Alpharetta Downtown Parking Discussion Continues

 

downtown-parking-deck-pic1

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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Constituent Letter and Response

I sent a letter to many of my constituents two weeks ago. The idea was to solicit feedback from the people who elected me about their vision of our future downtown and their reaction to the current pace of development in Alpharetta.

constituent-letter

Change is occurring rapidly and as a community we are facing pivotal decisions about our future so I wanted to get a better sense of where my constituents stand on those key issues.  That is why I mailed the letter to 1100 Alpharetta residents asking for their responses to the following questions:

The current pace of land development and density growth in Alpharetta is:

a) Too little                       b) Too much                        c) About right

Your vision of downtown Alpharetta in the future would be more like:

a) Buckhead                       b) Canton Street in Roswell                  c) Decatur

The response to the letter has been overwhelming with more than 150 people sending comments so far. In addition to answering the two questions many people also included thoughtful comments about other issues that concern them.

The response has been encouraging and the results surprised me. While my original intent was only to solicit feedback that could guide my future decisions some constituents also copied my fellow councilmen with their responses. Other constituents even asked me to share the results with the public along with the rest of council so I decided to make the results public for anyone who is interested in what my constituents had to say.

Of the 1100 letter recipients one thousand of them were homes containing the most likely voters in the city of Alpharetta. Each of those households contains multiple voters who vote in nearly every election held. Many of those households contain three or more very active voters.

The remaining recipients were people whose opinions I respect, people who have reached out to me about issues in the past or people who serve in various volunteer capacities throughout our community. The list was created as a reflection of the diverse group of people who elected me to represent them and with whom I would want to speak if I were running for re-election today.

The results of the responses I received as of midnight 10/27/2016 are below.

survey-results

Frankly, I was shocked. Based on the people I speak with at schools, churches, softball games, etc. on a regular basis I fully expected the the majority of respondents to select “B” for both questions.

But for 87% of the Alpharetta voters who responded to feel the current pace of development in our city is too much was startling. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the thoughtful, passionate, frustrated and occasionally angry comments many people included.

I was also surprised to find that responses from the list of most likely voters were almost identical to those from people I subjectively selected or who responded because a neighbor sent them the survey. Regardless of the sample group the percentage of responses for selection “B” were only reduced by 1% as a result of rounding.

As a person who ran a successful campaign against an incumbent council member five years ago by pointing out their record on growth and development I take these results very seriously. When nearly 9 out of 10 of the most active voters who hired me say that our current pace of growth and density is too much it is just too overwhelming for me to ignore. And as I cast votes on related issues in the future it will be with these results in mind.

Elected officials cannot always make decisions based on what is most popular. I know that sometimes we have to make difficult choices and ruffling feathers often comes with the territory. But I am also keenly aware that when elected officials stray too far from the vision of their electorate it will not continue indefinitely.

 

 

 

 

 

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.