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.

 

 

 

 

 

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 Downtown Alpharetta

Last week I wrote about the renewed effort to urbanize the City of Alpharetta. This week we will take a closer look at the current transformation of downtown Alpharetta into an urban core.

Last week’s Alpharetta Herald contained a good article providing insight into the public discussion among our Mayor and City Council members about increasing taxpayer subsidies for the city center project in downtown Alpharetta. You can read the whole thing here.

The reporter, Pat Fox, accurately describes my comments as:

He said he also thinks the project has strayed too far from the image he had of a village-style development and become too heavily focused on mixed-use.

“I don’t believe this plan ever met the spirit of what was sold to the public in the original bond issue back in 2011

The illustration below was published with the article.

alpharetta-urban-collage

Do you notice the huge expanses of green space with trees that serve as the focal point for the development? Do you notice how the heights of buildings within each block of development vary as if they were built over time rather than all at once? It looks pretty good doesn’t it?

Unfortunately the picture above is not the development which our mayor and council just voted to further subsidize with hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. The actual proposal to be built downtown is shown below.

alpharetta-city-center-2016

As you can see the “village style” city center used to promote bonds for the development has now been transformed into something more resembling Bull Street in downtown Savannah. But even Bull Street doesn’t have a four story apartment building with more than 130 units covering an entire city block. The stark contrast between what was originally sold to residents and what is actually being built provides a timely illustration of the current urbanization taking place in Downtown Alpharetta.

Back in 2011 Alpharetta was mired in the depths of a severe recession. The top priority for our mayor and council at that point was getting Alpharetta’s economy back on track. I am proud to say that when we all worked together toward that common vision the results were overwhelming.

But this is no longer 2011. This is 2016 and today Alpharetta has a booming economy.

The size and density of the numerous development projects approved over the past five years are going to transform this community in ways we can only begin to appreciate. Avalon is only half complete and the developments along Old Milton Parkway and Thompson Street have just started. Thousands of apartments, town houses and homes have been approved but not yet built while nearly every week another large swath of trees is clear cut for more development.

Back in 2011 the people of Alpharetta and their elected officials could only hope for that day when we could face the challenge of how to manage explosive growth. That day is here now.

Mayor Belle Isle and our city council have shown what we can accomplish when we share the same vision. We brought tremendous growth back to this community and we can manage that growth to protect those qualities which make Alpharetta so special.

But when you look at the drastic differences in the two visions above it is no longer clear we still share the same vision. And until we agree on where we are going it will be impossible for us to agree about how we get there.