Jim Gilvin is the only candidate for Mayor of Alpharetta who does not rely on developers to fund his political campaigns and keep a roof over his head.
Why is that important? Click on the video below to see.
Alpharetta has had a written goal limiting apartments for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately that goal has been repeatedly ignored by my opponent despite his campaign promises. Here is the truth.
Serving the people of this community for the last six years on Alpharetta City Council has been the greatest honor of my life. And now that Mayor Belle Isle is running to be Georgia’s next Secretary of State I have decided to run for the office of mayor.
The coming new year will bring a timely opportunity for the people of Alpharetta to decide where they want to go from here. I look forward to participating in that discussion.
I will continue to serve our residents in my current capacity until the office of mayor has been vacated but there has been a great deal of speculation about potential candidates to replace Mayor Belle Isle so I wanted to be transparent about my intentions. Below is today’s press release announcing my campaign.
Thank you for your support.
Alpharetta Councilman Jim Gilvin Announces Campaign for Mayor
ALPHARETTA, GA, December 28, 2017
Alpharetta City Councilman Jim Gilvin announced his campaign for mayor today. Alpharetta’s current mayor, David Belle Isle, announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination to be Georgia’s next Secretary of State last spring.
“I appreciate the dedication and energy Mayor Belle Isle brought to his time as mayor. Our city has come a long way and Alpharetta is a much different place because of his leadership. And as the people of Alpharetta begin looking to the future it’s important for them know there is a candidate with a proven record of public service who will deliver on their priorities for the years ahead.” Gilvin said.
When elected to council in 2011 Gilvin originally ran on a theme of “Growth We Can Live With” and he believes voters appreciate his consistent record on balanced growth even when it was unpopular with other members of council. “I voted to preserve the green space and trees in front of city hall where high density apartment buildings are being built now and took a lot of heat from other council members for that. But I promised the people of Alpharetta a village style city center and honoring that promise was more important to me than being popular with politicians and developers.”
“At this critical point in Alpharetta’s history our residents have an opportunity to set the course for our future. I have a plan to restore balanced growth and preserve the qualities that make Alpharetta the best place in Georgia to raise a family and do business. My plan reflects three priorities I always hear from constituents- do a better job of balancing growth, provide real solutions for traffic congestion and invest in areas outside of downtown.” Gilvin said.
The top priority for Jim Gilvin will be to ensure city policies reflect balanced growth outlined in Alpharetta’s comprehensive plan. He cites zoning decisions that ignored limits on apartments as a prime example. “When I was elected the comp plan had a clear goal established for the ratio of single family homes and apartments. But the ratio has consistently been ignored and we have seen thousands of apartments approved. I have been a vocal advocate for single family homes over apartments and it is time we honor the goal we set.”
When discussing how he plans to reduce traffic Gilvin says that it is important to have a mayor willing to prioritize resources for traffic relief and who understands how poor zoning decisions make congestion worse. “Zoning variances and taxpayer subsidies have been granted for enormous projects downtown without any consideration of their impact on traffic. Every property owner has a right to develop their property within limits outlined in the comprehensive plan. I never want to interfere with that. But many residents are frustrated by city support for variances and government subsidies that make traffic worse.”
Gilvin also says he is optimistic about road capacity improvements and transit proposals designed to relieve traffic as part of the North Fulton Comprehensive Transportation Plan. “For the first time since I started talking about traffic and transit a decade ago I am actually hopeful we may be able to set priorities based on data about costs, efficiency and the impact on traffic rather than just political agendas. But if we continue to approve height, parking and density variances on already congested corridors our residents are never going to see an improvement.”
Another priority for Gilvin is to invest in the renewal of the Northpoint Parkway corridor and Alpharetta’s residential areas. “Over the past few years our mayor and council have spent a tremendous amount of money reviving downtown and we have achieved excellent results. It is time for us to bring that same focus to renewing the Northpoint corridor while increasing our support for residential areas. The city is already working with Northpoint property owners to update the corridor and we need to be as committed to that revival as we have been for downtown. We also need to ensure the parks and infrastructure which support Alpharetta’s residential neighborhoods are brought up to the high standard our residents should be able to expect. Building twenty-six acres of passive parks in residential areas, expanding the Greenway trail system and providing community centers on both sides of GA 400 will improve the quality of life and property values for everyone.”
