Throw Back Thursday – MARTA Tax Increase Edition

That day in 2016 when Mark Toro, the developer who has built more apartments in Alpharetta than anyone else over the last ten years, begged Georgia State Senators to raise MARTA sales taxes on the people of Alpharetta by 50% because it would be good for his business.

I testified that the MARTA sales tax increase would be horrible for the people of Alpharetta. Fortunately for the people of Alpharetta I prevailed.

MARTA Tax Increase Hearing copy

 

New GA 400 Exit on Kimball Bridge Road?

GA 400 Flex Lanes on Kimball Bridge Rd

Over the weekend Alpharetta City Council Candidate Ben Burnett invited me to an event hosted by residents along Kimball Bridge Road. For more than an hour the residents shared many questions and comments about a number of concerns but the hottest topic of conversation was traffic along the Kimball Bridge corridor.

KBR design

As many of you may recall the voters of Alpharetta approved a municipal bond project which included road and intersection improvements for the stretch of Kimball Bridge Road between Waters Road and Northpoint Parkway. We talked about those plans and discussed the neighborhood concerns about adding a roundabout where the red light at New Prospect Elementary School is now.

Neighbors also brought up the topic of developments along Northwinds Parkway and Kimball Bridge Road west of GA 400. So Ben and I explained the plans for road improvements being discussed with the Georgia Department of Transportation as part of the TSPLOST project list.

You can find the full list of those projects here. And as we discussed proposed road improvements for the west side of Kimball Bridge Road it became apparent none of the residents along Kimball Bridge Road had any idea that the Georgia Department of Transportation plans to replace their bridge over GA 400 with one that will include on and off ramps for managed toll lanes onto Kimball Bridge.

In fact the residents in attendance were shocked. So I explained that Alpharetta’s Director of Engineering and Public Works had presented plans for the exits to our mayor and council during a public workshop in May. Then I encouraged residents along Kimball Bridge Road to start paying close attention to the Department of Transportation plans because the work is expected to begin in 2020 and if they wait much longer it could be too late.

For those of you not familiar with the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Managed Lane Program for the GA 400 corridor you can read more on their website here. You can also watch video of the public presentation we received at our May 22nd meeting on the Alpharetta city website here. If you follow that link and click on the agenda item number 10 below the video it will skip to the Kimball Bridge discussion which began at the 2:51:30 point of the video.

These days there are so many changes taking place in Alpharetta it is nearly impossible for our residents to keep up. And it could have been a real mess if the families most impacted by toll lane exits on Kimball Bridge Road had not found out until it was too late.

Neighborhood meetings are a great way to keep the lines of communication open between council members and our constituents. I am glad to know Mr. Burnett appreciates that.

 

Alpharetta City Council Agenda December 5, 2016

Below is the agenda for tonight’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.

The first item of business will be the appointment of Alpharetta’s next Director of Public Safety and immediately after that there will be a short recess to allow members of council, fellow employees and members of the public to welcome the new Director aboard. Current Director of Public Safety Gary George has done an incredible job of building our Public Safety Department into one of the finest in the nation and our new director will need the continued support of our community to maintain that tradition. I invite all of you to come out tonight for this important occasion.

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.

I. CALL TO ORDER

II. ROLL CALL

III. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG

IV. PERSONNEL
A. Consideration Of New Director Of Public Safety

V. BOARD AND COMMISSION APPOINTMENTS
A. Recreation Commission: Kevin Johnson
Oath Of Office

VI. CONSENT AGENDA

A. Council Meeting Minutes (Meeting of 11-14-2016)
11-14-2016 Official Minutes

B. Alcoholic Beverage License Applications
12-5 alcohol application

C. Financial Management Report: Month Ending October 31, 2016
Staff Report
Financial Management Reports (October 2016)

VII. OLD BUSINESS

A. PH-16-08 Unified Development Code – Text Amendments (2nd Reading)
Consideration of text amendments to the Unified Development Code including Spa Services, North Point Activity Center Guidelines, as well as other amendments.

