Alpharetta City Council Meeting Agenda May 22, 2017

 

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 cannot attend the meeting in person you should be able to watch from your computer you can find it at this link barring any technical difficulties.

I apologize for the late notice here but the information was only passed along to me after 7:00 o’clock Friday night and I had to review the hundreds of pages of supporting documents myself before I could make the time to publish it here. You can always check the city website where it is usually posted by Friday night.

It is an enormous agenda with several zoning cases including the Fuqua/Peridot/MetLife high density mixed use development which I expect to be removed from the table now that it has a slightly reduced number of apartments in addition to numerous initiatives and workshop items along with more discussion of next year’s budget.

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. PROCLAMATIONS AND PRESENTATIONS
A. Retirement Proclamation – Lyn Kennedy
B. Alpharetta Arts Awareness Day
V. CONSENT AGENDA
A. Council Meeting Minutes (Meeting of 05/15/2017)
5-15-17 Official Minutes
B. Alcoholic Beverage License Applications
Alcohol Licensing
VI. PUBLIC HEARING
A. CLUP-17-03 / MP-17-05 / Z-17-05 / CU-17-05 /V-17-16: Northwinds Summit/Pope & Land
 NOTE: This item will be neither heard nor discussed during this meeting. It has been    deferred by the Applicant and will be placed on the Planning Commission Agenda for    Thursday, June 1, 2017.

B. PH-17-12: Design Review Board Ordinance and Design Guidelines Amendments
  NOTE: This item will be neither heard nor discussed during this meeting. It has been        deferred at the request of City Staff. A future date for consideration has not been      scheduled.

C. CLUP-17-02 / Z-17-04: Taylor Morrison/40 Cumming Street/DT-R
NOTE: This item will be neither heard nor discussed during this meeting. It has been deferred by the Applicant and will be placed on the Planning Commission Agenda for Thursday, June 1, 2017.

D. Z-17-03: Thompson Street / Burnett Circle / DT-LW
Consideration of a request to rezone 5.78 acres from R-12 (Dwelling, ‘For-Sale’ Residential) and R-15 (Dwelling, ‘For-Sale’ Residential) to DT-LW (Downtown Live-Work) to allow for the construction of 44 ‘For-Sale’ Townhomes. The property is located on the north side of the Thompson Street and Westside Parkway intersection and is legally described as being located in Land Lot 802, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.

Staff Report
Council Agenda Report
Aerial Map
FLUP Map
Location Map
Zoning Map
Site Plan
Applicant Exhibits
Multi-Use Path
Elevations
Academy Park Meeting Summary
Academy Park Sign In Sheet
Citizen Part B Report
Tree Assessment Report
Tree Survey
Application

E. PH-17-06: Burnett Circle Road Abandonment
Consideration of a request to abandon the Burnett Circle right-of-way. The property is legally described as being located in Land Lot 802, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.

Staff Report
Council Agenda Report
Resolution
4.24.17 Site Plan
Location Map
Application
Adjacent Property Owners

F. PH-17-15: Unified Development Code – Text Amendments (1st reading)
Consideration of text amendments to the Unified Development Code to add a definition to Section 1.4.2 and determine appropriate zoning districts in Section 2.2.
Staff Report
Council staff report
Sec 3.4 Uses Allowed by District
Sec 1.4 Definitions
Ordinance

VII. OLD BUSINESS
A. MP-16-13 / Z-16-11 / CU-16-19 / V-16-26: TPA/Fuqua Development / Peridot
NOTE: This item was tabled by City Council on Monday, April 17, 2017. It must be removed from the table prior to discussion or consideration.

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
Applicant Response to Conditions 5.15.17
FLUP Map
Aerial Map
Zoning Map
Location Map
Revised Site Plan w Median Change
Tabled Plan 4.12.17
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
Application

VIII. NEW BUSINESS

A. North Fulton Community Improvement District Expansion Request
Cover letter
Expansion list
NFCID Annexation Resolution
Expansion map

B. Janitorial Services for City Facilities, RFP 17-113
Janitorial Services for City Facilities, RFP 17-11
Cost Proposal for RFP 17-113

C. Downtown Shuttle / Trolley Pilot Program
Downtown Shuttle / Trolley Pilot Program
LOI – City Solutions
LOI – Aspen Limousines

D. Approval: Release Of An Indication Of Interest To Solicit Potential Public / Private Partnership In The Development Of A Performing Arts Center
NOTE: This item was tabled by City Council on Monday, October 24, 2016. It must be removed from the table prior to discussion or consideration.
Approval of the Release of an Indication of Interest
Performing Arts Center Indication of Interest Draft

IX. WORKSHOP
A. Kimball Bridge Road Bicycle/Pedestrian/Operational Improvements (TSPLOST)
Kimball Bridge Road Bicycle/Pedestrian/Operational
KBR West Concept

B. Old Milton Parkway Capacity Improvements (TSPLOST)
Old Milton Parkway Capacity Improvements (TSPLOST)
Alternative 1 – Grade Separation
Alternative 2 – Widening

C. Alpharetta Downtown Parking Study Update: Existing Conditions And Next Steps
Parking Study Update

D. Presentation and Discussion of the Recommended Fiscal Year 2018 Budget
Presentation and Discussion of the Recommended Fiscal Year 2018 Budget
FY 2018 Budget (excerpt)

X. PUBLIC COMMENT
XI. REPORTS
XII. ADJOURNMENT TO EXECUTIVE SESSION

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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.

