Welcome to Alpharetta, Agilysis!

The AJC had another great piece of news for the City of Alpharetta this week. This article explains that information technology company Agilysis is relocating its corporate headquarters to Alpharetta:

Al Nash, executive director of Progress Partners of North Fulton Atlanta, an initiative of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, said technology companies are coming to the area because of low taxes and an extensive fiber optic system.

“That’s a huge sector for us,” he said. “We have a high concentration of data centers because of our fiber optics, as well as a good quality of life and low cost of doing business.”

I’m glad to hear Mr. Nash acknowledge that Alpharetta continues to attract new businesses by providing a superior quality of life in a setting conducive to businesses. In today’s world a high quality of life and healthy business climate are more endangered than snail darters and it isn’t an accident that in Alpharetta they not only exist, they thrive.

Alpharetta has a great quality of life and an extraordinary business environment because our residents (and until recently our elected officials) realized that those two elements will give us a competitive advantage in any economic climate. When you provide a great climate for business in an environment perfect for their employees’ family you don’t need trains. You don’t need skyscrapers. You don’t need bells and you don’t need whistles. All you need is good schools (which we have), relatively low taxes (which we have) and elected officials that aren’t suckered in by every Tom, Dick and Consultant that says he has a magic green potion to make Alpharetta better (which we had).

What we offer in Alpharetta is great technology infrastructure in a fantastic place to raise a family while you build a business. That may not be enough for every corporation in the world but we don’t have anywhere to put them all anyway.

Technology, families and business are what Alpharetta does very well. If those aren’t enough then there are hordes of cities out there that offer trains, high rents and high taxes. Changing what Alpharetta already does so well would doom us to more congestion, bad schools and higher crime while forcing companies that share our values, like Agilysis, to look elsewhere. No thanks.

Welcome to Alpharetta Agilysis!

You have chosen well and we are glad to have you as a neighbor. If there is anything we can do to help you settle in just let us know.

Brandon Beach pitches trains in Windward on the news

Earlier I covered curious events surrounding a presentation to the Alpharetta City Council by Mr. Brandon Beach. Mr. Beach is a board member of the Georgia Department of Transportation and also serves as the CEO of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce as well as Director of the North Fulton CID which represents the commercial property owners in the Northpoint Parkway area of Alpharetta.

You can read the previous posts here and here for more details. But after Mr. Beach decided not to present his transit plan to our city council you can imagine my surprise when I heard that he had instead chosen to present the plan on WSB’s newscast last night. You can see the clip by clicking on the picture below.

I have seen Mr. Beach give a similar presentation but it didn’t mention taking the train through my neighborhood to Duluth. Needless to say I am not a fan of expanding costly and inefficient trains through my neighborhood and now I understand why he didn’t even bother presenting the plan to our City Council.

In a completely unrelated matter I noticed a few pictures of Mr. Beach in the Alpharetta Revue today. The odd thing was that standing right there with Brandon was Penn Hodge, the developer that owns the land adjacent to the Windward MARTA property. Looked like they were having a great time together at the Ritz Carlton. Small world isn’t it?

But back to the matter at hand, I did like one part of the WSB news story. The clip where Mr. Beach says,”You’ve got Windward… up here… with jobs.” The rest of the clip… not so much.

The incredible disappearing transit machine

Last Friday an agenda item about a transit presentation by Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce CEO, Northpoint CID Director and Georgia DOT Board member Brandon Beach magically appeared on the Alpharetta City Council docket for Monday night. I was surprised to see such an item appear out of thin air and wrote about it in this post over the weekend.

Well apparently I wasn’t the only one surprised. Several City Council members told me that they didn’t know anything about it until last Friday either.  Then yesterday, as magically as it appeared, the transit presentation disappeared and never took place. Curious stuff.

Maybe Mr. Beach saw the recent article “The Public Transport Revolution – Why does it never Arrive?” on Newgeography.com and realized that MARTA trains were a waste of time and money. You can read the whole article here but below are a few highlights.

Urban economist, Anthony Downs, writing in “Still Stuck in  Traffic?” reminds us:

“….trying to decrease traffic congestion by raising  residential densities is like trying to improve the position of a painting hung  too high on the living room wall by jacking up the ceiling instead of  moving the painting.”


