Would you trade $123,000,000 worth of jobs for 546 condos?

Well that’s what the Alpharetta City Council is poised to do on Monday, February 28. That is when the city will vote on the high density mixed use Peridot project that MetLife has requested.

I’d prefer the city show they can make one of the already approved mixed use projects work before approving any more but I have listened to the justifications for this project. I listened to City Council Members say the project would reduce traffic, bring jobs and pay for road improvements. It just seemed too good to be true. And as my Dad used to say,”if something sounds too good to be true,son, it probably is.”

So I decided to check the numbers for myself. Sure enough it was too good to be true. While City Council Members tout the benefits of the MetLife project they have failed to mention that the benefits would come at an enormous price. Based on the numbers provided by the developer the Alpharetta City Council will essentially vote whether or not we will exchange 1894 jobs worth $123,000,000 a year for 546 condos in a completely saturated market.

Are you skeptical? You should be. I couldn’t believe it myself. But facts are facts and you can check it out for yourself.

First you just need to look at the Alpharetta Community Development Department’s comparison of the current zoning for the MetLife parcel to the new zoning proposed for the Peridot project. You can find that analysis on page 10 here: http://bit.ly/fBri9t Notice that the major change proposed is a reduction of office space by 568,320 square feet and the addition of 546 condominiums covering 655,200 square feet.

Then take a look at the job projections that MetLife submitted for analysis by the Atlanta Regional Commission on page 17 and 18 here:http://bit.ly/ibZrVX  The developer’s analysis shows that office space is expected to add “1 employee per 300 SF”. That means a reduction of 568,320 square feet of office space would eliminate 1894 potential jobs from the parcel. So if you plug the salary numbers MetLife used on page 18 for the various occupations you will see that the lost salaries from that zoning change would be more than $123,000,000 a year!

Maybe Alpharetta’s Community Development Department doesn’t mind trading 1894 badly needed jobs for 546 condos in an already saturated market but I know a few Alpharetta residents that beg to disagree. I’m just not so sure any of them are on City Council.

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

Alpharetta faces the fork in the road

Today there will be a very important meeting of the Alpharetta Planning Commission. The commission will review the request by MetLife to convert their property on Haynes Bridge Road from an office complex to a high density Mixed Use Development.

This will be the third such mega development to have been brought before the planning commission in the last few years. The first two projects were Prospect Park on Old Milton Parkway (the enormous dirt pile which serves as the entrance to our fair city) and the Windward Mill project which was approved on Windward Parkway. Neither of those projects complied with Alpharetta’s long term land use plan and neither one has yet to be completed. In fact it is extremely unlikely that they will ever be developed as proposed given the drastic changes in the commercial real estate market in the past two years. But that won’t stop the city’s Community Development Department from foisting another of these projects on the unsuspecting citizens of Alpharetta.

I hope that as the City of Alpharetta considers approving the MetLife project they will take the time to read this article which was originally published in the Atlanta Journal when MetLife first came to Alpharetta:

Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. held a grand opening this week for its headquarters in Alpharetta. The 81-acre campus, at Ga. 400 and Haynes Bridge Road in the Georgia 400 Center, is expected to hold some 800 employees in about two years. MetLife will occupy four of six floors and lease the rest. MetLife’s business in metro Atlanta includes pensions, brokerage, group insurance, real estate investments, disability insurance, securities and corporate investments. The company moved its corporate headquarters from Perimeter Center because of the increasing traffic problems there. MetLife sold Perimeter Center last year for $336 million.

The key section of the article says,”The company moved its corporate headquarters from Perimeter Center because of the increasing traffic problems there. MetLife sold Perimeter Center last year for $336 million.”

So in 1998 MetLife came to Alpharetta because they had developed the Perimeter Center of Sandy Springs into a concrete jungle with disastrous traffic. Now they would like to do the same here. The Atlanta Regional Commission’s review of the proposed MetLife project shows that it will take road improvements that cost 10’s of millions of dollars just to accommodate the extra 12,000 cars a day at that intersection.

I fully expect this project to be approved because influential business interests support it and our community development department is determined to cram enough people into Alpharetta to justify a billion dollar expansion of MARTA into this city. But it is sad to see this happening in my adopted hometown.

As a community we have come to a fork in the road. We can choose growth that compliments our attractiveness as a quiet place to raise families or we can choose growth that turns us into the next Perimeter Center.

I hope we choose the path less traveled but I’m not optimistic. Wonder how long it will be before we read an article notifying us that MetLife has sold their gridlocked property on Haynes Bridge Road and moved to Forsyth County?

If you care about this decision please contact city hall today 678 297-6000.