Alpharetta Planning Commission supports 500 more condos

Thursday I wrote about the next step the city of Alpharetta is taking to transform itself into an urbanized concrete jungle similar to the Perimeter Center in Sandy Springs. You can read that post here.

As I predicted the Alpharetta Planning Commission unanimously approved the high density development that directly conflicts with the comprehensive land use plan. Since the city of Alpharetta typically ignores the land use plan the action comes as no surprise but it is disappointing nonetheless. The MetLife project is now scheduled to go before the Alpharetta City Council for final approval on Monday, January 24th.

I will write more about the details of this mega-project later but for now I would like to point out what disappoints me most about Thursday’s decision: Not one person on the planning commission stood up to defend Alpharetta from this continued urbanization. Not one? Not one single person on the planning commission stood up to represent the Alpharetta residents that want this urbanization moderated if not completely stopped. That is sad.

But I don’t blame the planning commissioners. They are simply doing what they think is best. I happen to know several of them and while they rarely represent my family’s best interests, there is nothing wrong with good people disagreeing. 

The real problem is that not one city councilperson has nominated a commissioner that represents my family’s best interests. Not one city council member nominated a planning commissioner that would vote against a project that adds 500 condos to the Milton High School district and puts 12,000 more cars on the road between downtown Alpharetta and GA 400.  Not one. So let’s be clear, the urbanization of Alpharetta continues because not even one city council member wants it to stop. 

Soon the campaigns for Alpharetta’s new mayor along with several city council seats will begin. If you are unhappy with what is going on I suggest you pay close attention.

In the meantime you should call city hall and let them know what you think: 678 297-6000

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14 thoughts on “Alpharetta Planning Commission supports 500 more condos

  1. Great website. I just recently found you and Roots In Alpharetta. Are there other Alpharetta websites lurking out there?

    The real sin here is that there are no public informational meetings to alert the taxpayers as to what is being planned for our city. If the public had wind of what was going on instead of things being quietly passed in the dark of night, then I believe the Council and Planning Commission members would be more responsive to the heart of the citizenry.

    I only caught wind of this project by seeing a notice buried in a *Christmas* issue of the Revue! I contacted a councilman to get more information on this project. I attended the Planning Commission meeting on Thursday night and was even more surprised when I saw the scope of this project. I knew it sounded big from the public hearing description but I didn’t realize how big until I saw the architectural presentation. Why haven’t there been meetings with this presentation given to the public????

    There were only three people who got up to speak. One man favored it but he lived in Atlanta on Luckie Street so why does he have say into what happens in Alpharetta???? Two other residents spoke. I’m not sure how they knew about the project but both seemed well-informed. It sounded like part of this project doesn’t even meet code, which I’m not that surprised given another local project I recently worked on. I’m coming to believe this is a pattern, not an anomaly.

    You had better believe we will be paying attention to the mayoral races and future Council races as well. There is a whole contingent of people waking up to what is going on out there. We have local tea parties and 912 groups who are slowly but surely starting to pay attention to the local issues. We are networked across townships as well so that’s a good thing.

    BTW, did you know that Johns Creek regularly holds public informational meetings on their larger projects? I found this out from one of my local tea party contacts.

    We just need to stand up and educate our neighbors. The city is only allowed to get by with this stuff by keeping people in the dark. I am convinced that when people are informed about what is going on, they will respond. Our councilmen will then have to be more accountable to the citizenry as it should be! Just keep talking to your neighbors and build contact lists. We have the technology to keep each other informed now.

    Keep up the good work on the website.

  2. I’ve got an idea… for each candidate running for mayor and councilman, let’s ask them if they will adhere to the land use plan. It should be a simple yes/no answer but I’m sure sneaky politicians will try to weasel around the answer. We’ll post the results on our blogs and hold them accountable as votes like this come up.

