In 2007 I had a conversation with an employee of Alpharetta’s Community Development Department about the future of our city. At the time the city was planning to approve a 13 story condominium building in my children’s school district and there was a lot of opposition from my neighbors. At one point in that discussion I told her,”The only reason you are trying to force this down people’s throat is so you can justify bringing MARTA up to Windward. Now people can disagree whether that is a good thing or not but it will completely change the city of Alpharetta and the people who live here should know what you are doing and have some say in it. We should be holding hearings or something.” Stunned silence was her only response.
I was reminded of that conversation when I read Hatcher Hurd’s column “Future transportation still keys off Ga. 400” in the Alpharetta Revue Thursday. In the column Mr. Hurd recalls his own epiphany about MARTA and how Alpharetta would be forced to change in order to accommodate heavy rail expansion.
“Like a patient father, the MARTA exec told me that the Beltline would have the density of development that would make the MARTA service fiscally tenable. Windward or Roswell just don’t have the numbers – yet.”
I find it very peculiar that Mr. Hurd would liken a MARTA bureaucrat to a father figure but I do appreciate him pointing out what has been going on behind the scenes in Alpharetta for years now. It is about time that a local media outlet shed some light on the transformation that is taking place in the shadows while Alpharettans are too busy raising their families and struggling to keep their heads above water to notice. The timing of Mr. Hurd’s revelation is also fortunate that because it comes as the city is looking to choose a new mayor that will to guide us in this process.
If you doubt that this transformation is actually taking place I refer you to the MARTA North Line Transit Oriented Development Study which was developed in 2006 with the cooperation of Diana Wheeler, the director of Alpharetta’s Community Development Department. You can find the report online and I suggest you start by reading the 22 page appendix here. I’d like to point out a few of the highlights:
“This is just a concept to help the local jurisdictions create more transit-friendly development. The density has to happen before transit service can be extended. The next step is for the local jurisdictions to create the environment to support the MARTA expansion.”
“We know that higher density development leads to traffic and most officials won’t zone for higher density in order to prevent more traffic.”
“More than just carrots; developers should be incentivised to concentrate development and create higher densities.”
So as the fatherly MARTA exec said, Alpharetta may not “have the numbers-yet” but the city has been trying to change that for 5 years now. Too bad they didn’t include the citizens of Alpharetta in the conversation. Neither the mayor nor a single city councilperson has dared tell us what they are doing.
It is time for the residents of Alpharetta to finally join that conversation and there could be no better time to get their attention than during this year’s mayoral race.