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

Alpharetta City Council Meeting Agenda for January 23, 2017

Friday afternoon I was notified that the developer requesting zoning approval for the most dense mixed use development in the history of our city will be presenting their case tomorrow evening. I apologize for the late notice but last month the applicant chose to defer their case an hour before the hearing and I was only notified of this week’s City Council meeting agenda after I was my on my way out of town for a previously scheduled trip.

Fortunately in my absence there have been a number of concerned residents who stepped up to make their neighbors aware of this precedent setting case. This morning as I was driving back to Alpharetta a reader of this blog identified as “Christine” even took the time to post a comment on this previous blog entry about the additional 55,000 cars a day which mixed use developments will soon be adding to the roads between Downtown Alpharetta and GA 400. I have previously written about the Perling/Devore Rd application here and Christine’s summary with a link to tomorrow night’s agenda is below.

The high-density development application for S Main St and Devore will be presented at the City Council meeting Monday, Jan 23, at 6:30 p.m. The developer has slightly changed his proposal from what the planning commission heard and recommended denial for, but the density is still 2.5x that of Avalon and 2x that of downtown. He is still proposing apartments, a large brewery to be the focal point for the “entranceway into Alpharetta,” and a warehouse style architecture which is very different from the downtown code. The agenda packet with all the information is posted on the Alpharetta city website under the meeting manager portal: http://www.alpharetta.ga.us/government/agendas-summaries/meeting-manager-portal
There was a good amount of opposition from residents at the Planning Commission meeting which helped them determine to deny the application. If you are concerned with the amount of high density development in the heart of Alpharetta, please attend the city council meeting and voice your concerns.

Thank you for taking the time to stay informed about the future of Alpharetta. I appreciate those of you, like Christine, who care enough about our community to stay informed and keep your neighbors informed about the issues that affect our families, our schools and our businesses.

In addition to the Perling/Devore Road case there are other important zoning cases and items on the agenda. We will also take a few minutes to recognize the outstanding contributions of  retiring Public Safety Director Gary George.

Regardless of your position on the other items I hope you will come celebrate with us as Alpharetta recognizes a dedicated public servant who has spent more than 47 years of his life serving the people of this great nation in uniform. Alpharetta would not be the place it is today without Director Gary George. We all owe him a debt of gratitude.

Alpharetta City Council Meeting Agenda for December 12, 2016

 

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. If you would like to watch the meeting from your computer you can find it at this link.

Before the Council meeting there will be a reception held to say farewell to Alpharetta’s Recreation and Parks Director Mike Perry who is retiring after 25 years of outstanding service to our community. You are all invited to join us as we say “Thank You” and “Farewell”to Mike as he sets out on the next exciting chapter of his life.

Please note that the Notting Hill Old Milton Holdings mixed use zoning case was tabled by the Planning Commission so it will not be heard by City Council on Monday as previously scheduled. In addition you can read my earlier article about the Devore Road urban density zoning application here.

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. BOARD AND COMMISSION APPOINTMENTS
A. Alpharetta Development Authority
Alpharetta Development Authority

V. CONSENT AGENDA
A. Council Meeting Minutes (Meeting of 12/05/2016)
12-5-2016 Official Minutes

VI. PUBLIC HEARING
A. MP-16-14/Z-16-15: Notting Hill Old Milton Holdings MU
This item was tabled by the Planning Commission and will be neither heard nor considered during this meeting.
Consideration of a request to rezone approximately 2.9 acres from R-12 (Dwelling, ‘For-Sale’ Residential) and DT-LW (Downtown Live-Work) to MU (Mixed-Use) in order to develop 48 ‘For-Sale’ condominium units and 36,000 square foot office building. A master plan amendment is requested to the Old Milton Holdings Master Plan to change previous conditions of zoning and add property to the master plan. The property is located at the southwest corner of Thompson Street and Park Street and is legally described as being located in Land Lot 749, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.

