Alpharetta’s Glass Recycling Decision

 

A few weeks ago our Mayor and City Council instituted a new glass recycling program for every residential trash customer in the city of Alpharetta. As is often the case I was the lone dissenting voice in making the change.

Shortly after the decision my mother asked me why I had voted against the new program. After explaining my vote to her I realized that many of my constituents probably wondered why I had voted against it too.

So I wrote a blog article explaining my thought process. However I decided not to publish the article at the time because I figured it would just annoy my fellow council members and there was nothing to be gained by rehashing the topic.

Then last week Alpharetta residents began receiving their new trash bills. As a result I started getting numerous complaints from residents who are now being forced to pay for a service they did not want.

As a member of city council the public is now rightfully holding me accountable for a policy I did not support. So I decided to publicly explain why I did not support the change now.

The recycling discussion began last year when Alpharetta’s trash disposal company could no longer continue collecting glass under the existing conditions. Our mayor and council were told glass recycling had not been economically viable for some time.

We were also told that the recycling centers could no longer afford to sort through all of the material to remove glass from the other material. Therefore the City of Alpharetta needed to decide how we wanted to collect recyclables in the future. After discussions with the city’s waste disposal vendor the three options below were identified.

Option A: Residents Put Glass In The Trash

Under this option, you would simply place glass products into your trash rather than into your recycling container.  The option does not require any additional containers, provides the same level of convenience for residents as you have today, and comes at no additional cost to residents.
Option B: Residents Drop Glass Off At A Collection Center

Under this option, you would have to hold or store glass recyclables at your home.  Periodically, you would load them into your car, drive to a collection center that would be established at our Public Works Department located on Hembree Road, and unload the glass into the collection container.  Glass could not be placed into plastic bags or mixed with any other recyclable or waste product.  While the option comes at no additional cost to residents, it is less convenient than the curbside service you have today and requires you to temporarily store the glass at your home.
Option C: Continue Curbside Glass Recycling At Additional Cost

Under this option, you would be provided an additional 18 gallon plastic bin into which you would place any recyclable glass products.  On your normally scheduled collection day, you would place the bin at the curb along with your other trash and recyclables.  This option provides the convenience of curbside collection, but requires a third waste bin and a $3 per month increase in your waste service bill.  Additionally, it would require Republic to add another collection truck to the three already servicing each route, so there would be more heavy trucks in our neighborhoods.

So with those available options our mayor and council decided to seek public input before making a decision. In February of this year the city began soliciting feedback from residents to help inform our decision. The three possible options were presented to the public.

In March the city began a survey of residential trash service customers distributed in their bills and collected online. The City received 2,096 responses to the survey which represented approximately 13% of current customers. The results are below.

Recycling bar chartRecycling poll responses

As you can see Option A was the most popular option. Nearly 40% of the city’s customers who responded said that they would prefer to put their glass in the trash at no additional cost. That option would have effectively maintained the status quo. Glass would continue going into landfills with no additional bins, trucks, fees or inconvenience.

Option C had the second most supporters. About 37% of respondents preferred the option of having a separate bin for their glass which would be picked up by an additional truck at their curbside for an extra cost of $3 per month.

Option B had the fewest supporters at about 24% of respondents who preferred the option of a voluntary recycling program.  Under that proposal each resident would be responsible for collecting their own glass and taking it to collection centers.

Once the survey was completed the city staff presented the results to mayor and council in a public meeting. During that discussion it was clear that a majority of our council preferred Option C which was the second most popular choice among the opinions we received. It was also the only option that required all 16,000 of our customers to shoulder the additional financial burden for a new recycling program regardless of whether they wanted it or not.

During the meeting I pointed out that according to the survey 63% of our customers surveyed did not want the service they would be forced to pay for under Option C. I also explained that while I was sympathetic to recycling glass in an effort to keep it out of landfills, Option B would allow the 69% of people who wanted to recycle glass to do so at no additional charge without forcing thousands of households to pay for something they did not want.

It was my position that we should further investigate Option B which would avoid having to impose an extra $3 per month fee on all 16,000 of our customers. Most of whom don’t use much glass, didn’t want extra collection bins, didn’t want extra garbage trucks on the road or weren’t going to recycle glass anyway.

My suggestion to consider an option that seemed to provide the most flexibility and the least cost to all of our 16,000 customers found no support from the rest of council. So staff was directed to work out the details of implementing a plan that had received support from only 37% of our customers surveyed.

Several weeks later staff brought a proposal for weekly curbside glass recycling to us for a final decision. In the motion proposed I had to decide whether I supported imposing the most expensive, most intrusive and least efficient option available on all 16,000 of our customers at an additional cost to them of more than a half million dollars a year.

I voted no. The decision passed 6-1.

Was I right? Was I wrong? Who knows?