Gilvin is enthusiastic about the years ahead. “Alpharetta is a special place and our future is bright. The delicate balance of great schools in a beautiful setting with a thriving business environment will continue to draw families from all over the world as long as we preserve that special character. For the last six years I have consistently sought that balance for the people of Alpharetta and now look forward to continuing that service as mayor.”
Jim Gilvin has lived in Alpharetta since the late 1990’s along with his wife, Mary Anne, and their two children Justin and Sarah. The Gilvins live in the Windward subdivision and attend Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church. Jim Gilvin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance from Georgia Southern University and is a small technology business owner.
A few weeks ago our Mayor and City Council instituted a new glass recycling program for every residential trash customer in the city of Alpharetta. As is often the case I was the lone dissenting voice in making the change.
Shortly after the decision my mother asked me why I had voted against the new program. After explaining my vote to her I realized that many of my constituents probably wondered why I had voted against it too.
So I wrote a blog article explaining my thought process. However I decided not to publish the article at the time because I figured it would just annoy my fellow council members and there was nothing to be gained by rehashing the topic.
Then last week Alpharetta residents began receiving their new trash bills. As a result I started getting numerous complaints from residents who are now being forced to pay for a service they did not want.
As a member of city council the public is now rightfully holding me accountable for a policy I did not support. So I decided to publicly explain why I did not support the change now.
The recycling discussion began last year when Alpharetta’s trash disposal company could no longer continue collecting glass under the existing conditions. Our mayor and council were told glass recycling had not been economically viable for some time.
We were also told that the recycling centers could no longer afford to sort through all of the material to remove glass from the other material. Therefore the City of Alpharetta needed to decide how we wanted to collect recyclables in the future. After discussions with the city’s waste disposal vendor the three options below were identified.
Option A: Residents Put Glass In The Trash
Under this option, you would simply place glass products into your trash rather than into your recycling container. The option does not require any additional containers, provides the same level of convenience for residents as you have today, and comes at no additional cost to residents.
Option B: Residents Drop Glass Off At A Collection Center
Under this option, you would have to hold or store glass recyclables at your home. Periodically, you would load them into your car, drive to a collection center that would be established at our Public Works Department located on Hembree Road, and unload the glass into the collection container. Glass could not be placed into plastic bags or mixed with any other recyclable or waste product. While the option comes at no additional cost to residents, it is less convenient than the curbside service you have today and requires you to temporarily store the glass at your home.
Option C: Continue Curbside Glass Recycling At Additional Cost
Under this option, you would be provided an additional 18 gallon plastic bin into which you would place any recyclable glass products. On your normally scheduled collection day, you would place the bin at the curb along with your other trash and recyclables. This option provides the convenience of curbside collection, but requires a third waste bin and a $3 per month increase in your waste service bill. Additionally, it would require Republic to add another collection truck to the three already servicing each route, so there would be more heavy trucks in our neighborhoods.
So with those available options our mayor and council decided to seek public input before making a decision. In February of this year the city began soliciting feedback from residents to help inform our decision. The three possible options were presented to the public.
In March the city began a survey of residential trash service customers distributed in their bills and collected online. The City received 2,096 responses to the survey which represented approximately 13% of current customers. The results are below.
As you can see Option A was the most popular option. Nearly 40% of the city’s customers who responded said that they would prefer to put their glass in the trash at no additional cost. That option would have effectively maintained the status quo. Glass would continue going into landfills with no additional bins, trucks, fees or inconvenience.
Option C had the second most supporters. About 37% of respondents preferred the option of having a separate bin for their glass which would be picked up by an additional truck at their curbside for an extra cost of $3 per month.
Option B had the fewest supporters at about 24% of respondents who preferred the option of a voluntary recycling program. Under that proposal each resident would be responsible for collecting their own glass and taking it to collection centers.
Once the survey was completed the city staff presented the results to mayor and council in a public meeting. During that discussion it was clear that a majority of our council preferred Option C which was the second most popular choice among the opinions we received. It was also the only option that required all 16,000 of our customers to shoulder the additional financial burden for a new recycling program regardless of whether they wanted it or not.
During the meeting I pointed out that according to the survey 63% of our customers surveyed did not want the service they would be forced to pay for under Option C. I also explained that while I was sympathetic to recycling glass in an effort to keep it out of landfills, Option B would allow the 69% of people who wanted to recycle glass to do so at no additional charge without forcing thousands of households to pay for something they did not want.
