Alpharetta City Council Meeting Agenda May 1, 2017

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. There are several notable items on the agenda this week that I want to highlight.

The high density mixed use apartment development known as  Fuqua/Peridot/MetLife  is once again on the agenda. The case was heard two weeks ago but the decision has yet to be made. The applicant in the case deserves a timely decision on their case and at this time I know of no reason why the council shouldn’t render a decision Monday.

There will also be a discussion of adding a roundabout on Kimball Bridge Road to replace the red light which is currently at Rock Mill Park and the entrance to New Prospect Elementary School as well as Kimball Farms Subdivision. Monday will also include the unveiling of Mayor Belle Isle’s proposed budget for next year which will begin the process of setting our priorities for 2018.

The supporting documents for all agenda items can be found at the links below. 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.

Remember that if you would like to watch the meeting from your computer you should be able to find the video feed at this link. However technical difficulties can interfere with broadcasts so I encourage anyone who feels strongly about topics on the agenda to join us at city hall in person.




A. Amana Academy Presentation
B. Older Americans Month Proclamation
Older American’s Month

A. Council Meeting Minutes (Meeting of 4/17/2017)
4-17-17 Official Minutes

B. Financial Management Report: Month Ending March 31, 2017
Staff Report (FMR)
Financial Management Reports (March 2017)


A. PH-17-11/V-17-11 EA Homes/Kevin Norton
Consideration of a request to change previous conditions of zoning to allow for the conversion of 17 ‘For-Sale’ townhome units to ‘For-Sale’ Detached units. The property is located on the north side of Thompson Street, just west of Park Street and is legally described as being located in Land Lot 749, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.

Staff Report
Council Agenda Report
Zoning Map
Aerial Map
Location Map
Lot Plan
Latest Fence Plan
Citizenship Part B


A. MP-16-13/Z-16-11/CU-16-19/V-16-26: TPA/Fuqua Development / Peridot
This item was tabled by City Council on Monday, April 17, 2017. It will need to be removed from the table in order to be considered.
Consideration of a request to amend the Peridot (A.K.A. MetLife) Master Plan and previous conditions of zoning to allow 320 ‘For-Rent’ residential units, 167 ‘For-Sale’ Attached units, 55,500 square feet of retail/restaurant use, 664,400 square feet of office use, and a 200-room hotel. A rezoning is requested on 15.51 acres from O-I (Office-Institutional) to MU (Mixed-Use) and a conditional use is requested to allow ‘Dwelling, ‘For-Rent’ and ‘Bank, Savings and Loan’ uses. A variance is requested to allow first floor ‘For-Rent’ dwellings on three building sides and to allow first floor ‘For-Rent’ dwellings on a Storefront Street. The property is located on the west side of Haynes Bridge Road south of Lakeview Parkway and is legally described as Land Lots 744, 745, 752, and 753, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.
Council Agenda Report

Council Agenda Report
Aerial Map
Zoning Map
Location Map
Revised Site Plan 4.17.17
PC Approved Site Plan
2011 Approved Site Plan
Deck Elevations 4.12.17
Exhibit A Townhome Product
Multifamily Elevations
Updated Traffic Info
Citizen Email
Citizen Part B

B. PH-17-12 UDC Text Amendments (2nd Reading)
Consideration of text amendments to the Unified Development Code addressing ‘Hotel’ definitions and associated modifications to the list of permitted uses, reduce front setback requirements for certain North Main Street properties, Site Grading and Land Disturbance, as well as other miscellaneous amendments.

Council Agenda Report
Sec 2.3 Supplementary Regs
Sec 3.3 Stormwater Mgmt
UDC Article III Sec 3.1 Erosion Revisions
DT-R Edits

C. PH-17-02 Historic Preservation Incentive Zoning (2nd Reading)
Consideration of amendments to the Historic Preservation Incentive Zoning Ordinance to remove and add historic properties to Appendix A: Historic Resources Inventory, as well as miscellaneous text amendments.

Staff Report
Council Agenda Report
Proposed Changes to Appendix A Downtown Code
Sect 2.9 Proposed Amendments
Recommended Changes to Contributing Historic Properties
Photos of Proposed Additions to Contributing Historic Properties
Photos of Proposed Removals from Contributing Historic Properties List
Waters Building Protest Letter

D. PH-16-12 Tree and Landscape Ordinance Amendments
This item was tabled by City Council on Monday, April 17, 2017. It will need to be removed from the table in order to be considered.
Consideration of text amendments to the UDC to consolidate landscape and tree requirements into one location within the UDC, clarify and simplify certain requirements to provide for ease of use and implementation, and provide incentives and options to save trees during land development.
Staff Report UDC 3.2 Tree Conservation Landscape a
UDC 3.2 Tree Conservation Landscape and Buffers
Guidance Document

E. Alcohol Code Amendments (1st reading)
Alcohol Amendment Staff report
Alcohol Ordinance Amendment
Amendment – redlined version

A. Kimball Bridge Road at Rock Mill Road Roundabout – Design Services
Kimball Bridge Road at Rock Mill Road Roundabout –
AECOM Proposal
Roundabout Concept

B. FY 2017 Demolition Phase I, Bid Number 17-008
FY 2017 Demolition Phase I, Bid Number 17-008
200 & 210 Milton Ave.
3395 Kimball Bridge Rd.

A. Presentation and Discussion of the Recommended Fiscal Year 2018 Budget (operations/capital)
FY 2018 Budget (excerpt)


The Fork in the Road, Six Years Later

Yesterday I received the Alpharetta City Council Agenda for Monday night. One of the zoning cases to be heard is a 62 acre high density, mixed use urban development with 320 apartments. It is proposed for the southwest corner of Haynes Bridge and GA 400.