  3. This project meets both the Comprehensive Plan and the North Point LCI, which anyone in attendance would clearly have heard and understood. The LCI study — including public preferences and input of more than 300 Alpharetta residents — are now part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

    http://tinyurl.com/39wz5sx
    (Page 39)

    The NUMBER ONE comment from the 300+ citizens who participated in the North Point LCI survey was that the North Point area needed “live/work/play” mixed use projects. So, to say that the city is not doing what the citizens want is misinformed at best and misleading at worst. Check it out for yourself:

    http://tinyurl.com/399yeqy
    (Page 26 & Page 43)

    This proposal also REDUCES traffic from what is already zoned and allowed on this parcel.

    By the way, the big, bright yellow sign was out in front of the property for a month. If it really impacted your neighborhood or daily life you would have known about it. It was also discussed publicly in 2007 and in the Fall of 2010.

  4. GA Jim, I saw your newest post on comment etiquette. I
    don’t want to hijack your blog, so if you decide to reject my
    response, I won’t feel slighted. I just wanted to respond to Tom M
    since he appears to be addressing my comment as much or more than
    your post. Tom M, I am one of those newly awakened tea party people
    who have had their heads stuck in the sand for far too long, so it
    is entirely possible that I may have missed out on some discussion.
    I’ll give you that. However, when I contacted one of the councilmen
    and specifically asked if I missed any informational meetings, I
    heard crickets. When that same mail got forwarded to the Community
    Development staff, I also heard crickets. Then, in fact, I followed
    up with the councilman and mentioned to him that I thought it would
    be a good idea that Alpharetta host public informational meetings
    for these bigger projects. His response back to me was “Good idea”
    so I interpretted the whole exchange to mean a tacit acknowledgment
    that there had been no public information meetings on this. But I
    noticed when I offered to followup with my acquaintances in Johns
    Creek as to how they stay informed over there so that we could
    perhaps do something similar over here in Alpharetta, there was no
    response. I took that to mean that status quo was OK with the city.
    Secondly, I was not aware that the LCI survey was the same as the
    CLUP. Perhaps you can enlighten me. Related, no I did not attend an
    LCI “visioning” workshop because I attended a transportation
    “visioning” workshop and saw that it was a sham. The way these
    things work is that they have a preconceived plan and then they
    guide the participants by using a strong appeal to pathos (like a
    photoshopped picture of GA 400 widened to 20 lanes with gridlock).
    Then they guide the participants into the obvious solution and try
    to make the citizens think that it was all their idea. They throw
    out the input they don’t like. They isolate you and make you feel
    like a freak if you dare to disagree. This is why I will not waste
    my time with these things and why I don’t put a lot of stock into
    the results. BTW, if you doubt me, google it. It is all over the
    Internet how these things work. I once even found some materials
    that guide the leaders of these meetings as to how to work the
    citizens. It is also published in many “Sustainable Development”
    training materials and books. How stupid do they think we are?
    Thirdly, “live/work/play” mixed used developments were the NUMBER
    ONE comment. Was this open ended comments or guided? Mixed use
    conjures up many ideas to the average citizen . To some people, it
    is a larger development like Windward or even Peachtree City. To
    some it is Vickery Creek. Or Serenbe. Or Crabapple (which I might
    add is very well done). But this is not the same type of
    development that is being proposed on this corner. I wonder if in
    the LCI survey that mixed use development was defined as urbanized
    12-story buildings and 500 condos jammed together in an already
    congested area? I am curious if the big, bright yellow sign has
    bold letters advertising “500 condos, 12000 car trips, 100 new
    Milton students coming here soon.” Or was it one of the standard
    public hearing signs with the small lettering that no one can read
    unless they get out of their car with a magnifying glass? I’m not
    sure how one would even do that at that particular location. I
    don’t see how this could reduce traffic from what is already zoned.
    Maybe as a total, but at least office traffic is predictable around
    rush hours and lunchtime. You can avoid an area when the peak
    traffic times are predictable. Not so with retail and residential.
    IMO, the INCREASE of the bad things outweigh whatever little
    traffic reduction is there. I am not sure why there is such a push
    for this project right now in this economy. We’ve already got a big
    dustbowl down the street just waiting for development if people are
    clamoring so much for this stuff. My biggest concern is that I am
    running out of ways to direct people to my home without them
    passing the latest big abandoned construction eyesore. It is
    downright embarrassing! If this becomes another mudhole, I guess I
    will have to start directing people in through Cobb or Cherokee
    county!

