Despite Guidelines, Alpharetta Housing Growth is Dominated by Rentals

Apartments and their impact on Alpharetta have been a touchy subject for as long as I can remember. My first introduction to the issue was when a next door neighbor applied for zoning to turn his single family home into an apartment complex nearly twenty years ago and I have written 22 articles discussing apartments going back as far as  this article about urbanization and MARTA written in 2011.

For that entire time the City of Alpharetta has had specific goals regarding apartments or rental properties. There have been at least three different official goals for the city’s housing ratios that I remember. Curiously the only thing consistent about each of those standards is that they have all been ignored by the people elected to achieve them.

Alpharetta’s current housing goal as stated in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan was passed unanimously just last year. It says that the city’s goal is to maintain less than 1/3rd (32%) of our housing stock as rental properties. That ratio is to be measured by U. S. Census Bureau data. The latest numbers available are for 2015 and those numbers show that Alpharetta had 22,824 total housing units and 8,537 of them were renter occupied at the time. That means the current ratio of renter occupied homes to owner occupied homes is 37.4%.


Which means Alpharetta had 1233 rental units more than the the city’s stated goal. To make matters worse there are already 700 more on the way if you include the additional 276 apartments opening this year in Avalon, the 168 apartments being built in front of city hall, the 129 apartments just approved on Devore Road and 111 apartments in the Echo complex on Westside Parkway. That would put Alpharetta 2,000 households over the comprehensive plan goal without even considering the 320 apartments proposed for the Fuqua project on Haynes Bridge Road or any of the senior housing facilities being built all over town. Most of the senior housing projects are not considered to be apartments.

That is a snapshot of how much Alpharetta’s percentage of rental housing exceeded the city’s guidelines in 2015. But what was the overall trend? Did Alpharetta make any progress at all in reducing rental housing ratios between 2010 and 2016? No. Quite the opposite.

The ratio of rentals to owner occupied housing in Alpharetta has gotten substantially worse since 2010. Census numbers show that Alpharetta had a total of 20,454 housing units in 2010 but that grew to 22,824 by 2015 for a net growth of 2,370 households. Of those additional households, 1,752 were identified as renter occupied which means 74% of Alpharetta’s housing growth over that time was fueled by renters.

Click on the pictures below to see the census data.


Such rapid growth in apartments and rental homes drove the ratio of renters to owners from 33.2% up to 37.4%. A 13% move in the wrong direction over a five year period. Once again that does not include the thousands of rentals already approved, built or on the way in the next few years and there is no reason to believe that is going to change in the near future. The number of single family homes being built compared to townhouses, condos and apartments is dwindling as available land disappears.

As mentioned earlier the topic of apartments has been a hot button issue in this city for a long time and reasonable people can disagree about the impact of attracting a much more transient population to Alpharetta. But the fact is that Alpharetta has very specific standards for what should be the appropriate mix of housing to maintain the health, safety and quality of life we enjoy…  yet the city moves further and further from those published goals every time we approve more apartments.

For those of you concerned about the impact of zoning decisions on your school district I am including maps of Alpharetta’s three largest high school districts below with numbers of apartments zoned for each. Note that there continues to be an extraordinary concentration of apartments in the Alpharetta High School district. The 6,000+ apartments zoned for Alpharetta High School is more than double those in Milton High school district and twenty one times the number of apartments in the Cambridge High School district.

Alpharetta High School – 6,161    apartment units


Milton High School – 2,381    apartment units


Cambridge High School – 292 apartment units


New Downtown Alpharetta Parking Deck Proposal


Monday night the City of Alpharetta held a public meeting to unveil the new proposal for more taxpayer subsidized parking in downtown Alpharetta. It was great to see so many people show up for the meeting and most of the feedback I heard there and in the days since has been largely supportive.

Some people told me they have concerns about the cost and doubt the need for taxpayers to spend $8 million to build parking for downtown businesses. One of the commercial property owners downtown told me that the new plan still wouldn’t be enough. And others told me that the city should build all of the parking next to the cemetery and none on the Old Roswell Street site at all.


But in general most of the people who took the time to share their thoughts about the new plan feel it is a reasonable compromise between the previous proposals. The new plan would build 187 new parking spaces on Milton Avenue next to the cemetery at a cost of about $5 million. It would also add 80 parking spaces on the site between Roswell Street and Old Roswell Street behind Smokejack at a cost of about $3 million bringing the total projected cost for the two decks to just over $8 million total.

I am including a few pictures here but if you aren’t familiar with the new proposal I highly recommend that you review all of the materials available on the city website here. Our staff did a tremendous job assembling all of the relevant supporting materials there.

