

Fulton County Housing Authority respected our efforts.  For six months in 2003, the Housing Authority professionals and their experts engaged the community in a process of planning what would be developed on the site.   The resulting development will be a mixture of housing types (apartments, town homes and single-family homes) and incomes.   The Nor South Company is developing the project with design input by the Sizemore Group, Fulton County Planning and Public Works and Commissioner Edward’s office. It has been a project with full community participation.

Initiative IV:  Education.

            Since 2001, the Sandtown Education Committee had been lobbying the Fulton County Schools for better schools.   Blueprint Sandtown merely gave the Sandtown Association the documentation needed to lobby more effectively.

          Sandtown Middle School.  Board Member Linda Bryant provided important direction for this initiative.  This was extremely important since the Fulton County Board of Education (BOE) was not interested in placing the middle school on the Sandtown site for several reasons: First, the Sandtown property had to be purchased.   The Board of Education staff’s preference was to use land they already owned in South County.  Second, some of the land in Sandtown Park was rocky which might further add to expenses.  Third, community battles were brewing with a few vocal persons not wanting the school in the community at all or wanting to place it far from the community center.  The Sandtown Association insisted on the Sandtown location.   Blueprint Sandtown had shown how fortunate the community was to have available land close to existing homes.  If planned properly, a new school did not have to be disruptive.

              Board Member Linda Bryant held firm in her commitment to the community and a new middle school.  Sandtown supported her efforts by reiterating the need for a middle school and quality program planning in South County for nearly two years at BOE meetings.  The Board of Education finally approved the Sandtown site in August, 2002. 

              The battle was still not over; sufficient land had to be acquired.   Finally, Board Member Bryant and Fulton Commissioner William Edwards were able to make an arrangement to purchase the remaining 10 acres of land to build the middle school from the Sandtown Park.  The money from the sale of the parkland has been set aside to purchase replacement land. 

  Sandtown Middle School is valued at 44 million.  Middle school construction was started in January, 2003.  School opening is scheduled for September 2004.   A group of community parents are working enthusiastically to make sure that the Sandtown Middle School curriculum, principal and staffs provide the quality of programs the community desires for our children.

Westlake High School 

             Blueprint Sandtown funding had not permitted a study of our community high school needs; however, it did not take an expert to note that the Westlake facility needed more than the 10 million dollars the Board of Education had allocated through SPLOST.  The BOE wanted to replace the existing Westlake with the new South County High School, which was funded in the most recent SPLOST.  Such an arrangement would not have met the larger South County or our community’s needs.  Two high schools were needed. 

              The Sandtown Community Association joined with the Westlake PTA and other South County groups to lobby for a replacement Westlake facility and a new South County Schools.  After more than a year of lobbying, the Board of Education (BOE)  is now considering the “Superintendent’s Initiative” which includes funding for the replacement of  Westlake, a new South County High School and smaller high schools in South County.   The battle for quality education for South County continues.  The Superintendent’s Initiative has not yet been adopted.

Initiative IV:  Parks and Recreation 

Greenways and Trails.  The Community was encouraged to pursue this option through the Livable Centers Initiative grant from Atlanta Regional Commission.   The grant was for $100,000 to be used for planning.  In 2003, the community was awarded $250,000.00 for implementation.

Recreation Facility

              The Campbellton Road Corridor Study (1999) and Blueprint Sandtown (2002) had concluded the community wanted more recreational opportunities.  A new gymnasium had been promised years ago.  With Fulton County under financial strains and no funding in site, a new facility did not look promising.

The Campbellton Road Corridor Study had suggested that private recreational facilities were also acceptable to the community. Believing Sandtown to be an ideal site for a recreational facility, the Sandtown Association contacted the Metropolitan YMCA to invite consideration of our community for a YMCA site. Sandtown has the attraction of being near families and three public schools: Randolph Elementary, Sandtown Middle and Westlake High School.   The Metropolitan YMCA responded positively and is completing a $35,000.00 "feasibility assessment" of a YMCA in the Sandtown Community.  The assessment is to be undertaken this January 2004.

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