Forging business relationships at Avalon – DC Aiken

Back in July I wrote about Councilman DC Aiken and a preferred mortgage lender relationship he forged with a past residential zoning applicant. And just like before, an alert blog reader has brought to my attention another similar relationship. This time it’s at Avalon.

Sharp-DC Aiken

Photo from atlantarealestateforum.com

Like previously with Sharp Residential, Councilman Aiken is the preferred mortgage lender at the landmark Avalon project. Those interested in purchasing a home or townhome at Avalon will find Councilman Aiken listed individually on the sales agreement. He’s the only mortgage broker listed, the only preferred lender.

However Aiken’s relationship at Avalon differs markedly from Sharp. First and most obvious is size and scale. Avalon is a $600 million project with enormous visibility and impact. But more importantly, Aiken’s relationship existed prior to the Avalon Phase 2 vote in October and future votes related to the project. At Sharp he came in well after the matter was before Council. He also pledged to recuse from any future Sharp decisions.

But Aiken didn’t recuse himself from Avalon’s Phase 2 vote nor does he plan to recuse from discussions and votes related to the convention center. Why?

His relationship is with Avalon homebuilder Monte Hewett. According to Aiken, that extra “degree of Kevin Bacon” between himself and North American Properties separate him from any conflict. However his name appears on Avalon-branded documents and websites. Additionally he felt he didn’t need to recuse from the Phase 2 vote in October because it didn’t include for-sale residential components.

Aiken consulted the city’s attorney prior to his Phase 2 vote and felt he was in the clear. But the decision to recuse is very subjective. The City’s ethics code calls for officials to avoid the appearance of impropriety. In the past other councilmen have recused for less significant matters in the opinion of this blogger.

Remember that Avalon will continue to have business before Alpharetta’s council in the months and years ahead. The proposed public-private partnership for a convention center is being discussed behind closed doors at this very time. Other future changes are certainly possible at Avalon and conditional use permits may be required for outparcel development.

It’s my opinion that Councilman Aiken should recuse from current and future Avalon discussions and decisions so along as he continues to do business at the development. Additionally I believe Councilman Chris Owens should also recuse for reasons I wrote about involving his wife’s employer’s multimillion dollar contract at Avalon. It all begs the question… which councilmen are not doing business at Avalon?

17 Responses to “Forging business relationships at Avalon – DC Aiken”

  1. Greg December 3, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    I think it begs the question, “Why is someone who is not a registered voter in the City of Alpharetta so concerned about this?”

  2. A December 3, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

    @Greg, if you’re referring to Lee, I believe he works in the city of Alpharetta, which gives him the right to bring up these issues.

  3. Joseph December 3, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

    I AM a registered voter in Alpharetta and I am damn well concerned about this. There is no question that the local driveway litter papers will do any sort of actual journalism relating to Avalon, as they appear to only be interested in puff pieces and ad revenue from North American Properties. So thank goodness for this humble blog and Lee’s efforts to shine light into dark places. But hey, if we’re going to have some conflict of interest related to Avalon, as Mark Toro would say, it’s experiential conflict of interest!

  4. jb December 4, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    I would like to see some discussion as well about the proposed parking meters for downtown. Charging for parking at the same time a huge parking deck is being constructed.

  5. NS December 4, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    It’s too bad people don’t see politics as a civic duty. It’s all a front for behind the scenes personal profit. He probably doesn’t care if he gets voted out at this point because the project has been approved and he will profit now from it regardless of his position on council.

  6. Greg December 4, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    @A, I never said he didn’t have the right to bring up any issues – he’s certainly got the right, freedom of speech, freedom of the press (if that’s what this is?) & all that.

    But whether or not someone works within the city limits doesn’t really mean anything — he’s not speaking as a representative of his employer, is he?