I. CALL TO ORDER

II. ROLL CALL

III. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG

IV. PROCLAMATIONS AND PRESENTATIONS
A. Amana Academy Presentation
B. Older Americans Month Proclamation
Older American’s Month

V. CONSENT AGENDA
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)

VI. PUBLIC HEARING

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
FLUP Map
Zoning Map
Aerial Map
Location Map
Lot Plan
Latest Fence Plan
Elevations
Citizenship Part B
Application

VII. OLD BUSINESS

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
FLUP Map
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
Application

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
Ordinance

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
Ordinance

E. Alcohol Code Amendments (1st reading)
AN ORDINANCE OF THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ALPHARETTA, GEORGIA TO AMEND CHAPTER 3 (ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES) OF THE CODE OF THE CITY OF ALPHARETTA, GEORGIA; TO DELETE, MODIFY AND ADD PROVISIONS GOVERNING THE SALE OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES FOR CONSUMPTION ON THE PREMISES; TO PROVIDE EXCEPTIONS APPLICABLE TO ART STUDIOS, GALLERIES AND COOKING CLASSES FROM CERTAIN REGULATIONS GOVERNING ON-PREMISES CONSUMPTION; TO DELETE, MODIFY AND ADD PROVISIONS GOVERNING ANCILLARY WINE TASTING LICENSES; TO DELETE, MODIFY AND ADD PROVISIONS GOVERNING BREWERIES; TO ADD A NEW ARTICLE XIX PROVIDING FOR THE LICENSING OF DISTILLERIES; TO PROVIDE FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
Alcohol Amendment Staff report
Alcohol Ordinance Amendment
Amendment – redlined version

VIII. NEW BUSINESS
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.

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

X. PUBLIC COMMENT
XI. REPORTS
XII. ADJOURNMENT TO EXECUTIVE SESSION

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%.

echo-alpharetta

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

1617_hs_zones_alpharettahs

Milton High School – 2,381    apartment units

milton-high-school-zone-map

Cambridge High School – 292 apartment units

cambridge-high-school-attendance-zone

High Density Mixed Use Developments Make Traffic Worse

devore-hd-mu

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.

peridot-2

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.

Urban Core Density proposed for Devore Road in Alpharetta

devore-hd-mu

Another rezoning application has been filed with the City of Alpharetta for yet another high density urban mixed use development. This one calls for 200 apartments in a 6 story building, 80 condos in 5 story building, 64 townhouses or homes and more than 130,000 square feet of office, retail and commercial space on about 12 acres of land. That works out to nearly 30 residential units and more than 10,000 square feet of office, retail and commercial built per acre of land.

To help you understand how dense that is just picture a high school football field without the end zones. Then imagine a typical Trader Joe’s with 29 apartments, condos or townhomes stacked on top in that little space.

Every property owner in Alpharetta has a constitutional right to apply for rezoning on their property and I will do my best to consider how such a dense urban core could ever be in the best interests of our community. But over the years I have consistently stated my belief that dense, urban development will absolutely destroy the very qualities that have made Alpharetta the greatest place in Georgia to raise a family and do business so it is hard to imagine hearing any justification that I haven’t already heard a thousand times.

For the time being though, I will just shake my head in disappointment that prior decisions by our mayor and council have lead property owners and developers to believe this type of urban core density is appropriate for such a site in Alpharetta.

You can find the application and supporting documents on the city website here.

 

Urbanization of Downtown Alpharetta

Last week I wrote about the renewed effort to urbanize the City of Alpharetta. This week we will take a closer look at the current transformation of downtown Alpharetta into an urban core.

Last week’s Alpharetta Herald contained a good article providing insight into the public discussion among our Mayor and City Council members about increasing taxpayer subsidies for the city center project in downtown Alpharetta. You can read the whole thing here.

The reporter, Pat Fox, accurately describes my comments as:

He said he also thinks the project has strayed too far from the image he had of a village-style development and become too heavily focused on mixed-use.

“I don’t believe this plan ever met the spirit of what was sold to the public in the original bond issue back in 2011

The illustration below was published with the article.

alpharetta-urban-collage

Do you notice the huge expanses of green space with trees that serve as the focal point for the development? Do you notice how the heights of buildings within each block of development vary as if they were built over time rather than all at once? It looks pretty good doesn’t it?

Unfortunately the picture above is not the development which our mayor and council just voted to further subsidize with hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. The actual proposal to be built downtown is shown below.

alpharetta-city-center-2016

As you can see the “village style” city center used to promote bonds for the development has now been transformed into something more resembling Bull Street in downtown Savannah. But even Bull Street doesn’t have a four story apartment building with more than 130 units covering an entire city block. The stark contrast between what was originally sold to residents and what is actually being built provides a timely illustration of the current urbanization taking place in Downtown Alpharetta.

Back in 2011 Alpharetta was mired in the depths of a severe recession. The top priority for our mayor and council at that point was getting Alpharetta’s economy back on track. I am proud to say that when we all worked together toward that common vision the results were overwhelming.

But this is no longer 2011. This is 2016 and today Alpharetta has a booming economy.

The size and density of the numerous development projects approved over the past five years are going to transform this community in ways we can only begin to appreciate. Avalon is only half complete and the developments along Old Milton Parkway and Thompson Street have just started. Thousands of apartments, town houses and homes have been approved but not yet built while nearly every week another large swath of trees is clear cut for more development.

Back in 2011 the people of Alpharetta and their elected officials could only hope for that day when we could face the challenge of how to manage explosive growth. That day is here now.

Mayor Belle Isle and our city council have shown what we can accomplish when we share the same vision. We brought tremendous growth back to this community and we can manage that growth to protect those qualities which make Alpharetta so special.

But when you look at the drastic differences in the two visions above it is no longer clear we still share the same vision. And until we agree on where we are going it will be impossible for us to agree about how we get there.