Alpharetta Six Years Later: 100,000 Cars & 1235 Apartments

On June 19th  Mayor Belle Isle and the Alpharetta City Council approved the seventh high density mixed use zoning case to come before us since I was elected in 2011. The vote Monday night was 4-2 in favor of the project with Councilman Jason Binder joining me to vote against it.

northwinds site 2

That latest project was called Northwinds Summit and will contain 140 apartments, 32 condos, 1.2 million square feet of office space, 30,000 square feet of retail and a 140 room hotel. It is projected to add more than 14,000 cars a day to the intersection of GA 400 and Haynes Bridge Road. Northwinds will be right across the street from the Tech 360 project approved last month which will add another 13,000 cars. Those projects will now draw 27,000 more cars a day to what was already one of the busiest intersections in Alpharetta.

And while 27,000 more cars a day may seem like a lot it is only a fraction of the traffic residents should expect from projects approved over the past six years. The seven urban mixed use projects approved alone are projected to add more than 100,000 cars a day to our already congested roadways.

But even that number doesn’t include the thousands of cars coming from all the acreage recently clear cut on Old Milton Parkway. Or the cars coming soon from property cleared on Kimball Bridge Road. Or cars coming from more developments approved on Webb Bridge Road. Or the houses, town houses and condos being built on Mayfield Road, Rucker Road, Canton Street, Academy Street and nearly every other congested corridor in the city.

City Center 4-3-2017

When I ran for office in 2011 there were three candidates running for Mayor and six candidates running for three city council positions. For ten weeks the nine of us spent every possible moment hosting events, knocking on doors and attending debates to explain why the people of Alpharetta should vote for us. The one issue that all nine candidates acknowledged as a top priority for everyone was Alpharetta’s traffic.

Every candidate promised we were going to do something about the horrific traffic that has plagued this city for years. Yet here we are six years later and city council has approved developments that will add well over 100,000 cars a day while we are still years away from traffic improvements that could ease congestion.

Don’t get me wrong.  Development is not bad and I am not anti-growth.

I am proud of much that our mayor and council have accomplished over the past six years. Cooperation between the City of Alpharetta, our business community and the commercial property owners who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars help make Alpharetta a shining star in the state of Georgia.

But when I promised to do something about traffic I was committed to supporting a pace and scale of development that our infrastructure could support. Many of my fellow candidates promised the same thing.

Rush hour in Alpharetta is already frustrating and over the next five years it is going to get worse before it gets better. Construction is about to begin along every major roadway in the city.  Critical corridors like Rucker Road and McGinnis Ferry may need to be closed for a while as bridges and roundabouts are constructed. All of this will happen just as new developments start to add tens of thousands of cars to our traffic. You can find more detailed information about the planned projects at this link.

City projects

The long term affects of that congestion along with the impact such rapid growth will have on schools and crime rates are going to be immense. I am concerned that it is just too much too fast. And I know a lot of other Alpharetta residents are concerned too because they ask me about it everywhere I go.

People ask me what’s going to be built on the latest piece of land where the trees are suddenly gone. People ask me why the city didn’t do something about traffic before approving so many developments. People ask me why I’m usually the only council member voting against some of the mixed use apartment projects.

Then people ask me the one question I just can’t answer,”We’ve lost so many trees and traffic just keeps getting worse, why does the city keep approving all of this?” All I can say to that is,”I don’t know.”

 

 

 

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It’s not too late for Alpharetta.. but time is getting short

I previously mentioned that the City of Alpharetta is in the process of revising the comprehensive land use plan that will determine the future of Alpharetta’s schools and affect the property values of every home in our community. Below is the picture of what the city has planned. You can find more details at this website which the community development department inexplicably set up seperate from the city’s website.

Welcome to the future of Alpharetta... worse traffic and bad schools

All you really need to know is that the entire horseshoe shaped area in color extending throught the Northpoint area up Haynes Bridge road and circling around Wills Park and Highway 9 will be filled with apartments and condominiums. That means thousands more high density condos and apartments which will create worse trafffic, decimate our public schools and turn Alpharetta into an urban environment that is conducive to more mass transit supported by taxpayers. That is the plan of the city.

It is not too late to change the city council’s mind but there isn’t much time left. If you feel strongly about this issue one way or the other I encourage you to contact the current Mayor and City Council before they approve this plan in the next few weeks.  The contact information below is taken from the City of Alpharetta website and I hope you will all use it to make your voices heard. It is not yet too late but time is of the essence.