B. Z-16-13/CU-16-20/V-16-27: Perling/13 South Main Street/DT-MU
Consideration of a request to rezone 12.913 acres from C-2 (General Commercial) to DT-MU (Downtown Mixed-Use) in order to develop 36,000 square feet of retail/restaurant use 60,500 square feet of brewery, 30,000 square feet of office use, 64 ‘For-Sale’ townhome units, 50 ‘For-Sale’ condominium units and 200 ‘For-Rent’ residential units. A conditional use is requested to allow ‘For-Rent’ residential use and to allow a residential density of 24.317 dwelling units per acre. A variance is requested from UDC Section 2.7.0(b) to delete the requirement for an on-site neighborhood grocery, as well as variances from UDC Appendix A, Alpharetta Downtown Code to increase the allowable height, allow a different architectural style, increase the maximum building setback, and increase the maximum façade length. The property is located at 13 South Main Street and is legally described as Land Lots 693, 694, 695, and 696, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.

Council Agenda Report
FLUP Map
Aerial Map
Zoning Map
Location Map
Craft Brewery Information
Site Plans and Proposed Elevations 12.2.16
Traffic Study
Market Study
Citizen Email
Letter from Resident
Citizen Part B Report
Specimen Tree Report
Trip Generation Report
Application

C. CU-16-22/PH-16-17/V-16-32: Sabri Guven
Consideration of a request to change previous conditions of zoning to allow for the expansion of the existing retail center and a freestanding office building. A request for a conditional use permit to allow a dress shop within 25% of an office building in the O-I (Office-Institutional) zoning district. A variance is requested to reduce the front and side setbacks in the O-I zoning district. The property is located at 2225, 2245 and 2255 Old Milton Parkway and is legally described as Land Lot 748, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.

Council Agenda Report
FLUP Map
Aerial Map
Location Map
Zoning Map
Revised Site Plan 12.7.16
Open Space Plan
Elevations1
Elevations2
2008 Zoning Conditions
2008 Zoning Plan
Tree Report
Tree Accessment
Tree Photos
Application

D. V-16-33: Vein Clinics of America/Sign Variance (City Council Only)
Consideration of a variance to allow one (1) additional wall sign. The property is located at 2775 Old Milton Parkway and is legally described as Land Lots 803 & 804, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.

Staff Report
Council Agenda Report
Location Map
Citizen Part B Report
Application

E. PH-16-18 UDC Changes – Smart Stormwater Code (1st Reading)
Consideration of text amendments to the Unified Development Code to implement smart stormwater strategies.
Council Agenda Report
Draft of Ordinance
Alpharetta Stormwater Design Manual
Alpharetta Extent of Service Policy
UDC Article II Section 2.2.20
UDC Article II Section 2.3.1
UDC Article II Section 2.3.5
UDC Article II Section 2.5
UDC Article II Section 2.5.5
UDC Article III Section 3.1.1
UDC Article III Section 3.2.7
UDC Article III Sections 3.3.1-3.3.6
UDC Article III Sections 3.3.8-3.3.9
UDC Article III Section 3.3.14
UDC Article III Section 3.5.2-3.5.6
UDC Appendix A Section 2
UDC Appendix A Section 3

VII. OLD BUSINESS
A. Fiscal Year 2017 T-SPLOST Budget Amendment (2nd Reading)
Fiscal Year 2017 T-SPLOST Budget Amendment
T-SPLOST Budget Ordinance
T-SPLOST Budget (Exhibit A)

VIII. NEW BUSINESS
A. Tetra Tech – Design services for Bethany Road and Windward Parkway
Tetra Tech – Design services for Bethany Road and
Project Overview – Bethany at Mid-Broadwell
Project Overview-Bethany at Mayfield
Project Overview-Windward Parkway
Cost Proposal -Mid-Broadwell
Cost Proposal – Mayfield
Cost Proposal – Windward Parkway

B. POND and Company – Design services for Morris Road (Webb Bridge Road to Old Milton)
POND and Company – Design Services
Project Overview-Morris Road
Cost Proposal – Morris Road

C. AECOM – Design Services Kimball Bridge Road and Old Milton Parkway
AECOM – Design Services
Project Overview – Kimball Bridge Road
Project Overview-Old Milton Parkway
Cost Proposal – Kimball Bridge Road
Cost Proposal – Old Milton Parkway