  5. Mr. M – I am glad that you bring up the LCI because I participated in that farce and had forgotten that the city council deemed it legitimate back in 2008. The current transportation plan being put together is another example of these ridiculous studies being legitimized by our elected officials so it is probably a good topic for a future article. Not sure what the yellow sign has to do with anything but welcome to GA Jim.

  6. Kim and Jim, All good points that you make. I didn’t
    participate in the North Point LCI sessions, so I can’t vouch for
    its validity one way or another. I was just aware that mixed use
    was one of the highest ranking responses in the study. Kim did
    write something interesting reagarding the Tea Party. What do you
    think would be the reaction if you stepped up at a Tea Party
    gathering and asked for a show of hands of everyone who thinks
    government should be able to tell a private landowner what he or
    she can do with his or her land? Bet it wouldn’t be many! I do
    enjoy the well-informed give and take! Kim, Would also be curious
    which of the councilmembers you spoke with.

  7. Mr. M –

    I like to point out that your assertion that the MetLife plan meets the CLUP is completely false. If Peridot met the land use plan MetLife would not be requesting, “A change to the Future Land Use Map from “Office Center” to add “High Density Residential” and “Retail Sales and Services” as stated at the planning commisssion meeting you implied you were at.

    As for the North Point LCI, suffice it to say that were I a chicken wanting to reasearch henhouse protection programs I would not rely on research paid for by an association of foxes.

    Your comment regarding the Tea Party is an interesting thought exercise and I am certainly no fan of government intrusion on property rights. But we are not talking about a man raising chickens in his back yard here. We are talking about business entities that bought these parcels under current land use laws, rely on the protections afforded to them under that system and are now gaming their political influence to make hundreds of millions of dollars by completely changing the composition of the city we live in. Are you suggesting that it should be okay for Honda to put a chicken rendering plant next door to MetLife’s property?

  8. Mr. M, Those are very good questions about private property
    and I’ve had to educate myself much over the last two years from
    what I did not learn in school. Here is my take, and I don’t speak
    for all tea partiers, but just from my own study. We do have
    property rights and I would be the first to stand up and defend
    them. Unfortunately there are many, many things Americans have
    allowed to have done to them that never should have been, the first
    among them being property taxes. This is so anti-American and
    unconstitutional. Granny should never lose the farm because she
    can’t keep up with taxes on appreciating land. That the government
    can confiscate it from her means that she doesn’t really own it but
    pays “rent” to the government for the privilege of staying on the
    land that she has labored to own. But I digress. As Americans we
    have property rights but we also have laws to protect the whole for
    those who aren’t self-governed. When we are self-governed and
    loving our neighbor, we don’t erect offensive things on our
    property. To do so exhibits selfishness (which is the nature of
    man). We enter into covenant with one another as a people and give
    up as *few* liberties as possible (i.e., *limited* government) in
    order to curb the sinfulness of man. Government does have a proper
    role to protect within limits. This is also why we have policemen
    and jails. Not all men will be self-governed and love their
    neighbor, so we covenant together to make laws (that stem from the
    10 commandments) to protect the community, but not so many as to be
    oppressive (totalitarianism). It is a balanced set of laws. I don’t
    mean to sound flippant or pedantic, as Internet dialog can
    sometimes tend to be, but if you are serious about understanding
    these issues in more depth, I suggest reading John Locke (such as
    Of Property) and James Madison to better
    understand the philosophy of our founding and the theories
    regarding private property. You’ve actually touched on something
    that is my passion. Thanks for asking.

  9. GA Jim,
    The ironic thing is that it is probably far easier to get a zoning change for this project than to raise chickens in your back yard, even though the chickens affect far fewer people. What does that tell you?

  10. Kim,

    Well said and an interesting take. Nice reply!

    Jim, As far as the LCI…if you’ll look closely I mentioned that the LCI was incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan (2008, I think), not the CLUP. They are doing a new Comp Plan this year — I think — which probably means the CLUP will be changed also. Don’t know for sure, but that’s my guess.