One of the arguments used against building more roads – and  especially against more motorways – is that as soon as they are built they  become congested again because of “induced demand.” Such “induced demand” is  surely the natural expression of suppressed demand. It seems unlikely  that motorists will mindlessly drive between different destinations for no  other reason than they can.

However, let us accept for a moment that “induced demand” is  real, and suggests that improving the road network is a fruitless exercise. Advocates  of expensive rail networks claim they will reduce congestion on the roads and  improve the lot of private vehicle users as a consequence.

But surely, if the construction of an expensive rail network  does reduce congestion on the roads then induced demand will rapidly restore  the status quo. Maybe the theory is  sound after all. It would explain why no retrofitted rail networks have  anywhere resulted in reduced congestion.

This is the time to invest in an enhanced roading network while  making incremental investments in flexible public transport. Roads can be  shared by buses, trucks, vans, cars, taxis, shuttle-buses, motor-cycles and  cyclists – unless compulsive regulators say they are for buses only. Railway  lines can be used only by trains and if we build them in the wrong place they  soon run empty. The Romans built roads and we still use them.

So maybe the incredible disappearing transit machine shows that local business leaders now realize raising sales taxes to pay for expensive, inefficient trains is a waste of time and money. And maybe the Georgia Department of Transportation will make up for decades of neglecting roads in what has been one of the fastest growing areas in the nation.

And maybe I’ll ride a flying pig to Braves games this Summer.

Nothing to see here… move along… move along

A curious thing popped up on the city of Alpharetta’s website the other day.

It comes as no surprise that Brandon Beach wants the Alpharetta City Council to accept his billion dollar vision for taxpayer subsidized public mass transit. Mr. Beach simultaneously acts as the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce’s CEO, the North Fulton Community Improvement District’s Executive Director as well as the 6th District representative on the Georgia Department of Transportation and I have personally heard him pitch his vision to the Windward Rotary Club as covered here at the Alpharetta Patch. I have also noticed that local Chamber of Commerce officials along with representatives of area Community Improvement Districts are currently conducting an extensive public relations campaign to promote taxpayer subsidized trains on the northern perimeter of Atlanta. You can see what I mean here and here.

So Mr. Beach’s proposal is not a surprise and there is nothing wrong with businessmen and their employees lobbying Metro Atlanta taxpayers to pay an additional 8 Billion dollars in sales tax which will be spent on transportation projects. When the projects could make them billions of dollars it just makes good business sense. Kind of like when the Cobb County CIDs spent $150,000 to make sure the local SPLOST tax passed.

The only surprise is that once again the Alpharetta City Council is making crucial decisions about the future of our city without actively soliciting the consent of their constituents. I pay a great deal of attention to what is going on in the City of Alpharetta and take care to read every public notice and press release I find. Yet the appearance of the transit item on Monday night’s Council agenda was a complete surprise to me.

I think it is fair to say that 99% of Alpharettans won’t even know the transit issue came up unless the local print media bothers to publish a story after the fact. The decision of approving Mr. Beach’s transit vision of the future is a crucial one. It is a decision that could affect every person in this city for generations to come and may decide how billions of dollars in taxes are spent. Yet there are only a handful of people that even notice what is going on.

Nothing to see here… move along… move along.

Update on the transportation tax increase

Today’s AJC includes an update on the wish list being compiled to sell voters on the sales tax increase proposed by the state of Georgia. The additional sales tax is expected to cost Atlanta metro area residents 8 Billion Dollars over ten years and the referendum will include examples of the projects that the money could be spent on.

So far municipalities around Atlanta have submitted over 29 Billion Dollars worth of projects that they want to include so there is going to be a lot of horse trading over the next few months as politicians are forced to give up on 21 Billion Dollars worth of projects. This should be fun to watch.

Below is the paragraph about North Fulton:

Notable no-show

All those north metro drivers who motor down to MARTA’s North Springs Station have spurred talk of extending the train line further up Ga. 400. But no one requested such a project for the referendum, according to the ARC. (At least not yet, as the state DOT has yet to weigh in.)

