The Avalon Decision

Two weeks ago the Alpharetta City Council decided a zoning case which may turn out to be the most important decision any of us make over the next four years. The choice was whether or not to approve a large mixed use development called Avalon for the 80+ acre eyesore currently sitting on the doorstep of our community.

Several years ago the parcel on Old Milton Parkway was zoned for a much larger project called Prospect Park but economic realities and the global economy turned that grand idea into a vacant mud pit with a rotting parking garage. Eventually the property succumbed to foreclosure and more than a year ago the property was bought by a company named North American Properties.

Last month North American Properties came before City Council to ask for approval of their new Avalon project. The new proposal would be a much smaller development with more realistic expectations. It would create less traffic than the original project and reduce the number of housing units by several hundred but key differences including the addition of an apartment component also made the new proposal problematic.

However Avalon still shared one key characteristic with the previous Prospect Park proposal for the site… Avalon has the potential to give Alpharetta an iconic retail center that could cement our position as the most desirable place to live, shop and work in the state of Georgia for decades to come.

With that in mind I started evaluating the ramifications of such a project within a few days of taking office. To review such a complex issue was challenging and over the past few months city council members have spent hundreds of hours reviewing data and working with the Community Development Department’s staff to determine the feasibility of what was being proposed.

Over that time we tried to identify and set forth reasonable conditions for the project to ensure it turns out as promised while allowing the developer the flexibility needed to ensure its economic viability. We spoke with hundreds of constituents and listened closely to their recommendations as well as those of the Planning Commission before we finally sat down to decide the issue. And after the months of research and deliberation the Alpharetta City Council voted unanimously to approve the Avalon project under 53 specific conditions.

In all of the time I spoke to people about the Avalon project I don’t recall ever hearing a single person who absolutely did not want the project to be approved under any circumstances. Scores of people supported or objected to certain aspects of the proposal but every one of them believed that the project could be good for the city under certain circumstances. I listened to every one of those people and I took each of their opinions into consideration before deciding my vote on the issue.

Back on November 10, 2011, two days after my election, I wrote this blog post thanking the people of Alpharetta for the opportunity to represent them on City Council. In that post I wrote:

I know that as an elected representative of over 50,000 people there is no way to satisfy every person every time but I give you my word that I will always do these three things:

1) I will always listen to your concerns.

2) I will always keep an open mind.

3) I will always be honest with you regarding my positions.

I wish I could say every person in Alpharetta supports the Avalon project with the conditions we approved. But I know better. All I can do is stay true to my word and keep those three promises.

Feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments section of this post.

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