Mayor Arthur Letchas: aletchas@alpharetta.ga.us

Councilman Mike Kennedy email:mkennedy@alpharetta.ga.us

Councilman Aiken email:DCAiken@alpharetta.ga.us

Councilwoman Cheryl Oakes email:coakes@alpharetta.ga.us

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Councilman Douglas Derito

Councilman Douglas Derito email:DDerito@alpharetta.ga.us

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Councilman Jim Paine email: jpaine@alpharetta.ga.us

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Councilman Chris Owens email:cowens@alpharetta.ga.us

Why would Alpharetta trade 1800 jobs for 500 condos? MARTA

Below is a letter submitted by MetLife to justify the Peridot project proposed for Alpharetta. The new project would remove more than 1800 potential jobs from the site in return for building 500 condominiums. Why would the Alpharetta City Council do that? I will let Mr. Ikwut-Ukwa of MARTA’s planning office explain:

“MARTA is also working with the City of Alpharetta to initiate an LCI for the North Point Mall area as part of a proposed north line rail extension. In the past the City of Alpharetta had also inquired from MARTA on the feasibility of having the proposed rail station at a location across SR 400 from the Mall in the vicinity of the development site. MARTA has not yet made a firm decision on the station location but believes this development will add to the density in the area, making for a better transit supportive environment.

For at least five years the City of Alpharetta has been working with MARTA to increase the density of our city so they can justify bringing trains here. Funny, I don’t remember Alpharetta voters being asked about that. It must have happened at a charade charrette.

IF an Alpharetta mayoral or city council candidate comes knocking on your door this summer to ask for your vote don’t forget to tell them how you feel about the urbanization of Alpharetta to lure MARTA. Obviously they think it is a good idea. They just don’t want you to know.

MARTA, is it smarta for Alpharetta?

We are in a hole… Please stop digging!

Last night the Alpharetta City Council reviewed an application from Met Life Insurance Company and apartment developer Lincoln Property Company which would rezone a parcel of land on Haynes Bridge road to high density mixed use from office and industrial. The council has already approved two of these massive projects in recent years and neither one has been economically viable but they still represent about 1000 condominiums which have yet to be built in an already saturated real estate market. I attended the public hearing and you can read my comments below:

I have come to voice my opposition to the Peridot project which is proposed by Met Life and Lincoln Property Company. I oppose this project for many reasons but to save time I will stick to the biggest reason of all: Peridot is bad for Alpharetta.

Will Rogers once said, “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”. So I stand here before you to point out that we are in a hole… please stop digging!

There are 282 condominiums listed for sale in Alpharetta today and last month only 14 of those actually sold. So as you decide whether to approve 500 more condos know that there is already two years’ worth of condominium inventory and that doesn’t include the 1200 condominiums this council has already approved but haven’t been built because the market is saturated. Prospect Park, Windward Mill and the Georgian downtown are already waiting for the demand to catch up with supply. In other words, we are in a hole… please stop digging!

The same thing goes for the commercial & retail space the applicants are requesting. There are brand new, vacant buildings across from the Best Buy on Haynes Bridge Road and all along Highway 9 near Windward Parkway. In fact there is empty space all over Alpharetta because supply already outstrips demand. When this council considered building more retail in the city center project downtown I pointed to the vacant storefronts across the street and asked you not to add more inventory to an over saturated market. You acted wisely in that case and now those storefronts are filled. You need to exercise restraint like that again. In other words, we are in a hole… please stop digging!

Prospect Park is an eyesore on our doorstep. Windward Mill is mothballed along with the Georgian townhomes and City Center project downtown. The collapse of the condo and commercial real estate market are not this council’s fault and I don’t mean to imply that you are the reason we are in a hole. But we do find ourselves in a hole and you can stop digging.

A few years ago someone that used to work with me on zonings ran for city council. The Alpharetta Neighbor profiled him and said that filling empty retail and commercial space was one of his top priorities. They reported that he would “like to see all empty retail and commercial space filled before more development and construction are approved”. That candidate understood that it is bad for the city of Alpharetta to keep adding supply when there is too little demand. The people of Alpharetta understood too and that’s why Councilman Kennedy is now sitting up there on the dais.

I ask all of you to heed what the people of Alpharetta voted for and what Councilman Kennedy understood when he ran for office. Adding the Peridot project to an oversaturated market will depress real estate prices even further in Alpharetta and cripple our chances of ever completing the other mixed use projects already begun. I ask that you not approve this project because Peridot is bad for Alpharetta. We are in a hole… please stop digging!

After hours of discussion the city council ended up tabling the mixed use application until next month and only approved the requested variance which would allow MetLife to proceed with the channeling of a stream. In what was the most stunning revelation for me the application actually said that they originally approached the Alpharetta Community Development department about a simple stream variance and it was the city’s staff that recommended they pursue this project now.

Are you kidding me? I love this city and have no interest in being negative but if we are not realistic we will continue to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Two restaurants have been torn down in the Northpoint area and one remains an empty lot. The retail center across from Best Buy was completely redone at our community development department’s urging and yet it still sits vacant. There are at least three new shopping centers on Highway 9 north of downtown that are either completely vacant or largely unfilled. As I mention above there are three major projects (City Center, Prospect Park and Windward Mill) which have either been approved or for which there is a great deal of support within the community.

And yet with this oversaturation of residential, commercial and retail real estate the Alpharetta Community Development department took it upon themselves to urge a developer seeking a stream variance to spend tens of thousands of dollars bringing another high density mixed use development before city council. Unbelievable.

What was the definition of insanity again?