Sandy Springs “no tall wood buildings” action guise to slow development growth

The community of Sandy Springs took an action to ban wood construction in buildings more than three stories in height and larger than 100,000 square feet under the guise of building safety – it had nothing to do with safety and everything to do with limiting development.

The American Wood Council had sent information to the city directly addressing what now appear to be, at best, surrogate reasons for their action which were totally ignored in a process that appears to have been predetermined. The city’s decision lacks any substantive technical basis and can be seen for what it is – simply a means to slow-down growth and development.

We have seen similar attempts before, notably for the same reasons — jurisdictions wanting to slow development using the artifice of building safety to attack the most economical methods of building. In jurisdictions like Sandy Springs, where Georgia law requires the municipality to have a reason to depart from the state building code related to health or safety, municipal leaders will, in the face of countervailing evidence, make statements and claims that are just not factually correct. Decisions like this often come back to haunt the very jurisdiction with reduced tax bases that result in higher taxes, much higher construction costs resulting from decreased supply, and in this case, significantly increased environmental impacts.

It does not make sense to prohibit development and use of wood construction when state-of-the-art building codes support its safe and resilient use and it has lower environmental impacts that than fossil-fuel intensive products that will be substituted for it. The importance of the industry to the state of Georgia cannot be understated. The wood products industry employs almost 18,000 people in Georgia, with an annual payroll approaching $880 million. Take away wood and you take away those jobs, maybe even from people who live in Sandy Springs.

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