    Have any of you been to the Comp Plan meetings to give input?

  11. I had no idea there was another Tom M. so interested in Alpharetta’s zoning issues. Sorry I didn’t see you there Thursday.

    I participated in the LCI sessions, which were dominated by landowners, MARTA promoters, apartment developers, and strip center developers who were told that their land would be most valuable as apartments or mixed use. That is why they liked mixed use. None of these folks lived in Alpharetta.

    The LCI study is not part of the comprehensive plan, which would have required public hearings. There were no public hearings.

    MetLife wants much more density than the maximum that City Council can lawfully approve. MetLife also wants City Council to approve a major change to the comprehensive plan for high density residential on an office property. High density residential is apartments, condos and townhomes. These are condos—but they could ask for apartments later because there is no demand for condos.

    To put it in perspective, what would the Windward office park look like with this density? It would be packed with ALL of the following, plus the 2,400 homes already there:

    11,000 condominiums
    600 townhomes
    1.5 million sq ft of retail (equal to entire North Point Mall)
    9.5 million sq ft of offices (equal to ½ of all office space in Buckhead)
    21 hotels (4,500 hotel rooms)
    75 restaurants

    If any member of City Council thinks this is good for Alpharetta, why don’t you send an email to your constituents and tell them what a great high density project you think it is? Be sure to tell them the truth about why you have to vote for it. Don’t be afraid of your constituents—this isn’t Obamacare.

    I ask the Mayor and City Council to vote “No” to MetLife’s dense, MARTA oriented proposal on January 24th. A “No” vote would support our property values and quality of life which is what we elected you all to do. A “Yes” vote would be a sellout to another bad project such as Prospect Park, the ugly welcome mat to our City at Old Milton Parkway and GA 400.

  12. Hopefully this response will format correctly.

    Mr. M,
    Thank you. You got me interested in zoning history. It came about in the early 1900s partly as a result of industrial practices (lack of self-governance) in order to protect residential home owners.

    It is a good thing we have this today because the home is the largest financial asset to most homeowners, unlike large businesses who are able to diversify their holdings (and risk) across several communities. Zoning is sort of like home-equity insurance to the residential homeowner. Each of us make that big purchase decision based on our understanding of that protection within a community. And some of us desire it even more and make decisions to live in neighborhoods with protective covenants. It is an issue of protecting one’s biggest asset and seeking a particular quality of life.

    I did attend a Comp Plan meeting in Crabapple in the Nov/Dec timeframe and received an invitation for a “visioning” session. See a few posts up for my feelings on this. Looks like there is general agreement on this thread and also across the nation. There is only one thing worse than not soliciting citizen input, and that is pretending that you are only to use the statistics to justify a pre-conceived plan. Sorry to be so cynical but that’s the general feeling amongst the people I know. Trust is lacking and needs to be rebuilt.

  13. Two “Tom M”s. Wild.

    Mr. Miller,
    That was also my experience with the transportation session. MARTA promoters and employees everywhere.

    I love your perspective to Windward. That helps to grasp the density aspect. May I share it with others? When I saw the architectural presentation at the PC meeting, I couldn’t believe how dense it was. It is kind of weird to have that there sandwiched between the other office buildings and 400. It had one of those faux Disney village feels. I kept expecting Mickey Mouse to pop out the side of one of those buildings. It seems like the styling would look really out of place, not to mention the density and traffic issues.

    LOL on the Obamacare comparison. Maybe we have to “pass the zoning to find out what is in the zoning.” But if that happens, maybe people will wake up and react as they did with Obamacare.

    What do you mean by the conversion to apartments? This is also one of my concerns. One of the PC members asked about this and how we enforce our rental ratios but the Community Development person didn’t really answer the question. In fact I think she said “Good question” and then it never really got resolved. What’s up with that? That seems like a major point to go unresolved. The homeowners need to have a guarantee against this in writing.

    I second your “No” vote. I am terrified of another mudpit besides all the other issues.

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