The final decision will likely be made during Monday night’s Alpharetta City Council meeting so please take the time to look at the new plan if you haven’t already and let us know your thoughts. If you have any questions please feel free to ask in the comments section of this post and I will do my best to respond in a timely manner.



Alpharetta Downtown Parking Discussion Continues




Last year the City of Alpharetta began exploring options for spending more than 7 million dollars of taxpayer money to provide additional parking for downtown businesses. Several public meetings were held but no consensus was formed as to what would be the best solution. The option preferred by many of the downtown business owners was adamantly opposed by many of the residents who the parking was intended to attract.

Based on that dilemma our mayor and council decided to go back to the drawing board with the intent of developing a plan which better addressed the concerns of both the local businesses and the residents being asked to pay the bill. So over the past few months members of our community development department worked with a new design team to come up with a plan that would do a better job of balancing the needs of downtown businesses with the vision presented to us by Alpharetta residents.

On Monday, February 13th, the city will be unveiling the new idea to the public. The meeting will be held at City Hall from 6:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.

I hope that all of you will make the time to attend the unveiling. This is an important decision for our city’s future and we would very much like to hear your thoughts. Once the new design has been made public I will post it here for those of you who can’t make the meeting next week.





Alpharetta City Council Meeting Agenda for January 23, 2017

Friday afternoon I was notified that the developer requesting zoning approval for the most dense mixed use development in the history of our city will be presenting their case tomorrow evening. I apologize for the late notice but last month the applicant chose to defer their case an hour before the hearing and I was only notified of this week’s City Council meeting agenda after I was my on my way out of town for a previously scheduled trip.

Fortunately in my absence there have been a number of concerned residents who stepped up to make their neighbors aware of this precedent setting case. This morning as I was driving back to Alpharetta a reader of this blog identified as “Christine” even took the time to post a comment on this previous blog entry about the additional 55,000 cars a day which mixed use developments will soon be adding to the roads between Downtown Alpharetta and GA 400. I have previously written about the Perling/Devore Rd application here and Christine’s summary with a link to tomorrow night’s agenda is below.

The high-density development application for S Main St and Devore will be presented at the City Council meeting Monday, Jan 23, at 6:30 p.m. The developer has slightly changed his proposal from what the planning commission heard and recommended denial for, but the density is still 2.5x that of Avalon and 2x that of downtown. He is still proposing apartments, a large brewery to be the focal point for the “entranceway into Alpharetta,” and a warehouse style architecture which is very different from the downtown code. The agenda packet with all the information is posted on the Alpharetta city website under the meeting manager portal:
There was a good amount of opposition from residents at the Planning Commission meeting which helped them determine to deny the application. If you are concerned with the amount of high density development in the heart of Alpharetta, please attend the city council meeting and voice your concerns.

Thank you for taking the time to stay informed about the future of Alpharetta. I appreciate those of you, like Christine, who care enough about our community to stay informed and keep your neighbors informed about the issues that affect our families, our schools and our businesses.

In addition to the Perling/Devore Road case there are other important zoning cases and items on the agenda. We will also take a few minutes to recognize the outstanding contributions of  retiring Public Safety Director Gary George.

Regardless of your position on the other items I hope you will come celebrate with us as Alpharetta recognizes a dedicated public servant who has spent more than 47 years of his life serving the people of this great nation in uniform. Alpharetta would not be the place it is today without Director Gary George. We all owe him a debt of gratitude.

High Density Mixed Use Developments Make Traffic Worse


On December 12th the Alpharetta City Council was scheduled to hear a zoning application for the most dense development in the history of our city. The case is referred to as the Perling development on Devore Road and I have written about it previously here. At the last minute the applicant chose to defer the case until a later date so it was not heard but will presumably come to city council for a final decision in the next few weeks.

A zoning application of this scale is very complex and there are numerous consequences both intentional and unintentional resulting from such a zoning change so I spent weeks researching the case in an effort to make an informed decision. I reviewed the property owner’s zoning application, the video of the planning commission’s hearing and the report of Alpharetta’s Community Development staff who evaluated the application before recommending approval of the project with some changes and conditions. You can review those materials yourself at the links highlighted above in blue.

The Devore Road project is an example of the high density mixed use developments which are currently all the rage among commercial property owners and developers. A mixed use rezoning allows the property owner to exponentially increase the density permitted on a piece of land which then creates a corresponding increase in their property values. The increase in property value frequently amounts to tens of millions of dollars so it is no surprise that property owners, developers and the people who work for them tend to be huge supporters of such projects. That makes good business sense.

