The newspaper profile that could have been

Two weeks ago I was contacted by a reporter from the Alpharetta Neighbor for information to be used in an article about the Alpharetta City Council post 4 race. The reporter requested our positions on the crucial issues facing Alpharetta and I was happy to provide clear answers that would illustrate why I am the better candidate to represent the people of Alpharetta.

Unfortunately the article published yesterday left most of our positions on the cutting room floor. I appreciate the paper’s effort to cover our campaign but by the time our responses were edited it was impossible for the public to understand that my opponent has repeatedly voted for high density developments which will hurt Alpharetta’s schools and quality of life while I opposed them.

The people of Alpharetta deserve to know the actual positions of the candidates they choose so I am publishing my full responses to the reporter’s questions below:

1)   What would you say are your top three priorities for the city?

Growth We Can Live With

My top priority will be to defend our schools, our quality of life and our property values in Alpharetta. We live in a special place. We have great schools, great parks and a world class public safety department to protect us. We provide a welcoming business climate in a great place to raise families.

For four years those qualities have been under attack as my opponent voted for high density housing projects and zoning initiatives that will make Alpharetta’s traffic unbearable and force our children to endure endless cycles of school redistricting. Alpharettans realize that some growth is necessary; they also realize that growth which destroys our quality of life and is neither necessary nor desirable.

For more than a decade I have worked to protect our schools, quality of life and property values. The people of Alpharetta deserve growth they can live with and I will work tirelessly to make sure they get it.

Fiscally conservative means low taxes

One of my top priorities will be to make sure Alpharetta continues to be a good steward of our taxpayers’ money. Alpharetta has an excellent track record of financial responsibility but as we elect four councilmembers and a new mayor it is important to choose candidates that have demonstrated fiscally conservative principles.

Unlike my opponent, I opposed the outrageous GA 400 toll extension while there was still time to stop it. I was also one of the first people to point out that the proposed transportation tax increase will cost Alpharetta households thousands of dollars while doing almost nothing to relieve congestion or reduce our commute times. Alpharetta deserves a city council person who has demonstrated fiscally conservative leadership. I am that person.

Leadership on traffic issues

A third goal would be to provide much needed leadership in addressing Alpharetta’s persistent traffic problem. Fulton County and the state of Georgia have ignored the road improvements necessary to support our community’s expanding population for decades. Taxes paid here have been used to support road improvements and transit projects in other parts of the county and state. Roads built for a city of 10,000 people are now used by more than 50,000.

The solution to this problem is the widening of bottlenecked intersections and secondary arterial roads. Alpharetta deserves a city council person who will do a better job of prioritizing road improvements and actively pressure the county, state and federal authorities who refuse to adequately address our problem. I am that person.

2)      What direction would you like to see development and/or redevelopment take in the city? Any goals or initiatives you would like to take as a council member?

One goal I have is to see Alpharetta’s Community Development Department show more faith in the people of Alpharetta as we look to the future. Planning consultant Della Rucker once wrote, “If the people who live around a proposed development oppose a development, chances are those people know something that is important to the health of their neighborhood and the larger community.”

Over the past four years there has been an enormous chasm between the vision of the future shared by people who live in Alpharetta and what the city is doing based on the directives of outside consultants, developers and regional commissions. The people of Alpharetta know what is best for our community, our families and our schools. The city needs to show more respect for their wisdom.

3)      What are your thoughts on the Downtown Development Plan?

I am committed to helping the people of Alpharetta achieve their vision of a thriving and prosperous downtown community. I am proud to have played a key role in calling for an improved plan two years ago and there is no question that this proposal is far better for our community and our taxpayers.

I support this new plan for downtown and I hope that when voters approve the bond issue in November they also elect me because they deserve a city council representative that will revisit the need for a $9 million dollar parking garage at this time. Regardless of how the November elections turn out I look forward to seeing a revival of downtown Alpharetta.

4)      Transportation is always a hot topic in Alpharetta. What are your goals in regard to transportation and traffic problems?

Traffic is one of the biggest issues facing Alpharetta residents and has been for years. The solution is to increase our road capacity to a level appropriate for our current traffic flows. It isn’t really that complicated but it will take more time and energy than my opponent has dedicated to the issue. Here is a three point plan to reduce congestion in Alpharetta:

*Stop high density zoning initiatives that will make our traffic problem worse.

*Synchronize Alpharetta’s traffic signals using real time technology.

*Target transportation dollars to our overburdened secondary roads and intersections.

5)      How would you say your past experiences have prepared you to be the best candidate in this election?

For more than a decade I have dedicate my time to protecting Alpharetta’s schools, quality of life and property values. I publicly advocated for the expansion of Alpharetta’s parks and was instrumental in preventing the city from making an enormous financial mistake with the previous City Center proposal. I have served as the president of an Alpharetta homeowners group with more than 1,500 member households and continue to promote public awareness and involvement as editor of the group’s newsletter. My commitment to public involvement is also why I spend my free time publicizing the issues that affect our city through my blog and other social media venues.

The thousands of hours I spend volunteering in Alpharetta schools and recreational programs give me a valuable insight into what makes Alpharetta great… our people. That experience will serve our city well as I continue to support and defend the quality of life we enjoy.

I hope this is helpful to the voters of Alpharetta as they decide who will best represent them over the next four years.

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?

Kudos to the City of Alpharetta for reducing fees as an incentive for new businesses!

I am quick to criticize government when they get it wrong so let me be one of the first to congratulate the City of Alpharetta for getting this one right. I dream of the day when the kudos outweigh the criticisms.

Read the whole thing by Rachel Kellogg in the Alpharetta Neighbor.