But I am satisfied I represented my constituents well. And after explaining why I voted the way I did to my Mom, she was satisfied too.

That’s good enough for me.

 

 

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Alpharetta City Council Agenda October 24, 2016

 

Below is the agenda for Monday night’s Alpharetta City Council meeting along with highlighted links to many of the supporting materials. Please feel free to leave questions and comments about agenda items in the comment section and I will do my best to respond in a timely manner.

 

I. CALL TO ORDER

II. ROLL CALL

III. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG

IV. PROCLAMATIONS AND PRESENTATIONS
           A. Life Saving Award

V. CONSENT AGENDA
           A. Council Meeting Minutes (Meeting of 10/17/2016)
                10-17-16 Official Minutes

VI. PUBLIC HEARING

A. MP-16-11/CLUP-16-07/Z-16-09 Sharp Residential Townhomes/Windward Pod 20A

Consideration of a request to rezone approximately 13.7 acres from O-I (Office-Institutional) and CUP (Community Unit Plan) to CUP in order to develop 95 townhomes. An amendment to the Windward Master Plan Pod 20A to add ‘Dwelling, ‘For-Sale’ Attached’ to the list of permitted uses is requested, as well as, a change to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan from ‘Corporate Campus Office’ to ‘High Density Residential’. The property is located behind Union Hill Park at the southwest corner of McGinnis Ferry Road and Union Hill Road and is legally described as being located in Land Lots 1038, 1039, 1048 & 1049, 2nd District, 1st Section, Fulton County, Georgia.

Staff Report
Location Map
Zoning Map
Land Use Map
Aerial Map
Revised Site Plan – 10-14-2016
Townhome Supply Analysis – 10-14-2016
Revised Rendering – 10-14-2016
Product Rendering
Revised Site Plan
TownHome Performance Standards
Citizen Part B Report
Application

B. Z-16-12 1530 Rucker Road

Consideration of a request to rezone approximately 1 acre from AG (Agriculture) to R-12 (Dwelling, ‘For-Sale’ Residential) in order to subdivide the property into 3 lots. The property is located at 1530 Rucker Road and is legally described as being located in Land Lot 1273, 2nd District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.

Council Agenda Report
Land Use Map
Aerial Map
Zoning Map
Location Map
Revised 2 Lot Site Plan
Citizenship Part B Report
Application

C. MP-16-06/V-16-16 Academy Sports

Consideration of a request to amend the North Point Business Center Master Plan Pod 1 to add additional stand-alone retail density in order to develop a 62,943 square foot Academy Sports retail building. A variance to UDC Section 3.7.2 (2) to reduce the minimum 25% clear glass on a commercial building requirement along roadway facades is requested. The property is located on the north side of North Point Drive west of Haynes Bridge Road and is legally described as Land Lots 743 & 754, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.

Council Agenda Report
Location Map
Land Use Map
Zoning Map
Aerial Map
Revised Site Plan 8.29.16
Elevations 2
Elevations 1
Applicant Aerial View
Revised Traffic Study
Application

D. Z-16-10/CU-16-08/V-16-24 Southerton/72 Thompson Street

Consideration of a request to rezone 0.3 acres from O-P (Office-Professional) to DT-LW (Downtown Live-Work) in order to develop 3 single-family detached homes. A conditional use is requested to increase the allowable density and a variance from UDC Appendix A, Section 3.7.3 to reduce the minimum lot size for detached homes and a variance from UDC Section 2.5.5 (D) to allow for crushed stone to be used for internal private streets is requested. The property is located at 72 Thompson Street and is legally described as being located in Land Lot 748, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.

Council Agenda Report
Land Use Map
Aerial Map
Zoning Map
Location Map
Arborist Report 9.14.16
Tree Inventory
Application

VII. NEW BUSINESS
 A. Design Services – Water Quality and Bacteria Source Tracking Study for Foe Killer Creek
          Design Services – Water Quality and Bacteria Source

 B. Approval of the Release of an Indication of Interest to Solicit Potential                    Public/Private Partnership in the Development of a Performing Arts Center
          Approval of the Release of an Indication of Interest
          Performing Arts Center Indication of Interest Draft

 C. History Room Construction Services
          History Room Construction Services
          Malone Phase 2 Proposal
          Final Design
          Final Text Draft
          Graphic Typical Designs
          Schedule
          Alpharetta History Room Design Services Contract 16-102

VIII. PUBLIC COMMENT

IX. REPORTS

X. ADJOURNMENT TO EXECUTIVE SESSION

Alpharetta’s Downtown Parking Deck Discussion

Over the past few weeks there have been several public meetings to discuss where the taxpayers of Alpharetta should spend millions of dollars to build a multistory parking deck on the west side of Main Street downtown. As part of that initiative the city recently spent more than a million dollars to acquire land on Milton Avenue which could be used for a parking deck in addition to two potential sites located on public parking lots nearby.