But as cities evaluate zoning applications we have the responsibility to balance the right of a property owner to develop their property with the responsibility of a municipal government to provide the infrastructure and public services for those developments in perpetuity. While a property owner and a development team can cash out after a rezoning or after the project is built the impact on the community is permanent.

So even though many developers and urban planners tend to portray high density mixed use developments as if they miraculously reduce traffic and the demand for other public services by creating a “live, work, play” environment it is our responsibility as elected officials to look beyond the sales pitch to determine the truth. The truth is that mixed use developments do not reduce the impact of development on public infrastructure and services when they exponentially increase the number of people and cars permitted on the property.

While cramming more people and cars onto a parcel of land may be good business for  property owners and can be a useful economic development tool for a city, in no way does it reduce the impact on public infrastructure and services. At best it allows a minor cost efficiency to be realized by allowing the higher amount of infrastructure and  service expenses to be spread over a smaller geographic area.

Adding tens of thousands of cars to Alpharetta roads every day does not reduce congestion. Adding thousands of apartments and homes to Manning Oaks Elementary, Northwestern Middle School and Milton High School school districts does not reduce overcrowding. Adding thousands of residents who can walk to a brewery or a restaurant serving alcohol will not reduce crime in that area.

Increased levels of density increase the demand for public infrastructure, facilities and services. It really is that simple. Yet time after time the supporters of high density mixed use developments make unsubstantiated or demonstrably false claims in an effort to convince people that mixed use developments are a solution for problems they actually make worse.

For example, in the Devore Road zoning application they request approval for a 5 story condo building with 80 units, a 6 story apartment building with 200 units and 64 townhouses in addition to more than 125,000 square feet of office space, restaurants, retail space and a brewery. So with a mixed use zoning designation the applicant wants to build 344 apartments, condos and townhouses in addition to the commercial uses which are already permitted under current zoning. All of that on less than 13 acres.

However based on the traffic study supplied by the applicant for the Devore Road development that project would add 5188 to the roads between downtown Alpharetta and GA 400 every weekday. And of those additional 5188 cars on the road 488 of them would be added during the peak morning rush hour and 384 more cars would be added during the peak afternoon rush hour.

So after traffic engineers have accounted for the “efficiency” of a mixed use development, the Perling project would add 872 more cars to Alpharetta roads during just the 2 hours when congestion is already at its most miserable. Adding 872 cars to Alpharetta roads between GA 400 and downtown during what is already the worst time for congestion does not reduce traffic. It will make traffic worse… much worse.

Yet discussing the Devore Road development in isolation doesn’t adequately illustrate the full impact mixed use developments will have on Alpharetta traffic. The mixed use development planned around City Hall should begin construction very soon. That city center development will include 168 apartments in addition to more than 100,000 square feet of office, retail and restaurant space. The traffic study performed for City Center estimates it will add an additional 5,893 car trips per day to downtown congestion including 880 more cars added during just the two peak rush hours.

And that’s not all. There is already another zoning application  for a high density mixed use development at the southwest corner of Haynes Bridge Road and GA 400. The hearings for that case are scheduled for February.


The applicant, TPA-Fuqua-Peridot, is requesting 430 apartments, 70 townhomes and more than 600,000 square feet of office, retail, hotel and restaurant space. Their traffic study projects an increase of 15,737 cars a day from the development with an additional burden of more than 3,000 cars a day during just the two worst hours of congestion each weekday.

So there are currently three urban, high density mixed use developments proposed along the Haynes Bridge corridor between downtown and GA 400. As planned those three mixed use developments are projected to add almost 27,000 car trips to traffic every weekday. Of the 27,000 extra cars on the road we can expect 4,853 of them to be added during what are already the two worst hours of congestion and that doesn’t even include additional traffic from Avalon.

Avalon is only half completed so far. The total impact of Avalon’s additional traffic once it is finished is projected to be more than 28,000 additional cars every weekday. That is even more than City Center, Devore Road and Peridot combined. So when added with those projects it will mean that high density mixed use developments on the west side town will add more than 55,000 extra cars a day between those Alpharetta residents and GA 400. It will mean almost 10,000 more cars on those roads during just the two worst hours of traffic each week day if you can imagine that.

Now obviously I can’t speak for everyone but the majority of residents I talk to about the pace of development in Alpharetta overwhelmingly agree that adding more than 55,000 extra cars a day  between downtown and GA 400 is unacceptable. But good people can disagree and there are bound to be some people who believe the economic impact of all those high density mixed use developments would be worth adding 55,000 cars to Alpharetta’s current congestion.

