I don’t like to get personal about myself here on the Alpharetta Post. I don’t even like to use the word, “I”. So, please forgive me the following.
This evening I attended the Alpharetta City Council meeting in which a vote was made to re-zone the City Center property to Mixed Use; thereby opening the door for the finalization of the Mid-City, et al. bid to purchase and develop this property.
As I predicted, after hemming, hawing, and throwing a few bones to residents, Council approved the above. Only two members of Council voted against it: Jim Gilvin and D.C. Aiken.
But the hemming and hawing and questioning were fascinating to watch – with Councilman Gilvin opening things up with question after question to Community Development’s Kathi Cook.
I was just sitting there taking it all in stride when Councilman Gilvin asked Kathi Cook if the large southern red oak would be saved if Mid-City were to purchase the property. Two years ago, City Council actually decided to turn the City Center parking deck in order to save this tree.
Kathi Cook replied “No”. She said they had decided to let them take it down.
And so, I cried.
Why do you cry at a City Council meeting? It was absurd.
But in 2012 that tree was saved because I made issue of it; and, of course, others with me. There were many voices wanting to save this one beautiful, large, old, symbolic tree. Saving that tree meant preserving a piece of Alpharetta’s history. It meant saving a tree that had lived through many generations of Alpharettans. And you know what? One day D.C. Aiken said, “Well, all we’d have to do to save it would be to turn the parking garage.” And since things were still in the preliminary stages, they did! Today that tree is as beautiful as ever, growing just west of the parking garage and east of the Jones house.
But, that will all change when Mid-City gets hold of it. That tree will be cut down and they will put in a parking lot. I’m not even saying that to quote Joni Mitchell. They really will put in a parking lot, or an extension of the parking garage – same thing.
So, it was all in vain. Broken promises. Broken promises by Alpharetta City Council.
I mostly cried tonight because I was touched that Jim Gilvin made a point to make a point of this publicly. That meant a lot. Mixed with that was the sadness of knowing that Alpharetta will lose that big, old, beautiful tree. But I was also rather heart-broken to know that what we residents had fought for, what we thought we had saved – we didn’t really save at all in the end. Three years later, on the evening of May 18, 2015, that tree met its’ doom in the form of Mid-City Real Estate Developers – the future owners of City Center.
Before casting his vote this evening to cut down that tree, Mayor Belle Isle was extolling the virtues of downtown Alpharetta; something that’s easy to do. We all want downtown to win. Mayor Belle Isle said that he will sometimes show people that new parking deck at City Center and he will say, “That deck was built on a promise”. He means, of course, the promise of a deck full of vehicles belonging to people who are visiting downtown Alpharetta.
But that deck was built on another promise – the promise that in turning it sideways, Council would save that beautiful, old tree.
That promise is now broken by all the men who approved the Mid-City re-zoning: David Belle Isle, Michael Cross, Chris Owens, Donald Mitchell and Mike Kennedy. There is far more symbolism in this one action than ever existed in that big, old, beautiful tree.