“That Deck Was Built on a Promise”

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.




15 Replies to ““That Deck Was Built on a Promise””

  1. So city council outright lied about the plans for downtown. We can vote them all out but I don’t think they care as they probably already received their kick backs from developers. I’ve had some conversations over email with Mike Kennedy about some questions I had about development. He talks down to citizens. All losers. These kids forget who they work for.

  2. I’m sorry about that beautiful oak too. What a double standard. I’m sure all of council was paid off for this decision. Even the ones that voted “no” (which I’m sure was all an act). Disgusting.

  3. I’m a ten-year resident of Alpharetta but a new reader of Alpharetta Post! First: THANK YOU. I consider your blog to be a generous form of community service and it’s now one of my go-to sites for news about our city. Destroying this beautiful Red Oak would be a travesty! Is there anything we residents can do to save this tree? Keep up the great work!

  4. Why stop with the tree? They might as well tear down the Jones house as well — after all, it’s not very Avalon-like. Seems as if the majority in our local administration want all of Alpharetta to end up that way. Very disappointing and something I’m not proud of as an Alpharetta resident.

  5. I was present last night too. Years ago, over $200,000 was spent to redesign and reorient the parking deck to save that beautiful tree and now they are just going to cut it down to build surface parking for an office building. I believe that same tree was showcased by the City on Earth Day this year. I support with almost all aspects of the City Center plan including luxury rentals but am troubled by the City’s failure to save the large, old, specimen trees and the way the apartments encroach on the view of City Hall from Hwy 9. Last night, one councilman told me all it takes to replace a tree is planting an acorn. He left out the part about waiting hundreds of years for it to mature. Isn’t Alpharetta a Tree City? Are special exemptions to Alpharetta’s tree ordinances being made specifically for this project or is the City adhering to the same standards they would apply to other projects?

    1. As a professional horticulturist, and family tree farm owner, I am particularly unimpressed with the Councilman who said all it takes to replace a tree is planting an acorn!

  6. Hey Julie, How about a save-the-tree campaign?

    If we have to live with 168 apartments and future urban blight, how about a mere morsel of compromise from the Mayor and City Council?

    And if the developer’s mouthpiece, Cheri Morris, wants “organic gravel” under our feet, and wants us to shop at “specially curated artisan stores”, maybe she could modify the plan as no actual architectural and construction drawings have been initiated – it’s all still just concept. Or is all the green talk out of the developer just organic fertilizer?

    1. I will participate! The more I think about this, the angrier I become. “It’s not over until the greedy chainsaw sings!”

      1. Lauren and Red – This article on my website, which meets my mission statement to report news truthfully, is my campaign to save this tree, if there is any hope of it. I suggest you write your Council members to let them know your dissatisfaction. Their emails are on the city’s website. You may also speak publicly at Council meetings at the “Public Comment” section of the meeting. And last, but not least, you are always invited to share your views here on this website. I will post your comments.

  7. I have a great idea: Organize a boycott of all City Center business for at least one year (longer if you’re up to it). I’m not trying to put those business out of business – I want them to know about this before they sign on the dotted line. We can talk in City Council Meetings for hours, but obviously our “representatives” are not listening to us. Let’s speak with our dollars instead. Seriously, how difficult would it be to avoid those businesses?!

    Let’s do this – Boycott the City Center!!

  8. It is disheartening that this tree in my mind stands out as a tall reminder of what’s wrong with Alpharetta. There is much to celebrate about our city, but the continued loss of such large tree canopy within the highway 9 corridor is sickening. Just drive down Memorial Drive outside I285 and you will see the future of the highway 9 corridor in Alpharetta north of Old Milton Parkway.

    The canopy is in serious decline from neglect, over development, and development that unintentionally causes loss. Add these three pressures to the mature tree canopy and they will eventually cause the loss of nearly all the mature canopy. Can this be replaced? Yes, but not in our lifetimes, and certainly not by a few acorns. These old specimen trees have taken up to a hundred years and up to a few hundred years to attain what this beautiful oak tree proudly displays.

    Will the loss of just this one tree be a tragedy? Yes! It represents a disconnect to what is held in high value between what is old and what is new. The New City Hall should be around for more than a hundred years (high value), but the development around it has a lifespan. The oak was there first and for a long time as well. Yet it seem to be held as little value. Sure it will be required to be recompensed by planting a lot of smaller trees, but don’t hold your breath for them to ever replace it.

    All development has a lifespan just like the trees. Just look at the Northpoint Mall development. It is facing incredible pressure from Avalon and the new development at City Hall, and new trends in shopping habits. This is normal and to be expected and is planned for. Northpoint will have to either change drastically to keep up with development and shopping trends, or fall to the wayside and suffer a drastic decline which I belive is already happening. It is becoming old within the span of less than 2 years. What will become of the Northpoint Mall corridor? Who knows? There have been a few development ideas tossed around like redevelopment into more of an Atlantic Station type development. Atlantic Station had to bus people in to help keep the retail afloat. Marta has been tossed around at Center Bridge and GA400 for a while. This would probably not help float a sinking Northpoint in its current state.

    I bet this oak tree is nearly a hundred years old if not more. It has survived through World War 1, The Great Depression, World War 2, a shift in Alpharetta from being a little cotton town to an outstanding family city, the great development rush of the 80’s to now, then a lowly parking extension will be its demise. While taking down this one tree is a small thing compared to the larger picture, it is most definitely part of a continued trend I have seen over the past 12 years to the mature tree canopy along highway 9. It will be generations before any of this will be replaced.

    At least one of the trees in the new City Hall development appears to be dead already and others are showing signs of stress. It’s rediculous that there is a dead tree in there. It really makes me feel ashamed. These trees were picked out by professionals and installed by professionals and the one died anyway. Some loss is inevitable with new plantings but since it still stands out there dead it really makes you think. Does City Hall really care about the trees? Does City Council really want to make a positive change? Only time will tell. But will we be around to witness it? It is difficult to get a tree like this great old oak to its ripe old age without losing it. Too bad this one may loose its fight in such a demeaning way.

  9. Alpharetta City Council recently passed the Historic Preservation ordinance. Can we save this old tree under the new law? It is likely the older than any other building or tree in downtown.

    If we cannot save this beautiful old tree, can we at least post a historic marker that says here once stood a mighty southern red oak that was destroyed by Alpharetta City Council to put in a parking lot, and list the Councilmen who voted for concrete over beauty: Mayor Belle Isle, Chris Owens, Mike Kennedy, Donald Mitchell, Michael Cross. What is the process to give them credit through a historic marker?

    Can we also cancel Alpharetta’s designation as a Tree City USA? Has the City no shame?

    1. Mr. McNulty, Seeing as how I’ve been accused by Councilman Cross as leading the public astray by my voice here….I wonder if you would care to elucidate on your comments above?

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