It was my position that we should further investigate Option B which would avoid having to impose an extra $3 per month fee on all 16,000 of our customers. Most of whom don’t use much glass, didn’t want extra collection bins, didn’t want extra garbage trucks on the road or weren’t going to recycle glass anyway.
My suggestion to consider an option that seemed to provide the most flexibility and the least cost to all of our 16,000 customers found no support from the rest of council. So staff was directed to work out the details of implementing a plan that had received support from only 37% of our customers surveyed.
Several weeks later staff brought a proposal for weekly curbside glass recycling to us for a final decision. In the motion proposed I had to decide whether I supported imposing the most expensive, most intrusive and least efficient option available on all 16,000 of our customers at an additional cost to them of more than a half million dollars a year.
I voted no. The decision passed 6-1.
Was I right? Was I wrong? Who knows?
But I am satisfied I represented my constituents well. And after explaining why I voted the way I did to my Mom, she was satisfied too.
That’s good enough for me.
Almost two decades ago I was introduced to government land use and zoning policies. As I began talking to elected officials and city planners I was astounded by the misinformation used to justify the land use policies.
Almost every city official and planner I spoke to was relying on false or misleading information. I began to question everything.
When people told me that high density mixed use developments reduce traffic I asked them to prove it. But they couldn’t. Because it wasn’t true.
When proponents of urbanization told me high density transit oriented developments would pave the way for MARTA trains that would reduce congestion I asked them to prove it. But they couldn’t. Because it wasn’t true.
When supporters of transit oriented developments told me that heavy rail would bring more jobs to Alpharetta I asked them to prove it. But they couldn’t. Because it wasn’t true.
And as I questioned claim after claim about the benefits of urbanization a website called NewGeography.com became invaluable for research. The website currently features an article about the challenges city planners face today and how difficult it is for them to respond to a rapidly changing world that doesn’t conform to many previously held biases and preconceived notions.
Below are a couple of excerpts from the article De’ja’ Vu and the Dilemma for Planners which was written by Steven Poltzin:
You should read the whole article here.
Unfortunately everything is more politicized today than ever before. That is especially true of zoning decisions worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But facts are facts even when the “conventional wisdom” of developers, consultants and urban planners may not agree.
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.
There are two zoning cases on the agenda Monday that have generated a great deal of public interest. One is the Fuqua/Peridot/MetLife high density mixed use development with 320 apartments that was heard last week but tabled without a decision. The other is the KB400 proposal for 61 homes in a gated community at the corner of Kimball Bridge Road and Northpoint Parkway. The documents for both proposals are linked below.
I usually remind people in this space that if you would like to watch the meeting from your computer you can find it at this link. However I caution anyone who feels strongly about cases on this agenda that last week’s video feed was not available due to technicl difficulties so the only guaranteed method of seeing what happens is to join us at city hall in person.
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. CONSENT AGENDA
A. Council Meeting Minutes (Meeting of 04/10/2017)
4-10-2017 official minutes
A. Appointment of Director of Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Affairs
VI. PUBLIC HEARING
A. CLUP-15-01/MP-15-01/Z-15-01/V-15-01 KB400 Master Plan/1699 Land CO. LLC
Consideration of a request to rezone approximately 12.4 acres from O-I (Office-Institutional) to R-8A/D (Dwelling, ‘For-Sale’, Attached/Detached Residential) in order to develop 61 ‘For-Sale’ detached homes in a gated community. A master plan amendment to the KB400 Master Plan Pod A is requested to add ‘Dwelling, ‘For-Sale’ Detached’ to the list of permitted uses. A Comprehensive Land Use Plan amendment is requested to change the designation of the property from ‘Corporate Office’ to ‘High Density Residential’. Variances are requested to reduce the minimum lot width and setbacks. The property is located at the southwest corner of Kimball Bridge Road and North Point Parkway and is legally described as being located in Land Lots 807, 808, 849 & 850, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.
Council Agenda Report
Exhibit A Private Amenity Trail
Photos of Homes Fronting 4 Lane Rd
Citizen Part B Report
Presentation at HOA
Fulton Co Schools Timeline Memo
Trip Generation Report
B. MP-17-04/V-17-09 AdvancED
Consideration of a request for master plan amendment to the Cousins Westside Master Plan Pod Q to allow for the construction of a 40,000 square foot office building. A variance is requested to reduce the required amount of parking. The property is located at 9115 Westside Parkway and is legally described as being located in Land Lot 690, 1st District, 2nd Section, Fulton County, Georgia.
