Question Everything


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 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:

Planner AngstPlanner's Aspirations


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.

Question everything.

Johns Creek Mayor and Councilmen want MARTA trains… in Alpharetta

There is a very interesting article in the Johns Creek Herald. Apparently on April 11 the Johns Creek City Council discussed the issue of how little money MARTA spends in North Fulton County. They also talked about the fact that if Johns Creek residents will be expected to pay an additional transportation tax then MARTA should provide their residents nearby access to trains.

The catch is that they don’t want the MARTA trains to come into the city of Johns Creek. They just want the trains to be extended into my neighborhood of Windward in Alpharetta.

As Mayor Bodker says:

Bodker said the North Fulton cities need to look at their land-use policies to see whether they even want transit, and if they do, how they would support it. He said Johns Creek does not lend itself to trains, however, buses could connect the city to train lines extending northward via the 400 Corridor or Gwinnett County.

“These are all long-term plans that won’t happen overnight,” he said.

However, plans need to be made and land-use policies changed in the meantime. He said even those who do not use transit benefit from it, because taking cars off the road makes it easier for those who continue driving. He also said continued development is unsustainable if people continue relying on cars.

So the man who didn’t honor his word when it came to charging Alpharetta residents higher recreation fees would like us to change the complexion of our city for the good of his constituents? Right. We’ll get right on that.

And Mayor Bodker wasn’t the only one suggesting Alpharetta should change for the sake of its North Fulton neighbors.  Johns Creek City Councilman Randall Johnson said:

…something he would like to see happen is for the train line to extend all the way to Windward Parkway.

“I think you would see more people from North Fulton utilize it,” he said.

This doesn’t surprise me. I have watched as politicians and developers from Johns Creek lobbied for the urbanization of Alpharetta. And I have watched as Alpharetta City Council has acquiesced every time.

I can see how Johns Creek, Milton, Forsyth County, Cherokee County and every other person outside of Alpharetta might enjoy the convenience of having trains in someone else’s backyard. It is much less obvious how the destruction of our quality of life benefits me and my family. I will have more on this subject… a lot more… but for now I am so furious I can’t see straight.

You can read the whole article here.

I hope you all enjoy a wonderful Good Friday and Easter weekend.

“More density envisioned for East Roswell”

That is the headline of this article in the Roswell Neighbor by Joan Durbin. Apparently there is an email circulating in Roswell that points out how the City of Roswell is planning to urbanize in much the same way the City of Alpharetta has for the past five years.

It may come as a surprise to the average resident who is busy raising a family but it is completely consistent with what has been going on in the Atlanta area ever since the 1990’s. That is when the federal government inserted themselves into local zoning issues by forcing local communitities to surrender their autonomy to regional authorities under the threat of withholding transportation money. Now local council members allow our future to be dictated by the federal government through the Atlanta Regional Commission. Of course our schools won’t suck and our crime rates won’t soar until the current councilmembers are safely out of office so what does it matter to them?

I sympathize with the residents of Roswell that are frustrated by a city government that should be representing them and hope that Roswell residents have more success in stopping the high density onslaught than we have here in Alpharetta. We are all fighting the same fight.

Alpharetta Planning Commission supports 500 more condos

Thursday I wrote about the next step the city of Alpharetta is taking to transform itself into an urbanized concrete jungle similar to the Perimeter Center in Sandy Springs. You can read that post here.

As I predicted the Alpharetta Planning Commission unanimously approved the high density development that directly conflicts with the comprehensive land use plan. Since the city of Alpharetta typically ignores the land use plan the action comes as no surprise but it is disappointing nonetheless. The MetLife project is now scheduled to go before the Alpharetta City Council for final approval on Monday, January 24th.

I will write more about the details of this mega-project later but for now I would like to point out what disappoints me most about Thursday’s decision: Not one person on the planning commission stood up to defend Alpharetta from this continued urbanization. Not one? Not one single person on the planning commission stood up to represent the Alpharetta residents that want this urbanization moderated if not completely stopped. That is sad.

But I don’t blame the planning commissioners. They are simply doing what they think is best. I happen to know several of them and while they rarely represent my family’s best interests, there is nothing wrong with good people disagreeing. 

The real problem is that not one city councilperson has nominated a commissioner that represents my family’s best interests. Not one city council member nominated a planning commissioner that would vote against a project that adds 500 condos to the Milton High School district and puts 12,000 more cars on the road between downtown Alpharetta and GA 400.  Not one. So let’s be clear, the urbanization of Alpharetta continues because not even one city council member wants it to stop. 

Soon the campaigns for Alpharetta’s new mayor along with several city council seats will begin. If you are unhappy with what is going on I suggest you pay close attention.

In the meantime you should call city hall and let them know what you think: 678 297-6000