E-mail Received from Councilman Michael Cross

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.

Michael Cross

Please Note:  I will post my rebuttal to Mr. Cross tomorrow, Thursday, September 24th, at 4:00 p.m.



12 Replies to “E-mail Received from Councilman Michael Cross”

  1. There is more than 1 type of Bond Sir. Cross…. Council took the easy way out and found a bond the public that wasn’t allowed to vote on, and took that way out.

    They did that because they knew it wouldn’t pass the smell test in the eyes of the public. (which it still doesn’t)

    This is exactly why people don’t trust their elected officials in Alpharetta.

    As long as councilmen can broker mortgages to home buyers for sharp development as preferred vendors it smells of impropriety. As long as the city can partner with developers/companies and award contracts where one’s wife works; don’t tell me city council doesn’t profit.

    As long as we can develop downtown next to the mayors private law practice off old Milton parkway and highway 9. with restaurants, shopping and apartments.

    I wish some of you would look the people in the eye on Monday nights and tell us you don’t profit.

    It’s odd that you would have these opinions in public now that you would never be reelected.

    You can have your own opinions Michael Cross… but you can not have your own facts.

    1. I should note regarding the above comment, that Councilman Cross did not intend his email to me to be public. He sent it to me and stated such. It was I who asked to print it publicly….to which Mr. Cross did not object.

  2. I sensed a veiled threat in there. And to add to the response, the fact that the mayors firm is represented by a builder of high end homes in Alpharetta as the closing attorneys. You know, if it looks like a dog, smells like a dog and acts like a dog….. Facts are facts, and maybe they could look more like roses if they showed citizens exactly how they don’t profit from these deals. If we put out facts, facts that are openly represented by reputable news and corporation FAQ pages, they should address these things, not tell us to be cautious about making such comments.

  3. There is no doubt that the majority of the council members profit from all the recent development (they should just admit it and be transparent). We aren’t dumb. On a smaller scale however, residents are profiting too. Property values seem to be on the rise (as are our taxes due to higher assessments), the city is becoming more vibrant, and there are a lot of great job opportunities in Alpharetta. The positive to the recent years of development is that thanks to all the great citizens who challenge council and push for “smart” development, a lot of the city is still quite beautiful. I thank those who attend the meetings and fight for lower density and park space within these new developments. Development and progress is great and I applaud city council for bringing this to our city and I more so applaud involved citizens who challenge and watch guard these deals. I admit, that I love dowtown and take full advantage of what’s there so far including the library, the beautiful park, splash fountain and the bounce castle at Food Truck every week. I’m down there at least 3 times a week and excited to see it completed. I’m walking distance to Wills park and use it daily and shake my head that I live near such a great place and wonder sometimes if I’m in heaven. My 3 yr old son and I usually end our downtown library adventures by dodging construction walking to Mugs on Milton for apple juice, coffee and muffins. My son asked me what else they were going to build downtown and I told him apartments and more restaurants. I laughed when he said all downtown needs is a toy store (nothing else).

  4. Sandra – not all residents profit. If you already owned property, great you can sell now and profit. Wait for the blight to hit and you’ll lose. We sold our house in Cherokee County to move back here. (I grew up here, my family has a long and rich history here.) We came back only to be near my mother, who refuses to move because she is 86 and doesn’t see the point. That being said, we are not money motivated. OK, we are downright poor. Try living in Alpharetta when you are not money motivated. I work within walking distance, that’s a plus – as does my daughter. We pay so much for rent that we can’t afford to buy a new car or repair the ones we have. A sacrifice we make to live near my mother. We want to buy property, but with property values so high, we will have to buy a cheap condo, again – within walking distance. However, as soon as an inexpensive property hits the market, before our agent can even call about it, it goes into “pending sale” status by speculators with fat pockets that snap them up and then put them back on the market for an additional 50% or even 100% markup on the original listing price. When you are not a money motivated person, and how much you earn doesn’t matter as long as you can pay the bills, and you don’t actually own the property you live in, it makes living in Alpharetta extremely difficult. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Alpharetta is trying to push out the poorer citizens by making it cost too much to live here. I love the park, the library, and the shops. We have those. We don’t need more. We certainly don’t need one single more $300k condo nor another $600k house. What you call “vitality” I call a massive traffic jam. I can walk from work to home in 10 minutes, but when I drive it could take up to 10 minutes just to make a left turn out of my place of employment at dinner time. What should take 5 minutes max to drive from home to the library can take upwards of 15 minutes if we need to drive it. We can walk it in 20, but walking isn’t always feasible when you’re talking about arriving at work not soaking wet from weather or sweat. Yes, Alpharetta as it is going is great for walking around and enjoying. But it’s hell if you are trying to just get to work on time. I’m certain you probably don’t have to work, which is why you are so able to enjoy walking around with your son. So, then, you walk with your 3 year old from your place near Wills Park to downtown Alpharetta and then walk home? No, you DRIVE to somewhere close to downtown, park, and walk around, then drive back home. This must be true because no 3 year old is going to tolerate walking that far just to go play in a fountain after visiting the library.