C. PH-17-12 UDC Text Amendments (1st reading)
Consideration of text amendments to the Unified Development Code addressing ‘Hotel’ definitions and associated modifications to the list of permitted uses, reduce front setback requirements for certain North Main Street properties, Site Grading and Land Disturbance, as well as other miscellaneous amendments.
Council Agenda Report
Sec 2.3 Supplementary Regs
Sec 3.3 Stormwater Mgmt
UDC Article III Sec 3.1 Erosion Revisions
D. PH-17-02 Historic Preservation Incentive Zoning (1st reading)
Consideration of amendments to the Historic Preservation Incentive Zoning Ordinance to remove and add historic properties to Appendix A: Historic Resources Inventory, as well as miscellaneous text amendments.
Council Agenda Report
Proposed Changes to Appendix A Downtown Code
Sect 2.9 Proposed Amendments
Recommended Changes to Contributing Historic Properties
Photos of Proposed Additions to Contributing Historic Properties
Photos of Proposed Removals from Contributing Historic Properties List
Waters Building Protest Letter
VII. OLD BUSINESS
A. MP-16-13/Z-16-11/CU-16-19/V-16-26: TPA/FUQUA DEVELOPMENT/PERIDOT
This item was tabled by City Council on Monday, May 17, 2017. It will need to be removed from the table in order to be considered.
Consideration of a request to amend the Peridot (A.K.A. MetLife) Master Plan and previous conditions of zoning to allow 320 ‘For-Rent’ residential units, 167 ‘For-Sale’ Attached units, 55,500 square feet of retail/restaurant use, 664,400 square feet of office use, and a 200-room hotel. A rezoning is requested on 15.51 acres from O-I (Office-Institutional) to MU (Mixed-Use) and a conditional use is requested to allow ‘Dwelling, ‘For-Rent’ and ‘Bank, Savings and Loan’ uses. A variance is requested to allow first floor ‘For-Rent’ dwellings on three building sides and to allow first floor ‘For-Rent’ dwellings on a Storefront Street. 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.
Council Agenda Report
Revised Site Plan 4.17.17
PC Approved Site Plan
2011 Approved Site Plan
Deck Elevations 4.12.17
Exhibit A Townhome Product
Updated Traffic Info
Citizen Part B
VIII. NEW BUSINESS
A. Mayfield Road Sidewalk Improvements, ITB 17-007
Mayfield Road Sidewalk Improvements, ITB 17-007
B. Renewal of the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) concerning the processing, storage, and control of Evidence within the City Of Alpharetta by the City of Milton Police Department.
Renewal of the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) c
IGA for Milton PD Evidence – renewal
X. PUBLIC COMMENT
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%.
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
Milton High School – 2,381 apartment units
Cambridge High School – 292 apartment units
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.
On December 12th the Alpharetta City Council was scheduled to hear a zoning application for the most dense development in the history of our city. The case is referred to as the Perling development on Devore Road and I have written about it previously here. At the last minute the applicant chose to defer the case until a later date so it was not heard but will presumably come to city council for a final decision in the next few weeks.
A zoning application of this scale is very complex and there are numerous consequences both intentional and unintentional resulting from such a zoning change so I spent weeks researching the case in an effort to make an informed decision. I reviewed the property owner’s zoning application, the video of the planning commission’s hearing and the report of Alpharetta’s Community Development staff who evaluated the application before recommending approval of the project with some changes and conditions. You can review those materials yourself at the links highlighted above in blue.
The Devore Road project is an example of the high density mixed use developments which are currently all the rage among commercial property owners and developers. A mixed use rezoning allows the property owner to exponentially increase the density permitted on a piece of land which then creates a corresponding increase in their property values. The increase in property value frequently amounts to tens of millions of dollars so it is no surprise that property owners, developers and the people who work for them tend to be huge supporters of such projects. That makes good business sense.
But as cities evaluate zoning applications we have the responsibility to balance the right of a property owner to develop their property with the responsibility of a municipal government to provide the infrastructure and public services for those developments in perpetuity. While a property owner and a development team can cash out after a rezoning or after the project is built the impact on the community is permanent.