However, facts are still facts. And it is not acceptable for proponents of high density mixed use developments to mislead residents into thinking they will ease traffic or lessen the burden on taxpayers for providing infrastructure and services. That is just not true.

High density mixed use developments make traffic worse. There is just no denying it.

Happy Birthday, GA Jim!


The photo above is a screenshot of the first post I wrote on GA Jim back in December of 2008.

The other day WordPress sent me a reminder that it’s been eight years since I started this blog. That reminder prompted me to reflect on how much has changed since 2008. I am also reminded how much remains the same and how many issues that drove me to start this blog eventually drove me to run for Alpharetta City Council.

When I started this blog in December of 2008 America had just elected President Obama and much like today our country was very politically divided. The global economy was also three months into an unprecedented financial collapse worse than any economic crisis we had seen in my lifetime.

Eight years ago I was a husband, a father of two children and a residential real estate agent who was a political news junkie but had never had any desire to run for political office. I was also an active member of my community who for some inexplicable reason spent what little spare time I had following local zoning issues in an effort to keep my neighbors informed about decisions that impacted our schools, quality of life and miserable traffic.

Ten months before I started GA Jim the Alpharetta City Council had unanimously approved an enormous high density mixed use development named Windward Mill at the corner of Windward Parkway and Northpoint Parkway. The proposal included more than 1.3 milion square feet of office and retail space in addition to 400 condos in a tower up to 15 stories high.

My neighbors and I overwhelmingly opposed to such a dense urban project as part of our master planned development in Windward. And after months of petitioning city council there were so many people in attendance that most of the overflow crowd was forced to watch the meeting on closed circuit TV next door.

After hours of listening to arguments for and against that application the mayor and council voted unanimously to approve the project over our objections. The vote was 5-0 with city councilmen Doug Derito and David Belle Isle recusing themselves from the discussion because of their business ties to the applicants.

So in December of 2008 I was very frustrated with what was going on in politics and decided I needed a better platform to help keep my fellow citizens informed about issues impacting our community. GA Jim was that platform and over the years it has undergone many changes.

During my 2011 city council campaign this blog served as my campaign website. It allowed me to tell the people of Alpharetta who I was and why I was running. It also helped me to quickly respond to campaign issues that popped up as well as coverage in local newspapers and broadcast media.

Once I was elected to public office GA Jim again faced various changes and even went silent for extended periods of time as I tried to balance my desire to keep the public informed with the additional responsibilities of representing 63,000 constituents. But eight years later GA Jim is still here and I am still committed to using this platform to keep people informed and answer legitimate questions they have about the issues that affect their lives.

Thank you for taking the time to be part of that.






Alpharetta City Council Meeting Agenda for December 12, 2016


Below is the agenda for Monday night’s Alpharetta City Council meeting. The meeting will take place at Alpharetta City Hall at 6:30 p.m. If you would like to watch the meeting from your computer you can find it at this link.

Before the Council meeting there will be a reception held to say farewell to Alpharetta’s Recreation and Parks Director Mike Perry who is retiring after 25 years of outstanding service to our community. You are all invited to join us as we say “Thank You” and “Farewell”to Mike as he sets out on the next exciting chapter of his life.

Please note that the Notting Hill Old Milton Holdings mixed use zoning case was tabled by the Planning Commission so it will not be heard by City Council on Monday as previously scheduled. In addition you can read my earlier article about the Devore Road urban density zoning application here.

If you have questions or constructive comments please feel free to post them in the comments section of this post and I will do my best to respond in a timely fashion.




A. Alpharetta Development Authority
Alpharetta Development Authority

A. Council Meeting Minutes (Meeting of 12/05/2016)
12-5-2016 Official Minutes

A. MP-16-14/Z-16-15: Notting Hill Old Milton Holdings MU
This item was tabled by the Planning Commission and will be neither heard nor considered during this meeting.
Consideration of a request to rezone approximately 2.9 acres from R-12 (Dwelling, ‘For-Sale’ Residential) and DT-LW (Downtown Live-Work) to MU (Mixed-Use) in order to develop 48 ‘For-Sale’ condominium units and 36,000 square foot office building. A master plan amendment is requested to the Old Milton Holdings Master Plan to change previous conditions of zoning and add property to the master plan. The property is located at the southwest corner of Thompson Street and Park Street and is legally described as being located in Land Lot 749, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.

