Forging business relationships from favorable zoning decisions – DC Aiken and Sharp Residential

Consider this perhaps an epilogue to the controversial Sharp zoning on Providence Road. But much more than that, this story demonstrates what may be a growing trend of Alpharetta Councilmen forging business relationships with those who previously had zoning decisions before the city. Follow along for now.

Sharp-DC Aiken

Photo from atlantarealestateforum.com

Back in November 2012 Alpharetta approved a contentious zoning application from homebuilder Sharp Residential. The 79 acres of land along Providence, Bates and Mayfield roads was one of the largest undeveloped residential tracts in the city. The zoning represented the first real challenge to Alpharetta’s new Comprehensive Land Use Plan and its idea of a northwest character area. We chronicled the story here on Roots and a lengthy discussion followed. In the end, Alpharetta’s Council approved a plan very favorable to the developer despite the strenuous objects of the community.

Fast forward to this week. An alert blog reader forwarded this article from an Atlanta real estate website. It depicts Alpharetta Councilman DC Aiken, in his capacity as mayor pro tem, participating in a promotional event for Sharp. In the photograph he’s wearing his company’s golf shirt.

Aiken, a residential mortgage broker by trade, is Alpharetta’s longest-serving councilman. Since the time of the Sharp zoning, which he supported, he’s changed employers but is still in the mortgage business. In his new capacity he’s starting a builder division – and he’s become a preferred lender of Sharp Residential.

Therein lies the rub. Is creating a business relationship with a past zoning applicant kosher? Does it cause the appearance of impropriety, particularly when the zoning applicant left council chambers with a very favorable decision in hand?

In Aiken’s case Sharp isn’t directly paying him. However business from their Providence Road neighborhood, now called Hearthstone, is coming his way. It’s a relationship that, according to Aiken, would cause him to recuse himself from any future zoning decisions Sharp may have with Alpharetta.

And it’s a scenario that’s likely already happened with another councilman. The professional makeup of Alpharetta’s council is that of lawyers, those in real estate and construction. Given the expanding economy in town, professional opportunities exist for these gentlemen to capitalize on the business generated by their own favorable decisions. By taking advantage of such opportunities, Councilmen are either shrewd businessmen or have compromised the integrity of their body. Which way is it?

7 Responses to “Forging business relationships from favorable zoning decisions – DC Aiken and Sharp Residential”

  1. ben July 24, 2014 at 7:55 am #

    I saw his name on the sharp website a few weeks ago. Best way to hide is in plain sight. Its sad that he’d be that foolish.

  2. John July 25, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    While not directly wrong, it just doesn’t feel right. You would think that DC would need to recuse himself from any development for Sharp as well as any project that might COMPETE with Sharp.

  3. Mala July 29, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    I don’t think there is a politician anywhere in any city, in any government, in any country that does his/her job without some type of personal kickback or benefit, whether it be the inside track on real eastate development, giving friends and family a heads up on construction projects, etc. I’m not saying that what politicians do is illegal, but I don’t believe there is one politician out their that does his/her job purely out of civic duty. I think most people know it, but tolerate it as long as the cost of these underlying personal benefits don’t compromise the overall economic growth of the city/state/country. I lived in Rhode Island where Providence’s former mayor Buddy was convicted for kickbacks and served time and to this day people of that city would vote him in as mayor if he was legally able to run again. When he was released from prison, he I mediately landed a local radio show. I think ties between real estate developers, contractors and politicians is completely normal and what this councilman is doing is normal and not really shocking.

  4. Mala July 30, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

    Honestly, if one is looking at the Hearthstone homes at a whopping $600K they shouldn’t be getting a mortgage from this councilman or any broker. . If you need a mortgage at this price point, your overspending. There are soooo many great affordable homes in alpharetta that have a little age in them and just need some TLC. New construction is WAY overpriced in this area. Secondary homes is he way to go. This is where the value is.

  5. Jen July 31, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

    The councilman has been on council for a long time and was in the mortgage business prior to that, in fact we worked with him on our first home in Alpharetta in 1998. If the Alpharetta community thought it was improper, I do not think they would have continued to re-elect him. We tend to scrutinize those in real estate and construction but a person who is a good candidate for public service is likely going to have relationships that call into question their objectivity. That doesn’t automatically make it improper.

    The Sharp rezoning was contentious and I personally was disappointed with the outcome as the council seemed to ignore the recommendations of their own appointed planning commission. However, since that rezoning there have been a few more “upzonings” where changes to the CLU are being made in favor of higher density. While I hear friends complain about density and traffic and crowded classrooms, I don’t see them going to meetings or hear them offering to contact council to let them know how they feel. They are happy as long as their property values continue to rise.

    Given the fact that Sharp’s attorney laughed at the hearing at the very idea that they could sell homes for even a half million dollars, if they are truly writing contracts for $600k plus then property values are indeed rising.

  6. Fract L. August 27, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

    Wow. Just wow!

    If it walks like a duck….

  7. Fract L. August 27, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    Once again, Lee, thank you for the work you do on serious issues in our community! Don’t know where our other news reporters are.

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