D. ATKINS – Project Management of Bond and TSPLOST Projects
ATKINS – Project Management Services
Cost Proposal -ATKINS

E. Northwinds Street Lighting, ITB 17-003
Northwinds Street Lighting, ITB 17-003
ITB 17-003 Bid Tab
ITB 17-003 (Brooks Berry Haynie & Associates)

F. Property Acquisition: 850 And 860 Old Rucker Road
Property Acquisition: 850 And 860 Old Rucker Road

IX. WORKSHOP
A. Marietta Street Pedestrian Improvement
Marietta Street Pedestrian Improvement

X. PUBLIC COMMENT

XI. REPORTS

XII. ADJOURNMENT TO EXECUTIVE SESSION

Alpharetta Planning Commission Agenda for December 1, 2016

Below is the agenda for the December meeting of the Alpharetta Planning Commission.

The meeting will take place Thursday at Alpharetta City Hall at 6:30 p.m. If you would like to watch the meeting broadcast live or if you would like to review all of the supporting materials for each case you can find them at this link. I have previously written about the high density mixed use proposal on Devore Road and you can find that article here.

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. APPROVAL OF MEETING MINUTES
    a. November 3, 2016 Minutes

         Planning Commission 11-3-16

IV. ITEMS FROM BOARD MEMBERS

V. ITEMS FROM STAFF

VI. PUBLIC HEARING

a. MP-16-13/Z-16-11/CU-16-19/V-16-25 TPA Fuqua Development/Peridot

This item has been deferred by the Applicant. It will not be heard on December 1, 2016.

Consideration of a request to amend the Peridot (A.K.A. MetLife) Master Plan to allow 430 ‘For-Rent’ residential units, 70 ‘For-Sale’ townhome units, 51,200 square feet of retail/restaurant use, 664,400 square feet of office use, and up to a 200-room hotel. The master plan amendment also includes changes to previous conditions of zoning. A rezoning is requested on 15.51 acres from O-I (Office-Institutional) to MU (Mixed-Use) and conditional uses to allow ‘Dwelling, ‘For-Rent’ use and a bank or savings and loan use. A variance is requested to eliminate the requirement for retail under ‘For-Rent’ residential use on 2 sides of each ‘For-Rent’ building. 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.

b. Z-16-13/CU-16-20/V-16-27 Perling/13 South Main Street/DT-MU

Consideration of a request to rezone 12.913 acres from C-2 (General Commercial) to DT-MU (Downtown Mixed-Use) in order to develop 36,000 square feet of retail/restaurant use 60,500 square feet of brewery, 30,000 square feet of office use, 64 ‘For-Sale’ townhome units, 50 ‘For-Sale’ condominium units and 200 ‘For-Rent’ residential units. A conditional use is requested to allow ‘For-Rent’ residential use and to allow a residential density of 24.317 dwelling units per acre. A variance is requested from UDC Section 2.7.0(b) to delete the requirement for an on-site neighborhood grocery, as well as variances from UDC Appendix A, Alpharetta Downtown Code to increase the allowable height, allow a different architectural style, increase the maximum building setback, and increase the maximum façade length. The property is located at 13 South Main Street and is legally described as Land Lots 693, 694, 695, and 696, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.

Council Agenda Report
Applicant’s Response to Conditions
FLUP Map
Aerial Map
Zoning Map
Location Map
Revised Site Plan 11.21.16
Tree Survey 10.18.16
Downtown Main Overall Site Rendering
Proposed Architectural Styles
Townhome Elevation w Brick Added
Townhome and Single Family Proposed Elevations 11.21.16
For Rental Elevation 11.21.16
North View of For Rental and TH
Traffic Study
Citizen Email
Letter from Resident
Citizen Part B Report
Specimen Tree Report
Trip Generation Report
Application

c. MP-16-14/Z-16-15 Notting Hill Old Milton Holdings MU

Consideration of a request to rezone approximately 2.9 acres from R-12 (Dwelling, ‘For-Sale’ Residential) and DT-LW (Downtown Live-Work) to MU (Mixed-Use) in order to develop 48 ‘For-Sale’ condominium units and 36,000 square foot office building. A master plan amendment is requested to the Old Milton Holdings Master Plan to change previous conditions of zoning and add property to the master plan. The property is located at the southwest corner of Thompson Street and Park Street and is legally described as being located in Land Lot 749, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia

