Editor’s Note: Sandy Springs Together periodically publishes letters or comments from community members who raise a concern we feel should be considered by the broader community. Please let us hear your thoughts.
by Maurice Hoelting
At the beginning of the summer, the City of Sandy Springs put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for four North End Shopping Centers.
I had an immediate question when I heard that our city government is funding a study for redevelopment: Why is the city spending taxpayer money on a study for private property owners when the owners should be paying for their own study?
The shopping centers and the developers are the ones to profit from these studies. They should be the ones paying for the study. Additionally, two of the shopping centers already have plans for renovation.
Shortly after the North End Revitalization Task Force was formed I spoke with my city councilman, Chris Burnett, about my concerns for possible corruption. I was very concerned due to the lack of anti-corruption provisions in the original Task Force mandate.
My concerns center on the possibility of a quid pro quo: Task force members, city council members, or city officials should not have the appearance of profiting from any North End redevelopment.
- Currently there is a Task Force member who is employed by one of the owners of a shopping center in the RFP. Now that the Task Force has completed its work, how do you negate his influence on the study and other members of the task force?
- In addition, a current council member and the chair of the North End Task Force works for a construction firm hired by a shopping center owner who just finished a renovation of one of the shopping centers included in the RFP.
These relationships, at a minimum, should raise concerns in City Hall and among the residents of Sandy Springs. The ethical concerns should not be ignored.
The bottom line for me is that the city should cancel this RFP process due to the optics and ethics around the shopping center as a give away to developers.
Maurice Hoelting is a member of Sandy Springs Together Leadership Council.