    Councilmen Aiken and Owens aren’t his elected officials because he’s neither a registered voter nor a tax payer for the City of Alpharetta (both of which I am), so I find it troubling that he takes exception with recommendations made by the city’s attorney and asks council members to recuse themselves from votes.

    Entitled to his opinion? Sure he is, as we all are.

  7. Grimwinder December 4, 2014 at 9:57 am #

    @Greg

    Possible political corruption at any level, anywhere in our country, should be of concern to all citizens. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it becomes systemic and spreads and eventually impacts us all. If you fail to understand that, then you are definitely a part of the problem.

  8. S Lee Guy December 4, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    I know I’m hitting close to home when someone plays the “you don’t live in Alpharetta” card. We’ve hashed through this a great deal already. I’m more interested in discussing issues of good government, something that interests me a great deal at all levels.

    @NS – DC Aiken is term limited out in the next election cycle.

  9. A December 4, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    Lee–keep doing what you’re doing. Politicians engaging in questionable practices need oversight, and as someone else pointed out the freebie papers that show up in our driveways every week whether we want them or not will not ask the tough questions.

  10. NS December 4, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

    What is the value of the properties at Avalon anyway? I’m sure it starts in $500K range. I find it humorous to talk to friends here who have mortgages on $700-$800K homes. If you qualify for that much of a mortgage why not just get a perfectly good $300K home and pay cash? A lot of my friends with high mortgages are living pay check to pay check. It’s funny that those in the “high end” real estate market aren’t paying cash and even need a “prefered” lender. If I had money to get into Avalon, I wouldn’t want to pay mortgage interest to live there.

  11. Lionel T December 5, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    Last I checked (not shopping, just morbid curiosity), the cheapest home in Avalon is $600k and goes up to $1.1 million.
    And as someone who both lives and works in Alpharetta and it can still take 30 minutes to drive the six miles home from work, I’m glad people like Lee are here to point out where the council and other politicians give no care to the traffic loads for the city because hey, more money is more money, let the plebs take a helicopter.

  12. NS December 5, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

    Wow…600K to 1 million for residential properties at Avalon. Fancy

  13. J December 5, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    We stopped by the residential to check them out last week. Cheapest was $699k for a townhome and homes were going up to $1.5 Million! Very over priced IMO and can’t believe they would appraise at these prices.

  14. Other Jen December 16, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

    This is definitely different from the Sharp timeline and can be concerning. One would hope they all tread carefully, but it goes both ways. For example, one might be inclined to vote for less rental residential if it might impact the price and availability of for sale residential development. Would that impact personal profit? When you look at it that way, a vote on rental availability might be construed as a conflict. But that all depends on how codes are written and interpreted, and who is harmed by a decision.

    Thank you Lee for your blogging, it is impossible to find any REAL news on our NoFu cities these days and I am grateful your blog is creating a discussion.

  15. Parker December 16, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

    Lee, thanks for continuing to dig in the dirt. I hope that you will not be dissuaded by those that you may make uncomfortable.

    If Mr. Aiken were not already limited to only another year in office, it would be time to organize a recall.

    It probably is time to recall Owens, but since most of this council ran unopposed, it seems that our city has little interest in cleaning up city hall.

    It would be nice if we could find some higher quality candidates for our city council. This current crop has proved disappointing in many ways.

  16. S Lee Guy December 17, 2014 at 10:02 am #

    @Parker – I believe the 2015 city election cycle will be a busy one, much more so than 2013. While the mayor may not face opposition, the other three council positions are likely to be contested. Aiken’s seat will be vacant. Some might consider Michael Cross vulnerable given his DUI arrest a few years ago (even though he was cleared of the charge). And Jim Gilvin likely will not run unopposed. In 2013 the voters didn’t have a lot to choose from and that’s unfortunate. This year will be different.

  17. greggy December 19, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

    Dear greggy, if you don’t like this blog then get out.. there’s plenty of internet out there for you. Classic libtard tactic of attacking the messenger. Keep up the good work Lee!

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