This today from Michael Cross. Published in it’s entirety.
I hope you are well today. I recently was informed that you were writing a new blog, and I took a look. For what it’s worth, I thought I would offer a few comments on some of the items you have referenced.
1. MetLife / Peridot / Innovation. I was surprised to learn within the past couple of days that MetLife was withdrawing (or, at least, substantially amending) its application. The applicant now seeks only to extend the current zoning, which expires in February 2016, for another two years. There are two thoughts I would offer on this. First, I do not believe the current council was terribly impressed with the idea of adding additional apartments, especially when the applicant requested there not be a “concurrency” requirement so that all the parts of the development would be built simultaneously. There is a substantial concern among the council that a “mixed use” development would lead only to apartments being constructed with a developer then claiming it ran out of money or could not find market demand for the office or other components. Second, I’m not convinced it is a good idea to extend the current zoning for another two years. I think there’s a good argument that we should allow the zoning to expire and then, if a subsequent owner wants to build something that doesn’t fit within the O-I categories, allow the members of council then serving to make the decision.
2. The notion that those currently on council are somehow profiting from any development that occurs is harmful. I’m not aware of any council member who has profited from serving. We have a group currently that cares deeply about the city and who work far more hours than just those required to appear at Monday night meetings. Please be cautious before making (or encouraging others to make) comments such as these. I fully understand that many developments are not supported. As you know, I’ve been outvoted on several applications, especially with respect to those requesting additional residential density. But that does not mean that those who favor one application or another do so for personal profit.
3. I do not believe the current members of the city council have any interest in “politics” as a career. Although the mayor prior ran for another office, he has repeatedly expressed his delight that he did not win that election. I’ve not heard anything suggesting any other member of council desires to run for a higher office. We serve because we love this city and want it to be great for our children and grandchildren.
4. The Conference Center. There’s been a bit of confusion about this issue, particularly in the notion of “putting it to a vote.” It is my opinion that it would have been unlawful to place the conference center on the ballot for a vote. Here’s why.
a. The law clearly provides a city council with the authority to enter into a transaction such as that involving the conference center.
b. The law clearly does NOT allow ballot items that are not binding.
c. Even if this item were placed on the ballot, the law clearly still would allow the council to vote to approve or disapprove the transaction in its very next vote, regardless the outcome of the vote.
d. As such, this item, if placed on the ballot, would be non-binding.
e. Therefore, this would be an unlawful item to include on a ballot.
I understand and fully appreciate the desire for instances of direct democracy. State law clearly contemplates instances of this, including instances where a general obligation bond is proposed. But this is not one of those instances. And thus far, no one in the news or blogosphere has attempted to write or communicate anything regarding this.
5. More on the conference center. In one article, you suggested that “Mayor Belle Isle refused to let the idea of a convention center come to a public referendum.” Given the point raised in section 4 above, perhaps the reason can now better be understood. I believe it’s fair, however, to note that this item appeared on multiple council agendas over the course of three years, and there were multiple and significant opportunities for public input. I know that I referenced the input from the public while serving on the negotiating group that dealt with the Stormont team.
As an additional aside, I don’t think that those outside of council realize how many times applications are withdrawn or not even submitted based on the belief that the council is not inclined to support various densities or proposed developments. I know there is (and should always be) a healthy debate about the developments that are best for our city. But omitting consideration of the undesirable projects that don’t move forward causes a distortion of the picture. And I would add further, many of the projects our city does not want would be considered very desirable by other cities.
Finally, thank you for your article noting the quality of employees of the City of Alpharetta. This is a magnificent group of people who take pride in and care about their work, and they do a great job.
Please Note: I will post my rebuttal to Mr. Cross tomorrow, Thursday, September 24th, at 4:00 p.m.