1/14/2012 – The week in review

My first full week on Alpharetta City Council has been a busy one.

It began on a very sad note as Alpharetta Police Officer Reece Bonilla was laid to rest on Monday. I never had the opportunity to meet Officer Bonilla but by all accounts he was a fine young man and my prayers and thoughts go out to his family. There has been a tremendous outpouring of love and support from Officer Bonilla’s fellow officers in the Alpharetta Public Safety Department and I hope that his family takes some comfort in knowing how much we appreciate his service to this community.

Monday Night’s City Council meeting brought accolades from the city’s financial auditors and served as an excellent reminder of the terrific job Director Tom Harris has done running Alpharetta’s Finance Department. Alpharetta continues to thrive in a challenging environment due in large part to Director Harris’ leadership and the hard work of his staff. Thanks for a job well done guys.

The city also awarded new landscape maintenance contracts for our parks and recreation facilities as well as the medians and right of ways along our roads. Alpharetta is special and I think everyone on council realizes that we can do a better job of highlighting our beauty by paying more attention to some of the details that may have been overlooked in the past. With the new contracts I believe we are moving in the right direction while continuing to act in a fiscally responsible way.

Council also voted to make changes to Alpharetta’s Tree Ordinance on Monday. The tree ordinance sets forth the conditions and procedures which allow property owners to cut down and alter trees on private property.

Alpharetta’s wooded areas and large specimen trees help give our city a beautiful setting and overall we have done a good job of protecting that environment. But at times the tree ordinance also failed to provide reasonable protection for innocent homeowners who wanted to make reasonable changes to their property.

The complexities of the changes we made prevent me from going into too much detail at this time but suffice it to say that after a thorough review of all the changes I believe our code now does a better job of protecting our residents from overly burdensome regulations while still protecting the trees that help make Alpharetta beautiful. I commend Councilman Mike Kennedy, Engineering / Public Works Director Pete Sewczwicz and City Attorney Sam Thomas for their work on this issue.

In addition to the council meeting I also spent alot of time this week getting to know the employees and volunteers that make Alpharetta’s Recreation and Parks Department a world class operation. I am honored that Mayor Belle Isle nominated me to serve as our council’s liaison to Parks And Rec and it has been great to meet some of the people that make my son’s baseball and daughter’s softball programs possible. I will let you know more about these great public servants and what they do for our community in the near future.

Thanks again for this opportunity to serve our community and please take the time to stay engaged in the issues that affect us all.

Senior housing shenanigans

In case you hadn’t noticed there is a developer trying to get land zoned for low income, federally subsidized senior apartments at the corner of Morris Road and Webb Bridge Road in Alpharetta. The proposal is being championed by local senior activist, Dot Benson, and you can read more background in this article from the Alpharetta Revue.

Despite Ms. Benson’s campaign to support this rezoning there is a great deal of opposition to the project from Alpharetta residents and I have received a number of emails from people explaining why it is a bad idea. Curiously the majority of the emails have come from people I would consider to be seniors themselves. At some point I will address this zoning issue in more detail but right now I would like to point out something about the senior housing proposal that I find unconscionable. City employees are actively lobbying on behalf of the senior center and using my money to do it.

Below is an email apparently sent from a Parks and Rec employee which outlines the use of public resources to champion the developer’s proposal:

For those of you who missed the wonderful AGAC luncheon, we want to thank the AGAC BOD for supplying the food and the speakers for today, we had a wild day!!

We wanted to inform you of a topic we discussed today and invite you to a town hall meeting regarding plans for a Preston Ridge Senior Community. Fulton County Strategies for Healthier Community, chaired by Ms. Dorothy Benson, has enlisted the assistance of Atlas Development Group and Carlisle Development Group to undertake the development of the much needed AFFORDABLE HOUSING, age-restricted “senior” RENTAL housing in Alpharetta. The development will be located at the intersection of Webb Bridge and Morris Rd.  They have applied to the City of Alpharetta for a rezoning of the property which will enable us to move forward with the contemplated development.

This development will provide 90 senior apartments at affordable rents as well as a wide array of amenities and social/recreational activities. WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT in petitioning for rezoning of this property. To show support, please meet in the lobby of the AAC either on Thurs. June 2nd for the Alpharetta Planning Commission Meeting, leaving here at 6:45pm or Monday, June 20th at the City Council meeting, leaving here at 6:45pm as we will be providing transportation.

If you are in favor of this and cannot make any of these town hall meetings, please come to our office and sign a petition. Thanks!

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

Administrative Assistant 1

Alpharetta Adult Activity Center at North Park

13450 Cogburn Rd.

Alpharetta, GA  30004

678-297-****

www.alpharetta.ga.us/recreation

I have removed the sender’s name and phone number from the above email because I have not yet been able to verify the validity of the letter from an independent source. But the people who forwarded the note to me have been impeccable sources in the past and I have no doubt about the accuracy of the email.

People can disagree about zoning issues. It happens all the time. But the thought of tax dollars being used to finance a political agenda infuriates me. My money being used to provide free transportation to seniors so they can lobby on behalf of housing subsidized by more of my money? Are you kidding me?

The Alpharetta Parks and Recreation Department is generally a fine group of people and they have done a great job building an organization that we can be proud of here. But there is absolutely no excuse for city employees being allowed to use public resources to fund lobbying activities on behalf of a developer, especially when the project in question will require even more tax dollars.

I hope the Parks and Rec department will get to the bottom of these shenanigans soon.