The land was originally zoned for a high density mixed use development called the MetLife project in 2011. I first wrote about the case more than six years ago with this article titled Alpharetta Faces the Fork in the Road. Below is a excerpt:

I hope that as the City of Alpharetta considers approving the MetLife project they will take the time to read this article which was originally published in the Atlanta Journal when MetLife first came to Alpharetta:

Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. held a grand opening this week for its headquarters in Alpharetta. The 81-acre campus, at Ga. 400 and Haynes Bridge Road in the Georgia 400 Center, is expected to hold some 800 employees in about two years. MetLife will occupy four of six floors and lease the rest. MetLife’s business in metro Atlanta includes pensions, brokerage, group insurance, real estate investments, disability insurance, securities and corporate investments. The company moved its corporate headquarters from Perimeter Center because of the increasing traffic problems there. MetLife sold Perimeter Center last year for $336 million.

The key section of the article says,The company moved its corporate headquarters from Perimeter Center because of the increasing traffic problems there. MetLife sold Perimeter Center last year for $336 million.”

So in 1998 MetLife came to Alpharetta because they had developed the Perimeter Center of Sandy Springs into a concrete jungle with disastrous traffic. Now they would like to do the same here. The Atlanta Regional Commission’s review of the proposed MetLife project shows that it will take road improvements that cost 10’s of millions of dollars just to accommodate the extra 12,000 cars a day at that intersection.

I fully expect this project to be approved because influential business interests support it and our community development department is determined to cram enough people into Alpharetta to justify a billion dollar expansion of MARTA into this city. But it is sad to see this happening in my adopted hometown.

As a community we have come to a fork in the road. We can choose growth that compliments our attractiveness as a quiet place to raise families or we can choose growth that turns us into the next Perimeter Center.

I hope we choose the path less traveled but I’m not optimistic. Wonder how long it will be before we read an article notifying us that MetLife has sold their gridlocked property on Haynes Bridge Road and moved to Forsyth County?

If you care about this decision please contact city hall today 678 297-6000.

Since that time I have written 21 other articles mentioning the parcel. In February of 2011 I wrote this article documenting the letter from MARTA explaining how they were working with the city to create the Northpoint Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) as a way to facilitate urban core densities needed to support MARTA heavy rail expansion to the area.

MARTA letter

After the mayor and city council unanimously approved the MetLife development I wrote this article explaining how the 500 acres of mixed use development planned as part of the Northpoint LCI would impact the Milton High School district. That article was written six years and one day ago. Below you can read the response it brought from Alpharetta City Councilman Mike Kennedy who still serves as the mayor’s liaison to the Alpharetta community development department:

Kennedy Blog Comment

Note that despite Councilman Kennedy’s comment that,”the likelihood of any significant apartment construction is remote for many years to come” more than 1,000 apartments were built or approved in violation of the 85/15 rule. Then last year under his direction the 85/15 apartment rule was eliminated altogether.

As recently as December of 2016  I wrote this article explaining how high density mixed use developments like the one on Monday’s agenda are projected to add more than 55,000 cars a day to roads between downtown Alpharetta and GA 400. For a city whose biggest challenge is congestion the continued approval of projects that make traffic worse is counter productive. And yet those daunting numbers quoted just months ago didn’t include the thousands of cars added by the recent application for another massive development right across the street from the MetLife/Fuqua/Peridot project to be heard Monday.

A lot has changed over the past six years. Six years ago my concerns about the urbanization of Alpharetta drove me to run for city council. Now I will be voting on the MetLife parcel rather than watching from the gallery.

Six years ago there was a crumbling remnant of a parking deck where Avalon now stands with more than a million square feet of office, retail and residential space including 525 apartments. Just this week Avalon opened its second phase and the hotel-convention center is scheduled to open next year.

Six years ago Alpharetta city council members assured me that the high density mixed use developments approved on Haynes Bridge Road, Old Milton Parkway and Windward Parkway didn’t include apartments and wouldn’t for the foreseeable future because the city had a steadfast rule to limit apartments to 15% of housing stock. Today Alpharetta has more than 1,000 more apartments built or on the way and the 85/15 rule has been eliminated completely. The latest goal with a maximum percentage of rental housing stock of 32% which continues to be ignored.

In 2011 the heavy rail MARTA station envisioned for the MetLife parcel as part of the Northpoint LCI was dismissed by Alpharetta city council members as something that, “would never happen in our lifetime.” Yet last year Alpharetta’s own State Senator Brandon Beach proposed a MARTA sales tax increase to build four heavy rail stations along the corridor of high density mixed use developments now being built in Alpharetta.

Yes much has changed over the past six years. But the thing that hasn’t changed is that our mayor and city council still find themselves facing the same fork in the road.

We could choose the heavily traveled path of least resistance by continuing to approve more high density urban developments which bring more traffic, more crime and negatively impact the great public schools we have now. Cities scattered all over metro Atlanta once stood at a similar fork and chose unrestrained growth. Now they are suffering the consequences of aging high density developments with the heavy burden of decline.

Or Alpharetta could choose to manage our growth responsibly so infrastructure has a chance to catch up with new development. We could limit the clear cutting of trees like was done in the past to preserve some mature green spaces. We could honor our stated goal to balance the housing supply and keep Alpharetta the greatest place in the state of Georgia to raise a family and do business.

Monday night we have a chance to choose a different path than the one chosen six years ago. That could make all the difference.

I just wish I was more optimistic this time around.

May you and your loved ones have a peaceful Easter weekend.

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.

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.