Since the President and CEO of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, Brandon Beach, is also the North Fulton representative on the Georgia Department of Transportation Board it will be interesting to see what is included after the DOT “weighs in”. You can read the whole thing here.

Alpharetta Condo Developer Penn Hodge appointed to Development Authority

Penn Hodge is the developer that was instrumental in bringing the Verizon Amphitheater to Alpharetta and coincidentally applied for a 15 story condominium on Windward Parkway a few months later. The condo tower will be part of the Windward Mill high density mixed use project that has been stalled for years. Once the Alpharetta City Council approved his project Mr. Hodge touted its density as unthinkable by area standards.

Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann has now appointed the strip mall impressario from Johns Creek to the Development Authority of Fulton County. Ms. Hausmann is quoted in the Alpharetta Revue here as saying:

“Penn Hodge’s impressive economic development background and his service as a member of the Economic Development Board for the State of Georgia will bring tremendous value to all of Fulton County,”

The urbanization of North Fulton County continues. Full speed ahead!

Charrette, Charade… Tomato, Tomahto

Most normal people don’t know what a “charrette” is. They are lucky. As someone with the masochistic desire to participate in the future of my community I have been unfortunate enough to have seen this process firsthand. Just imagine watching sausage being made with B.S. as filler and you get the general idea.

The people that make their living as consultants use the term charrette as if it were synonymous with “organized meetings to solicit public participation and input on developmental goals”. But Dictionary.com doesn’t get paid to host charrettes and it defines them as “a final, intensive effort to finish a project, especially an architectural design project, before a deadline.” You decide for yourself which one is more objective.

In the ancient days of Alpharetta history, back in 2003 or 2004, our city council representatives used to solicit input from neighbors or the other parents at a ballgame when deciding the future of our city. But those were simple times and only served to make Alpharetta one of the greatest places in the state of Georgia to live.

Now when our city officials determine the future of Alpharetta they judiciously rely on input from “stakeholders” at charrettes. Of course neighbor input was free and successful but at least the city can usually get the North Fulton Community Improvement District, the Atlanta Regional Commission or some other group of people that live somewhere else to pay for it… as long as they get to pick the consultants and direct the work. So that’s just like free input from people that live in Alpharetta, right?

If you haven’t heard, the city of Alpharetta has been participating in an enormous effort to determine how to address our city’s future transportation needs. You didn’t know anything about the comprehensive transportation plan? You were probably too busy going to church or soccer games to attend charrettes. That’s why most charrettes are attended by consultants, politicians and “stakeholders” that don’t live in Alpharetta. It is part of their jobs or it affects them financially so they are obligated to skip soccer games to attend.

But one night I decided that I would take time away from my family, do my civic duty and attend a transportation charrette. It was an eye opening experience.

At the charrette I had the privilege of sitting at a table with a MARTA bus driver from Atlanta and a land use attorney. The land use attorney didn’t live in Alpharetta but she does sit on the board of directors for the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce and the State Roadway and Toll Authority. The SRTA Board is the group that voted to extend the tolls on GA 400.

There was also one other average Alpharetta voter at my table. There were also several other tables at the meeting and, based on the people I recognized and spoke to, each table seemed similarly composed. Not exactly a cross section of Alpharetta voters.

It was also interesting to see how the process was manipulated as consultants directed our input. The other person from Alpharetta and I were focused on road bottlenecks and widening the secondary roads that strangle traffic in Alpharetta. But the consultants specifically directed us to map out bike paths and bus routes, light rail corridors and such. Alternative methods of transportation weren’t a big concern for either of us but the format required them to be included so we did as we were told.

In addition to the push for alternate transportation modes there were two major projects introduced to our table by members of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce. The land use attorney pushed hard for a new exit off of GA 400 at McGinnis Ferry Road and the president of the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce came by to pitch his idea for a bridge over GA 400 in the Mansell Road area. Neither of the people from Alpharetta at my table cared anything about those two projects and it is likely they would actually increase traffic by allowing more high density development in the area. Yet I will be shocked if they aren’t in the final transportation plan.

All in all the charrette was a frustrating experience and I was disappointed in the manipulated results. But I was glad I went. I am not hopeful about the plans that will come out of the session but I hate to think what would have happened without the handful of Alpharetta residents that actually showed up.