Two issues made news this week that may prove to be speed bumps in Alpharetta’s downtown plans. The key phrase to look for here is “vibrant downtown.” More on that in a bit.
Alcohol and churches
Ministers from two downtown churches (including my church) spoke Monday night against Alpharetta’s plan to reduce the minimum distance between restaurants that serve alcohol and schools and churches. The issue is a little complicated based on what’s inside the downtown district and how the distances are measured.
I tend to side with the city in this discussion. Nevertheless, Mayor David Belle Isle used the term “vibrant” when discussing downtown and its restaurants.
On Sunday Julie Hogg posted an article on the Alpharetta Patch about the removal of specimen trees in the downtown plans. It turns out the city may not have consulted with arborists and members of the Natural Resources Commission during the brief master plan debate a few weeks ago.
First I’ll say that I’m not a tree guy. I appreciate old trees and respect that Alpharetta has a tough tree ordinance. I think at times it may go a little too far, but it is what it is. The city usually stands very firm on this ordinance, even against developers.
Nevertheless the city isn’t holding itself to the same tree standards that they would a private developer. The result will be the destruction of scores of specimen trees as part of the downtown plan.
Mayor Belle Isle responded to the criticism explaining that they won’t be able to please everyone. But then that word appeared again…
Any further criticism of downtown is likely to face this word. You can almost fill in the blank with this template…
We are working to <blank> while still creating a vibrant downtown.
Fill in the blank here with “preserve trees” or maybe “hide parking decks” or “respect schools and churches.” Or maybe this phrase is next:
Our consultants say we cannot have a vibrant downtown without having <blank>.
The city has multiple teams of consultants studying every part of downtown. It’ll be easy to lean on their advice to steer downtown plans a certain direction. So filling in the blank here might mean restaurants or nightclubs. Or how about residential over retail? That’s how I see this playing out.
The city will let consultants be the bad guys, using their “expert” advice to justify reducing certain aspects of downtown while expanding others. It’ll all be in the spirit of creating something deemed vibrant. Remember this when giving your feedback on downtown. Regardless of what’s important to you, it’ll have to fit into the package the city has decided upon. Otherwise expect the city to throw their “vibrant” trump card.
And for those with the city, please feel free to take my little template and use it as your own. I trust it will be a valuable tool in dealing with bloggers or constituents and their unreasonable ideas for downtown.