On September 19th, 2016 the first public discussion about preferred options for adding a parking deck downtown was held during a workshop at City Hall. The video is available online here and the parking lot discussion begins at the 16 minute mark of the video. The City of Alpharetta website also has more supporting materials here.

At the meeting on the 19th an overwhelming majority of Alpharetta residents opposed putting a parking deck on site A, shown above on the left. Instead they preferred site D, shown above on the right. Those same sentiments have consistently been supported  by comments I have received at other meetings as well as the numerous emails and phone calls I have gotten from constituents.

Before the public was allowed to comment about their preferences of deck location I was largely agnostic as to which location was preferable. Of the three options presented above I felt options A and D were preferable but my concerns were primarily about their comparable size, scale and costs.

Both A and D have advantages and disadvantages and I wanted to hear from the people of Alpharetta before making a decision. Now that the people of Alpharetta have had a chance to provide their input it is clear their preference is for site D. There are many objective reasons for supporting site D but in addition to their objective points many residents also voice their opposition to site A based on a subjective evaluation that it would destroy the small town setting they want downtown.

Site A is definitely closer to businesses along Main Street but site D is certainly a viable option. If there was evidence site D was too far away from the commercial properties along Main Street I would never have supported Mayor Belle Isle and the rest of our council when we spent more than a million dollars to purchase it in the first place. So both A and D are viable options and would be a great improvement over the current parking situation downtown.

The major difference I see at this point is that many of the commercial property and business owners around site A prefer it because it is 400 feet closer to their properties while the residents who have no financial  interest in either location prefer site D because that spot best preserves their vision for the future of downtown Alpharetta. Both sides have reasonable positions and neither is wrong. They just have different priorities and visions for downtown.

For now I will continue to work with our council, our staff, the public and local business owners to pursue a solution that addresses everyone’s concern. But many people are asking where I stand on this issue and they deserve an honest response so if I had to choose either site A or D today I would vote for site D on Milton Avenue.

For years Mayor Belle Isle has spoken about his goal of wanting the people of Alpharetta to call this their “hometown”. Now hundreds of people care passionately enough about downtown to speak up about what they want the heart of their hometown to be. It is an exciting sign that we are finally achieving “hometown” status.

So after years of trying to make Alpharetta the city our residents will call their hometown, I am far more concerned about what happens if those people lose faith we are making this the place they want it to be than I am about walking an extra 400 feet from the parking deck. We can always build a parking deck on site A if it becomes necessary in the future… but if we lose the faith of people who now call Alpharetta their hometown there is nothing this mayor and council will ever be able to do to regain it.

 

 

 

 

Urbanization of Alpharetta Continues

peridot-2

 

Once again a zoning application has been filed for another high density mixed use development with hundreds of apartments at the southwest corner of Haynes Bridge Road and Georgia 400. This is just the most recent of several proposals planned for this property since Alpharetta’s City Council began an unprecedented push for urbanization in 2006.

This latest proposal would be similar in scale to Avalon adding 430 apartments, 70 townhomes and more than half a million square feet of offices, restaurants and retail. And in fact it was the rezoning of the MetLife parcel to high density mixed use in 2011 that drove me to run for city council against a council member who voted for it so I have written about the property extensively.

Below are links to some of those articles for those of you interested in the history of the Peridot/MetLife parcel.

I began writing those posts in 2011. A lot has changed since then.

Back in 2011 I wasn’t an elected official. I was an Alpharetta resident who cared deeply about this community and was frustrated by a mayor and city council who unanimously ignored the pleas of moderation from me and my neighbors.

Back in 2011 the Alpharetta city council members would at least pretend they didn’t support high density developments that made traffic worse and negatively impacted our quality of life. Back then they would tell us that the high density mixed use developments they approved would never have apartments because “for the foreseeable future” the city wasn’t going to violate the 85/15 ratio of homes to apartments outlined in their Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

Back in 2011 we had no way of knowing “the foreseeable future” was less than a year away. Now just five years later more than 1000 apartments have been built or approved in urban, high density mixed use developments and the 85/15 rule is a distant memory.

But one thing that hasn’t changed. There is still a concerted effort to urbanize Alpharetta at the expense of our schools and the quality of life that attracted people from all over the world to raise their families and do business here.

So once again I look forward to the opportunity of discussing this unrelenting effort to urbanize Alpharetta as it relates to a parcel that has figured prominently in MARTA’s plan to bring a heavy rail station to the site with the help of developers and elected officials.

Alpharetta hires a new Economic Development Coordinator

Hiring a person capable of leading our city’s economic development effort was a key goal for Alpharetta’s new Mayor and City Council this year. So I am proud to announce that Alpharetta has now hired a talented young man to direct that crucial effort to retain and recruit businesses in the city of Alpharetta.

