Ashton Atlanta Residential, data centers and compelling reasons

Today’s secret words are “compelling reason.” Whenever you hear these words, scream really loud. Got it?

Tonight Alpharetta’s City Council will hear a request from Ashton Atlanta Residential to build a neighborhood in the business portion of the Windward development. The plan calls for 91 homes on lots as small as 6,000 square feet. Mass grading may be required due to the steep topography. No, we’re not talking Forsyth County here, this is squarely in Alpharetta. Windward in fact.

Required would be an amendment to the Windward Master Plan, a planning document held sacred in this town. And why shouldn’t it be? The Windward development helped define Alpharetta a generation ago. And even though it’s got a few years on it, the land uses it calls for still make sense.

So before anyone makes changes to this holy document, planners and politicians look for a compelling reason.

Whatever a developer has planned has gotta be good. Real good. Or perhaps there’s a significant burden placed upon the land owner by the master plan, something so onerous they cannot use their land otherwise.

That’s what was argued in the last major challenge to the Windward master plan. Two and a half years ago charter school Amana Academy sought to relocate to a vacant office building on Windward (and in fair disclosure, I supported this). The applicant cited, among other reasons, that the office space was not marketable in this current environment.

Alpharetta unanimously rejected Amana’s request saying that there was no compelling reason to change the master plan. And as irony would have it, last year Amana’s potential digs were sold to Peak 10, a Charlotte-based company who plans a data center in this space.

If anything, the Amana case offers a very compelling reason to reject tonight’s zoning request and leave this property’s designated use alone. Alpharetta has undertaken a huge push to rebrand itself as the Technology City of the South. By approving the Ashton zoning, the city would remove one of the few remaining undeveloped parcels in the technology corridor. It’s a parcel that could hold a very large data center. Perhaps several.

“Alpharetta is one of the more significant data center hubs within Atlanta,” ByteGrid CEO Ken Parent said to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. “We wouldn’t roll out a 100,000 square foot facility and flood the market with new supply if we thought the demand wasn’t there to support it.”

ByteGrid’s building that facility now. T5′s massive new data center is up the road. And Peak 10 will get started pretty soon.

The technology city of the south doesn’t plow up their much coveted and prized data center farmland to plant a Forsyth-style neighborhood. There’s no compelling reason whatsoever. Perhaps in a few years Mayor Belle Isle will cut the ribbon on a shiny new technology center in this very space.

So watch tonight’s City Council vote carefully. Any councilman who played the compelling reason card with Amana should have a tremendously difficult time voting for Ashton tonight.

6 Responses to “Ashton Atlanta Residential, data centers and compelling reasons”

  1. Jon January 27, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    The master plan SHOULD be amended. It would bring vitality to the area when there is a 24hr activity (homes).

  2. Greg January 27, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

    Jon, there’s no lack of vitality in that area. Obviously it wouldn’t make sense to have all residential or all commercial in any area – you need to have a mix. The master plan was the result of an extensive study to determine that best mix. The fact that a developer wants to build houses isn’t sufficient evidence that the master plan was incorrect.

  3. S Lee Guy January 27, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

    Please remember that there is already a 2400 home development in this master plan in addition to numerous apartments and a planned mixed-use development.

  4. Ron Bloom January 28, 2014 at 1:12 am #

    The vote was 4 to. 3 tonite in favor of residential or job. The council voted in favor of Ashton Woods . The compelling reason were many. They did not listen. Congrats to david B I., mike Cross and jim Gilvin for your. Support. The. Other will get a personal. Message from me later. Ron

  5. Elizabeth January 28, 2014 at 11:30 am #

    My absolute favorite part of the evening was listening to Kennedy confirm with McCleod right at the start that the CLUP was really only a legal exercise. Gee Mike, I hope someone in the back room advises you to brush up on your PR skills. Many residents no longer care about the “Technology City of the South” but you are still supposed to be “selling” the illusion for four more years.

  6. Parker January 29, 2014 at 9:08 am #

    Despite repeated evidence that there is nothing that this council will not give away to developers, most of these guys ran unopposed in the last election. Folks, you get the government that you are willing to put up with. The developers get the government that they want.

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