Staff Report
Council Agenda Report
2016 Ordinance Text Amendments
Sec 1.4 UDC Changes
Section 2.2a Conditional Use Regs
Sec 2.3 Supplementary Reg Changes
Sec 2.7 Miscell Reg Changes
Sec 3.7 NP Activity Center

B. PH-16-12 Tree and Landscape Ordinance Amendments (2nd Reading)
Ordinance_UDC_3.2-Tree Conservation
UDC_3.2Strikethrough – Second Reading

VIII. NEW BUSINESS

A. City Center: Consideration of Master Declaration Agreement (Resolution)
City Center: Consideration of Master Declaration A
Resolution Authorizing Execution Of Declaration

B. Downtown Sculpture Project: Recommendation To Commission Sculptures
Downtown Sculpture Project: Recommendation To Comm
Overview Of Recommended Sculptures
Map – Recommended Sculpture Locations
RFQ 16-1008

C. Fiscal Year 2017 T-SPLOST Budget Amendment (1st Reading)
Fiscal Year 2017 T-SPLOST Budget Amendment
T-SPLOST Budget Ordinance
T-SPLOST Budget (Exhibit A)

D. Wills Park Batting Pavilion, ITB 17-001
Wills Park Batting Pavilion, ITB 17-001
ITB Proposal (Riley Contracting)
ITB Base Bid and Upgrades
ITB Tab
WP Batting Pavilion Solicitation Document
WP Batting Pavilion Plans

E. Dangerous Driving Education Program
Dangerous Driving Education Program

F. Fire Engine Acquisitions: Replacement Of Fire Engines #8476/#8477 And Fire Ladder Truck #8414 (Resolution)

Fire Engine Acquisitions (Replacement of Fire Engine)
Ten-8 Quote (Pierce Fire Trucks)
Resolution
Opinion of Counsel
Property Schedule 2
Lease Rider 2
Property Schedule 3
Lease Rider 3

IX. PUBLIC COMMENT

X. REPORTS

Is The Current MARTA Vision Worth The Chase?

The article below was written by Mayor David Belle Isle, the mayor of Alpharetta, who gave me permission to share it with you here.

 

Is The Current MARTA Vision Worth The Chase?

I’m a vision guy. I love looking at something and imagining what it could be; what it could be like; and how to get there. I love chasing a vision and seeing the pieces fall into place. But, for a vision to be worth the chase, the promise of “what could be” has to be better than “what is.”

Last week, I found myself in a makeshift room midway up the interior back stairs of the State Capitol. The room was packed. The air was hot. I was there to testify on behalf of Alpharetta at a committee hearing on the proposed MARTA expansion bill, SB 330. To my surprise, the room was not full of concerned every day citizens seeking faster commute times to home and work. Rather, it was filled with developers, lobbyists, and employees of chamber and public policy groups. Indeed, a total of 7 lobbying firms have been retained to make sure this MARTA bill gets passed and that you vote for it. Big money. Big stakes. Big supporters.

Among others, two developers spoke of how wonderful the MARTA expansion would be for the economy, specifically their economy. They introduced a new phrase: “transit premium.” This is the concept by which the properties serviced by the rail will increase in value by 50%. This is fantastic! Fantastic, that is, if you’re a property owner or developer near a proposed new transit station.

On the whole, I firmly believe that the expansion of public transit is part of the solution as we look to shorten our drive times to home and to work. But, the current $8 Billion proposal has me scratching my head:

  1. What About the 97%ers? Only 3% of commuters within reach of the current rail use MARTA and ridership is down over the past 10 years.
  2. Convenience Factor. For most, using rail involves a six-part process: a drive to the station, a wait for the train, a ride on the rail, a wait for a bus, a ride to a bus stop, and a walk to their building. Real people will weigh that time and hassle against driving straight to work.
  3. Transit for Everyone… Else. Many who support the expansion of MARTA rail are laboring under the hope that others will take the train so that their drive downtown won’t take so long.
  4. Until Death Do It Tax. 43 years is a long time to pay a tax on everything you purchase. This puts the full payment outside my life expectancy. I’m 40.
  5. Bait and Switch. The MARTA project list is disposable. MARTA is not obligated to build the projects the voters are being asked to fund. They should be.
  6. Hadn’t Thought of That. No one has thought to measure the expected improvement, if any, along Georgia 400. For an informed vote, we need to know how much quicker our drives will be.
  7. Federal Match? The proposed expansion is dependent on federal matching funds of $4 Billion. There is no obligation by the Fed to commit these funds. Before MARTA expansion hits a ballot, there should be.
  8. I’m Against What? The ballot question is worded in a way that a “No” vote implies you oppose traffic relief and economic development. The question should be neutral.
  9. Stacked Deck for Alpharetta. If successful, 3 new transit stations will attract 3 new streams of traffic from surrounding areas and require 3 new 2,500-car parking decks constructed MARTA-style.

I truly want to see us, as a region, take on traffic and develop a comprehensive plan. I can see it. That’s my vision. It is imprinted on my mind. Yet, we need to look at all the options openly: heavy rail, new roads, light rail, additional lanes, bus-rapid-transit, managed lanes, bus circulator programs, intersection improvements, signal timing, adaptive traffic, Uber, driverless cars. If we’re not careful, we’ll spend more than half of our transportation dollars on 3% of our commuters. “What could be” will be no better than “what is,” except we’ll have the pleasure of paying for “what should never have been.” The best answer probably lies in some combination of travel methods. We don’t know. But before we vote, let’s find out if this vision is worth the chase.

 

 

Resolution of the Mayor and Council Regarding MARTA Tax Increase

Last night the Alpharetta Mayor and City Council unanimously supported a resolution asking members of the Georgia state legislature to allow Fulton County to finish the transportation improvement process begun last year under House Bill 170. It is my understanding that the Mayor and City Council of Johns Creek have also adopted this resolution.

Last year’s House Bill 170 laid out a well designed plan for investing in the diverse infrastructure needs of a county the size of Fulton. The resolution below would preserve that ongoing process while still providing municipalities more flexibility to expand transit within that framework as needed. You can click on the photo below to read the whole thing.

 

Alpharetta SB 330 Resolution_edited-1

Opinion of Mayor David Belle Isle

For months Fulton County mayors have been meeting to negotiate an agreement regarding a transportation sales tax which was authorized in House Bill 170 passed by the Georgia legislature in 2015. Below is a press release issued today by Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle regarding the matter.

I support our Mayor’s critical approach to an issue that is vital to the future of our region and our state. I am proud to serve with a man who has the courage to stand up for what we both know is right regardless of which way the prevailing political winds may be blowing. You can click below to view the whole statement.

 

DBI MARTA statement

Legitimate Poll shows Overwhelming Opposition to Rail in North Fulton

Supporters of Georgia State Senator Brandon Beach’s MARTA tax increase bill, SB 313, have made many claims about public support for the legislation. As an elected representative of 63,000 people who live in Alpharetta I know many of those claims are inconsistent with the truth. That is why I am pleased to release the findings of an objective, statistically valid poll which demonstrates the people of North Fulton overwhelmingly oppose such a tax increase for the purpose of extending heavy rail in the region.

Legitimate Poll shows Overwhelming Opposition to Rail in North Fulton

Voters in the 5 major cities of North Fulton county have spoken and oppose a massive tax increase to support a Marta heavy rail extension.  When presented with a reasonable and accurate set of facts, the poll showed a clear landslide rebuttal.  Women opposed the tax increase and rail line by almost 63% and Republicans by almost 69%.  Democrats also opposed by a slim majority and African-Americans opposed by over 66%.  All age demographics were a majority against the tax increase and rail line. The poll was conducted by Landmark Communications a respected, non-biased firm.

 

Landmark MARTA poll