B. Z-16-13/CU-16-20/V-16-27: Perling/13 South Main Street/DT-MU
Consideration of a request to rezone 12.913 acres from C-2 (General Commercial) to DT-MU (Downtown Mixed-Use) in order to develop 36,000 square feet of retail/restaurant use 60,500 square feet of brewery, 30,000 square feet of office use, 64 ‘For-Sale’ townhome units, 50 ‘For-Sale’ condominium units and 200 ‘For-Rent’ residential units. A conditional use is requested to allow ‘For-Rent’ residential use and to allow a residential density of 24.317 dwelling units per acre. A variance is requested from UDC Section 2.7.0(b) to delete the requirement for an on-site neighborhood grocery, as well as variances from UDC Appendix A, Alpharetta Downtown Code to increase the allowable height, allow a different architectural style, increase the maximum building setback, and increase the maximum façade length. The property is located at 13 South Main Street and is legally described as Land Lots 693, 694, 695, and 696, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.

Council Agenda Report
Aerial Map
Zoning Map
Location Map
Craft Brewery Information
Site Plans and Proposed Elevations 12.2.16
Traffic Study
Market Study
Citizen Email
Letter from Resident
Citizen Part B Report
Specimen Tree Report
Trip Generation Report

C. CU-16-22/PH-16-17/V-16-32: Sabri Guven
Consideration of a request to change previous conditions of zoning to allow for the expansion of the existing retail center and a freestanding office building. A request for a conditional use permit to allow a dress shop within 25% of an office building in the O-I (Office-Institutional) zoning district. A variance is requested to reduce the front and side setbacks in the O-I zoning district. The property is located at 2225, 2245 and 2255 Old Milton Parkway and is legally described as Land Lot 748, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.

Council Agenda Report
Aerial Map
Location Map
Zoning Map
Revised Site Plan 12.7.16
Open Space Plan
2008 Zoning Conditions
2008 Zoning Plan
Tree Report
Tree Accessment
Tree Photos

D. V-16-33: Vein Clinics of America/Sign Variance (City Council Only)
Consideration of a variance to allow one (1) additional wall sign. The property is located at 2775 Old Milton Parkway and is legally described as Land Lots 803 & 804, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.

Staff Report
Council Agenda Report
Location Map
Citizen Part B Report

E. PH-16-18 UDC Changes – Smart Stormwater Code (1st Reading)
Consideration of text amendments to the Unified Development Code to implement smart stormwater strategies.
Council Agenda Report
Draft of Ordinance
Alpharetta Stormwater Design Manual
Alpharetta Extent of Service Policy
UDC Article II Section 2.2.20
UDC Article II Section 2.3.1
UDC Article II Section 2.3.5
UDC Article II Section 2.5
UDC Article II Section 2.5.5
UDC Article III Section 3.1.1
UDC Article III Section 3.2.7
UDC Article III Sections 3.3.1-3.3.6
UDC Article III Sections 3.3.8-3.3.9
UDC Article III Section 3.3.14
UDC Article III Section 3.5.2-3.5.6
UDC Appendix A Section 2
UDC Appendix A Section 3

A. Fiscal Year 2017 T-SPLOST Budget Amendment (2nd Reading)
Fiscal Year 2017 T-SPLOST Budget Amendment
T-SPLOST Budget Ordinance
T-SPLOST Budget (Exhibit A)

A. Tetra Tech – Design services for Bethany Road and Windward Parkway
Tetra Tech – Design services for Bethany Road and
Project Overview – Bethany at Mid-Broadwell
Project Overview-Bethany at Mayfield
Project Overview-Windward Parkway
Cost Proposal -Mid-Broadwell
Cost Proposal – Mayfield
Cost Proposal – Windward Parkway

B. POND and Company – Design services for Morris Road (Webb Bridge Road to Old Milton)
POND and Company – Design Services
Project Overview-Morris Road
Cost Proposal – Morris Road

C. AECOM – Design Services Kimball Bridge Road and Old Milton Parkway
AECOM – Design Services
Project Overview – Kimball Bridge Road
Project Overview-Old Milton Parkway
Cost Proposal – Kimball Bridge Road
Cost Proposal – Old Milton Parkway

D. ATKINS – Project Management of Bond and TSPLOST Projects
ATKINS – Project Management Services
Cost Proposal -ATKINS

E. Northwinds Street Lighting, ITB 17-003
Northwinds Street Lighting, ITB 17-003
ITB 17-003 Bid Tab
ITB 17-003 (Brooks Berry Haynie & Associates)

F. Property Acquisition: 850 And 860 Old Rucker Road
Property Acquisition: 850 And 860 Old Rucker Road

A. Marietta Street Pedestrian Improvement
Marietta Street Pedestrian Improvement