So even though many developers and urban planners tend to portray high density mixed use developments as if they miraculously reduce traffic and the demand for other public services by creating a “live, work, play” environment it is our responsibility as elected officials to look beyond the sales pitch to determine the truth. The truth is that mixed use developments do not reduce the impact of development on public infrastructure and services when they exponentially increase the number of people and cars permitted on the property.
While cramming more people and cars onto a parcel of land may be good business for property owners and can be a useful economic development tool for a city, in no way does it reduce the impact on public infrastructure and services. At best it allows a minor cost efficiency to be realized by allowing the higher amount of infrastructure and service expenses to be spread over a smaller geographic area.
Adding tens of thousands of cars to Alpharetta roads every day does not reduce congestion. Adding thousands of apartments and homes to Manning Oaks Elementary, Northwestern Middle School and Milton High School school districts does not reduce overcrowding. Adding thousands of residents who can walk to a brewery or a restaurant serving alcohol will not reduce crime in that area.
Increased levels of density increase the demand for public infrastructure, facilities and services. It really is that simple. Yet time after time the supporters of high density mixed use developments make unsubstantiated or demonstrably false claims in an effort to convince people that mixed use developments are a solution for problems they actually make worse.
For example, in the Devore Road zoning application they request approval for a 5 story condo building with 80 units, a 6 story apartment building with 200 units and 64 townhouses in addition to more than 125,000 square feet of office space, restaurants, retail space and a brewery. So with a mixed use zoning designation the applicant wants to build 344 apartments, condos and townhouses in addition to the commercial uses which are already permitted under current zoning. All of that on less than 13 acres.
However based on the traffic study supplied by the applicant for the Devore Road development that project would add 5188 to the roads between downtown Alpharetta and GA 400 every weekday. And of those additional 5188 cars on the road 488 of them would be added during the peak morning rush hour and 384 more cars would be added during the peak afternoon rush hour.
So after traffic engineers have accounted for the “efficiency” of a mixed use development, the Perling project would add 872 more cars to Alpharetta roads during just the 2 hours when congestion is already at its most miserable. Adding 872 cars to Alpharetta roads between GA 400 and downtown during what is already the worst time for congestion does not reduce traffic. It will make traffic worse… much worse.
Yet discussing the Devore Road development in isolation doesn’t adequately illustrate the full impact mixed use developments will have on Alpharetta traffic. The mixed use development planned around City Hall should begin construction very soon. That city center development will include 168 apartments in addition to more than 100,000 square feet of office, retail and restaurant space. The traffic study performed for City Center estimates it will add an additional 5,893 car trips per day to downtown congestion including 880 more cars added during just the two peak rush hours.
And that’s not all. There is already another zoning application for a high density mixed use development at the southwest corner of Haynes Bridge Road and GA 400. The hearings for that case are scheduled for February.
The applicant, TPA-Fuqua-Peridot, is requesting 430 apartments, 70 townhomes and more than 600,000 square feet of office, retail, hotel and restaurant space. Their traffic study projects an increase of 15,737 cars a day from the development with an additional burden of more than 3,000 cars a day during just the two worst hours of congestion each weekday.
So there are currently three urban, high density mixed use developments proposed along the Haynes Bridge corridor between downtown and GA 400. As planned those three mixed use developments are projected to add almost 27,000 car trips to traffic every weekday. Of the 27,000 extra cars on the road we can expect 4,853 of them to be added during what are already the two worst hours of congestion and that doesn’t even include additional traffic from Avalon.
Avalon is only half completed so far. The total impact of Avalon’s additional traffic once it is finished is projected to be more than 28,000 additional cars every weekday. That is even more than City Center, Devore Road and Peridot combined. So when added with those projects it will mean that high density mixed use developments on the west side town will add more than 55,000 extra cars a day between those Alpharetta residents and GA 400. It will mean almost 10,000 more cars on those roads during just the two worst hours of traffic each week day if you can imagine that.
Now obviously I can’t speak for everyone but the majority of residents I talk to about the pace of development in Alpharetta overwhelmingly agree that adding more than 55,000 extra cars a day between downtown and GA 400 is unacceptable. But good people can disagree and there are bound to be some people who believe the economic impact of all those high density mixed use developments would be worth adding 55,000 cars to Alpharetta’s current congestion.
However, facts are still facts. And it is not acceptable for proponents of high density mixed use developments to mislead residents into thinking they will ease traffic or lessen the burden on taxpayers for providing infrastructure and services. That is just not true.
High density mixed use developments make traffic worse. There is just no denying it.
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.
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.
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.