Council Agenda Report
FLUP Map
Aerial Map
Zoning Map
Site Plan 11.8.16
Conceptual Residential Elevations
Conceptual Office Elevations
Tree Survey 11.7.16
Arborist Report 11.8.16
Sight Distance
Citizen Part B
Revised Letter of Intent
Application

d. CU-16-22/PH-16-17/V-16-32 SABRI GUVEN

Consideration of a request to change previous conditions of zoning to allow for the expansion of the existing retail center and a freestanding office building. A request for a conditional use permit to allow a dress shop within 25% of an office building in the O-I (Office-Institutional) zoning district. A variance is requested to reduce the front and side setbacks in the O-I zoning district. The property is located at 2225, 2245 and 2255 Old Milton Parkway and is legally described as Land Lot 748, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.

Council Agenda Report
FLUP Map
Aerial Map
Zoning Map
Location Map
2008 Zoning Conditions
Site Plan with Open Space Calculations
Open Space Plan
2008 Zoning Plan
Elevations1
Elevations2
Tree Report
Tree Accessment
Tree Photos
Application

e. PH-16-18 UDC CHANGES – SMART STORMWATER CODE

Consideration of text amendments to the Unified Development Code to implement smart stormwater strategies.

Council Agenda Report
Stormwater Extent of Services Policy
Storm Water Design Manual
UDC Appendix A Sec 2
UDC Appendix A Sec 3
Article II Sec 2.2.5
Article II Sec 2.3.5
Article II Sec 2.5
Article II Sec 2.5.5
Article III Sec 3.1.1
Article III Sec 3.2.7
Article III Sec 3.3.1
Article III Sec 3.3.14
Article III Sec 3.3.8
Article III Sec 3.5.2 3.5.3 3.5.4
Article III Sec 3.7.2

VII. ADJOURNMENT

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 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.

Millennials Move to Suburbs – “Cities are just a temporary place to land”

Quality-of-Life-Sioux-Falls-SD-500x332

Found an interesting link on Twitter today thanks to Jon Ray. ( aka @BKEGa1 ) The post was an exploration of why members of the Millennial generation are following previous generations into the suburbs as they get ready to settle down.

The article was written by Emily McMackin and posted on businessclimate.com. You should read the whole thing here but below are a couple of key passages:

Between 2010 and 2013, the number of 20- to 29-year-olds in the U.S. rose by 4 percent, but the percentage of residents in this demographic living in core cities grew by only 3.2 percent, the study noted. Why are cities losing 20-somethings, while suburbs and smaller towns are gaining them?

***************

They see the suburbs as an ideal place to settle down, and tend to view the urban core of cities as just a temporary place to land. Much of their reasoning stems from the desire to own their own homes or start families of their own – and wanting more space to do that.

This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who realizes that big cities are less than ideal for raising a family. Yet many people in the development community continue to propagate the silly notion that Millennials are going to forego the superior public schools, more affordable single family homes and lower crime rates of the suburbs when they get ready to settle down.

Right now Alpharetta is blessed to be one of the greatest places in the state of Georgia to do business and raise a family. As long as we continue to grow and change in a manner consistent with those qualities the Millennial generation and their successors will continue to move here when they are ready to settle down. Our quality of life and property values will continue to improve accordingly.

However there is tremendous pressure from some in the business community and political arena to change Alpharetta into the next Midtown, Buckhead or Sandy Springs. They speak tirelessly of the impending doom suburbs will face if they don’t attract Millennials who are still at a stage in life when they are more interested in bar hopping than house shopping.

But the reality is that if Alpharetta becomes just another concrete jungle at the end of a MARTA line it will force Millennials to move even further from the city of Atlanta when they want to escape the high cost of living, miserable schools and crime that plague urban centers. The irony is that the urbanization of places like Alpharetta actually forces people to spread further out creating more of the sprawl so many urbanists loathe.