Rolling out the unwelcome mat in downtown Alpharetta?

Tonight Alpharetta’s Council will consider a small item that could create a bit of controversy. The proposal, forwarded from city staff, would place limits on some businesses in the historic district of downtown. The measure is likely to pit different downtown factions against one another. Pass the popcorn, this one might be interesting to watch.

Are some businesses not welcome in downtown Alpharetta?

The change would restrict a laundry list of uses in downtown including offices, schools, health clubs, grocery stores, service stations and more. The limits apply to businesses on the ground floor of buildings located within 25 feet of a sidewalk. Basically this means buildings along the west side of Main Street and both sides of Milton Avenue.

A few existing businesses already fall into this bucket and would be grandfathered in. However if they wanted to move to another part of downtown or expand then the limits would apply.

Expect support to come from the usual suspects in downtown, especially those business owners not affected by the change. They will claim that the limits will increase walk-ability and work towards creating a vibrant downtown.

Opposition is likely to come from property owners and their commercial real estate brokers. The change ties their hands and limits marketability of property. Also expect opposition from Rivers Academy, a private school on Main Street that qualifies for limits under these rules. Alpharetta hasn’t exactly rolled out the welcome mat for this school’s downtown presence. For a city that prides itself on quality schools, that’s disappointing.

15 Responses to “Rolling out the unwelcome mat in downtown Alpharetta?”

  1. Richard July 22, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    Keep the retail and restaurants on the ground floor. They are the businesses that attract people to the district. Offices (including real estate), services (legal, nail salons, “we buy gold”) and meeting (schools, churches, dance, etc.) can easily be accomodated on the second floor and benefit from the traffic the first floor attracts. Too many donwtowns have been ruined by the proliferation of non-retail businesses that dilute the synergy required for a vibrant walking district.

  2. Travis Allen July 22, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    Why restrict themselves from having a grocery store? I rememeber Feckoury’s on Canton Street in Roswell and something like that would be a wonderful idea, though I’m doubtful it would ever happen.

    You know, the Canton Street in Roswell that’s “HISTORIC”…this council really needs to buy a clue.

  3. S Lee Guy July 22, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    “Specialty grocers” are allowed under the plan.

  4. Kim July 22, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    Wait, I thought it was the former Director of Community Development that “drove away business.” The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    I would not view Rivers Academy as a type of business that “ruined” our downtown. They are one of the few who have dumped tons of money into a building that actually blends into the historic feel of its surroundings. A town also has to look attractive and inviting to make people want to be there. Would these changes limit their expansion? What a nice “thank you” for all the aesthetic beauty they’ve added.

  5. J July 22, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    Wow amazing.

    Will Alpharetta next set that you can only bring kids to downtown on Monday through Wednesday because adults without kids don’t want kids around? Or maybe the prices restaurants have to charge for food and drinks? When did Alpharetta turn in to a Communist city?

  6. Parker July 23, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    J, this is not communism. It is what you get with a group of amateur politicians who have let power go their heads and are operating without reason or restraint. Most Alpharetta residents are too busy with their daily business to pay much attention to local politics. But the senior executives of companies considering moving to North Fulton pay attention to regulation without reason, drunken fools in office, and policy making without vision.

  7. S Lee Guy July 23, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    The Council removed this item from their agenda last night so that the matter could be further discussed.

  8. Will July 23, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    The hypocrisy of some of the citizens is funny.

    They want the council to step in and stop developers from building houses near where they live. But when the council wants to step in and limit commercial actives that aren’t next to where they live it is outrageous.

    I don’t see the difference. There should be smart development of both residential areas and Main St.

    I’d like to see more restaurant, shops, etc in downtown than tech company boutiques and commercial offices — but I’m fine with letting the market decide it, not the city council.

  9. Kim July 25, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

    Will, We don’t try to stop developers from building houses. We ask those that supposedly represent us to protect the investment of surrounding property owners by requiring developers to build homes on lot sizes that blend into existing land development patterns.

    You’re right — I do think it is outrageous for someone with a 5000sf+ home on 1+ acre to have to look out their back window at two 2400sf homes on 1/3 acre lots. That favors a new developer over the long-standing taxpayer.

    The downtown situation is different because businesses of the “wrong” type already exist. And while they will be grandfathered in, I think it is wrong for a good neighbor like Rivers Academy to be restricted in future development. I, too, would like to see more restaurants and shops but why not let the market drive that?

  10. Parker July 26, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    @Kim – That is exactly the point. The key is to understand the lack of confidence that the council has in their pet projects. They’re betting their political careers on avalon and the downtown makeover and if those aren’t big hits, they fear that they’ll be held accountable. But the problem is that they’re stripping the rest of the city to promote their pet projects. While the city council is match-making new businesses and favored development zones downtown and at avalon, other business owners have to face the world alone.

  11. E July 26, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    Is there any additional information about this online? What is the proposal called? Is there a link somewhere to read more about what is being proposed?

  12. S Lee Guy July 26, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    @E – This appears as an agenda item called simply “PH-13-03: Unified Development Code”. Here’s a link to the proposal which will open a pretty big PDF file…

    http://alpharetta.ga.us/files/docs/pdfs/Council%20Meetings/2013/07-22-2013-CM/ITEM%20VIA-4%20-%20Unified%20Development%20Code%20Changes.pdf

  13. DH July 27, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    Wait, didn’t the city’s Planning Commission — the fountain of all knowledge and all that is good and right — just approve this 7-0? I thought the city council was supposed to just rubber stamp that recommendation? I mean, why even have a Planning Commission?

  14. Kim July 27, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    DH, The Planning Commission’s decision seems to be a moot point from what I’ve seen.

  15. Tom Miller July 29, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    This is such a BAD idea. There are so many vacant buildings downtown, so the City government thinks it will bolster downtown to place restrictions? Only government would find this solution. The only thing on the list that I would ban are gas stations.

    What are the most successful businesses downtown? Publix and Rivers Academy are very successful. That is, they have customers who want to buy what they are selling without a City-subsidized food trucks, banners, planters or relaxed alcohol laws to help them succeed. Yet schools and grocery stores are among the businesses the City wants to ban from the first floor? Let’s build on what is working, not encourage what is failing.

    Downtown is the only place where mixed use is working in Alpharetta. Why? Because there are churches, schools, grocery stores, offices, public buildings and nearby homes that are walkable, but now the City seems to want only restaurants that serve alcohol.

    I agree with Richard’s comment that ideally there would be more people-oriented businesses on the first floor, but let’s first get downtown going and free from City taxpayer subsidizes which keep growing every year. Other businesses throughout the City are paying taxes to promote their downtown competition.

    A vibrant, safe downtown is essential to Alpharetta’s success. I have seen many downtowns destroyed by well intentioned but misguided people. Most of the Councilmen would know that this is a bad idea. I hope they prevail.

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