Today’s press release:

Alpharetta Hires Economic Development Director

Following a year-long search the City of Alpharetta has selected the person who will lead its efforts to attract and grow business and private investment.  Peter Tokar will begin his new duties as Alpharetta’s Director of Economic Development on June 4.

In making the announcement during Monday night’s City Council meeting, Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle expressed enthusiasm.  “This is an exciting time for Alpharetta as we launch initiative like our Technology Advisory Commission, rebrand ourselves as The Technology City of the South, and begin to implement the recommendations in our new economic development plan. Mr. Tokar is bringing new ideas to the table and the experience to help us achieve our goals in an aggressive timetable.”

Tokar will be coming to Alpharetta from South Florida where he led similar efforts for the City of Davie, building that community’s economic development program from scratch.  Over a three-year period, Tokar completely restructured the program; rebranding the community, creating new business recruitment strategies, and developing the town’s first structured incentive program to spur job creation.  Tokar also dedicated considerable effort to working with existing businesses in Davie to ensure that the environment encouraged their growth and success.

Prior to his time in Davie, Tokar ran economic development programs for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Broward Alliance, the City of Miramar, Florida, and the Miramar – Pembroke Pines Chamber of Commerce.  Tokar also has private sector experience in sales and public relations.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications and Advertising from Liberty University and a Masters of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University.

These are exciting times for Alpharetta and the hiring of Mr. Tokar is just the latest step in positioning our community as the greatest place to live, shop and do business in the state of Georgia. Welcome to Alpharetta Mr. Tokar!

Alpharetta politics heat up

Last night two candidates formally announced their campaigns for Alpharetta local elections this November.

City Councilman Doug Derito formally announced his campaign to run for mayor and after that Donald Mitchell, an active booster of the downtown business community, announced his intention to run for the Post 1 council seat that Mr. Derito will vacate.

Neither of these announcements comes as a surprise but it does signal the start of a lively campaign season.

Alpharetta City Council’s Wish List for a Tax Increase

Tonight the Alpharetta City Council is slated to vote on the list of projects to include on the transportation tax referendum next year. Proponents hope that a list of possible projects will entice voters into voting for higher taxes on themselves. You can see the list of projects on the city website here.

I also suggest you read this article about the transportation tax issue in today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution. The AJC article doesn’t do a very good job of summarizing the list being presented to Alpharetta City Council tonight but it does give a valuable overview of the process. Below are a few random thoughts on the transportation tax proposal:

1. I don’t trust the state of Georgia to live up to their end of the bargain. After the DOT and State Roadway and Toll Authority arbitrarily extended the GA 400 tolls I came up with a phrase to express my thoughts on the matter: “Once you vote to give the government your money they will do with it what they damn well please.”

2. Supporters of the tax increase include most of Georgia’s business and political establishment who try to portray the issue as just another penny for a great cause. It is important that taxpayers realize all those pennies add up to 8 Billion Dollars. That works out to about $3,300 the average family of four in Georgia will no longer have to buy gas, food or anything else they need.

3. Supporters of the plan point out that the tax is only authorized for ten years. Let’s be realistic, there isn’t a chance in hell that the tax will ever go away. If you doubt me look at what Cobb County did to push through the SPLOST tax extension.

4. The business and political establishment in metro Atlanta are determined to expand inefficient and expensive train service. One way they hope to achieve this goal is by rebranding MARTA as a shiny new regional transportation authority run by GRTA. Somehow they think that will make it more palatable to suburban taxpayers. This recent front page article in the Alpharetta Revue illustrates what I mean. While the article uses the transit authority in Chicago as an example it failed to also mention that census numbers show people are fleeing the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois is on the verge of bankruptcy and the Chicago Regional Transit Authority will cost taxpayers about 1.4 Billion Dollars this year.

5. Land development companies and speculators will reap billions of dollars in profits while shouldering none of the burden for the transportation improvements which increase their property values. That is why local Chambers of Commerce and Community Improvement Districts will invest millions of dollars to promote the new tax on consumers.

6. There is still no relief in the proposal for taxpayers in Fulton and Dekalb Counties who already pay a one cent transportation tax for MARTA that costs us about $350,000,000 a year. Last year North Fulton mayors threatened to withhold support for the proposed tax increase if it continued to unfairly punish their constituents but the resulting political backlash left them noticeably silent since then.

There is no doubt that the state of Georgia has neglected our road infrastructure as tax revenues boomed over the past few decades. I just think it is a horrible idea to make up for that mistake by raising taxes now that people are struggling with high unemployment, rampant inflation and declining property values. The state’s political and business community disagree.

It will be interesting to see what the people of Georgia decide when the issue reaches the ballot box.