Before I get into my lament, I first have a confession to make. I don’t live within the political boundaries of the city of Alpharetta. I write a blog about Alpharetta, so what gives? I live just a short distance inside Forsyth County yet am still in the Alpahretta zip code of 30005. I spend the vast majority of my time south of McGinnis Ferry Road. That includes work, my son’s pre-school and my church (in which my family is very active). I suppose I have the best of both worlds; an Alpharetta lifestyle with none of the Fulton County taxes.
If my readers wish to discount anything I have to say about Alpharetta, especially politics, I would completely understand. I think I walk a fine line in writing about city politics considering I don’t have a vote. As such I try to stay on the periphery and will never suggest or endorse a candidate.
Only recently have I begun to pay attention to the happenings in Alpharetta city hall. The main reason for my focus is because I think Alpharetta about to make a change for the worse. Tuesday night’s unveiling of the 2030 vision is the closing act. I lament that the Alpharetta I’ve come to love won’t be the same for very long.
Alpharetta, a Mini-RTP
For one semester during my college years I worked a co-op job in the Research Triangle Park of North Carolina. I was with Nortel on their beautiful RTP campus. When I first discovered Alpharetta it reminded me a lot of RTP. There was a similar base of high tech companies. The research aspect isn’t exactly the same here as RTP draws from a huge pool of nearby colleges. Yet the corporate campus environment is very similar. Zoning kept both places beautiful with large buffers of natural trees surrounding medium-sized buildings. Never did any building really exceed the height of the native pine trees. Not far away were safe, upper middle class neighborhoods for families.
Alpharetta, a Mini-Perimeter
The 2030 vision of Alpharetta moves away from this Alpahretta that I’ve come to enjoy. It will make us feel more like the perimeter area of Sandy Springs and Dunwoody. High rise office buildings and condos will dot the landscape. Planners will tell you that this is alright since they are close to GA-400. At the perimeter every high rise is along GA-400 or I-285 (or both). The surface streets have been a disaster there for more than a decade. Commuters leaving the perimeter heading north may spend half their commute navigating surface roads before even getting onto GA-400. I fear this will happen in Alpharetta.
It Is Too Late to Reverse
The other thing I lament is that it is too late to do anything about this. The political reality is that the current Alpharetta City Council is unanimous in their desire to move in this direction. Unlike other suburban councils or county commissions, there seem to be no homeowner-friendly politicians currently in power. I hear none speaking out against density or height of buildings. And even with some members up for re-election this year, I doubt voters can flip the balance of power in a single election cycle.
It’s too late to reverse the zonings already on the books, namely Windward Mill, Prospect Park and Peridot. The North Point LCI is already set, with a downtown to follow and this 2030 vision which will be rubber stamped soon.
Sadly I think most in Alpharetta won’t become aware of this change until the enormous tower cranes appear, hoisting beams high into the sky. People will begin to ask, “What is this new construction going in at North Point?” Oh, that’s a 16 story office and condominium. It’ll be far too late to stop it then as it is too late to stop it even now.
So maybe Alpharetta residents will organize and rise up against these changes. But color be pessimistic, I think opportunity to stop this was years ago. The Alpharetta that attracted most of us won’t be the same in a few years. New Urbanism, as they call it, is here for good.
Photo Credit: Markhoward