    1. Lisa,
      Alpharetta is years away from conversation about fair and equitable housing. I like Alpharetta a lot, but the new money and the speculation can sometimes overpower and remove the soul that this place. Five days a week I work in midtown where I see upper income people and lower income people in the same place (the park – Piedmont Park) and in the area in general. Midtown has more soul than Alpharetta, to be blunt. Alpharetta tries to emulate these older, cool, soulful places in Atlanta but will have to pay the price of time, history, and respect for history and the environment to actually “Be” these places. As for conversation about income disparity – this is is not really a conversation at City Hall. But, the fact is: opposites make us richer; respect for the have not’s enrich the have’s and vice versa. Alpharetta is full of carpetbaggers and scallawags to some extent….which is a quote from Gone With the Wind, of course, and is a southern way of saying, it has a lot of people trying to make a buck – nothing more. You, on the other hand, are the soul of Alpharetta. Take heart. You matter.

  5. Hi Lisa. My post wasn’t about making money. I’m just admitting that I like the progress of downtown. I’m just glad residents aren’t going bankrupt and that there are jobs, and I love the amenities the city has to offer (And thank the locals who are so involved in keeping an eye on the city).

    I actually am both a full time worker and a mom (and clock in 35-45 hours a week at my job). I work evenings and weekends when my husband gets home from his full time job and we take turns watching him. I watch my child during the day (which is the job I’m most proud of). I also prefer to walk whenever I can. I live 3 miles from downtown and my son and I walk there (I either push him in a stroller or he rides his tricycle). We don’t use the parking garage. Also, we live in one of the cheapest and modest neighborhoods in Alpharetta. Our residents have nicknamed it the “golden ghetto” because even though we aren’t fancy, we love our location. Our neighborhood is filled with retired seniors and young families who drive used cars and mow their own lawns (including myself). Not sure why your upset about property values going up? I’d rather they go up with a similar rate to inflation vs down.

    1. Sandra,
      I would like to respond to your post. I want to just say that online comments can seem brutal – much is assumed and because we miss facial expression and tone of voice, we miss much of what people mean. In fact, because of this, when I first conceived the idea of the Alpharetta Post, I wasn’t even going to allow comments! But, I reconsidered because I at least have the power from my end to edit out insulting names and to even trash comments that are particularly ugly. I do think that people “vent” through comments and as such, we have to have a bit of a thick skin in order to participate. Please know I appreciate your views and comments that you have shared and I hope you will continue to share….- Julie

  6. Hi Julie. I’m not offended. Just wanted to point out (and educate) for this generation of moms in 2015, making remarks about stay at home moms vs working moms is like asking a chubby woman if she’s pregnant. It’s just not cool in this day and age.

  7. I want to point out that I don’t have a problem with stay at home moms. If you do walk that far with a 3 year old – and you do it 3 times a week, then you have more gumption than I ever did. Your followup post makes an obvious point, however. To live here you are giving up time with your husband to work nights and weekends. There are many other beautiful towns with the same amenities where you could live on one income.

    To respond to your comment about all the available jobs here in Alpharetta – I sure wish I could land one of those jobs. I am very well educated, I have a Masters Degree that I worked hard to earn. To be more available for my mother, I choose not to work downtown or anywhere that I could not be here for her within a few minutes if she needed me there. That is my choice. What is NOT my choice is to relegate myself to working a part-time job at a local chain retail establishment that reduces my education to shambles.

    Not your problem, I understand – my choice because I want to work close. Finding a corporate job within a few minutes drive would be awesome! After hundreds of resumes over the past 6 years this is still what I have.

    My mother lives very close to you. You are likely in one of three neighborhoods that I know of in the Wills Park area. She also is subject to near death experiences trying to turn out on to Rucker Rd. Sirens blasting up and down the streets all day and night. The continuous, obnoxious, droning sound of traffic 24 hours a day. People blowing horns in anger and frustration.

    Now, let me tell you how it was before. We would sit on the porch of our home on Rucker and about every 3 or 4 minutes a car would come by, they would tap the horn, we would all wave. We knew them. You could walk up and down Rucker all day, we didn’t need sidewalks.

    The sound of emergency sirens was a very, very rare occasion, bringing everyone running out to see where they were headed to.

    We used to go out on 400 at night and shoot fireworks. There was no traffic on 400 after about 10pm.

    The “farmers market” was when all the local farmers, who actually grew the food, filled the backs of their trucks and parked at various places around town and stayed until their goods were gone, it got too hot, or they just got tired or needed to go home and feed the livestock.

    It was quiet. It was peaceful. It was beautiful. Tree lined streets with beautiful old homes that had been standing almost as long as the town.

    Then came the “development”. Now comes the rebuilding of Alpharetta. Who are they trying to impress? Those of us that have been here forever were already impressed. We didn’t need this – and certainly have a disdain for the condos, apartments and crowded atmosphere that all of these new developments are creating.

    Now as far as property values go, take for example the house at 14 Nathan Circle. It went on the market a few months ago at a very reasonable $150k. We were interested, but before we could even make arrangements to see the property, it was purchased by what I termed as a “speculator” and immediately put back on the market for $240k. They never put up a sign for that, and it’s now off market, but they will put it back on market, and that’s what I’m talking about.

    This creates a very artificial home value inflation. Others price their homes accordingly, and people buy them because they feel the values are increasing so much, and after all Alpharetta is “the place to be”, that they will be able to resell in a few years and make a tidy profit. I say that unless you bought your home at least 5 years ago, and plan to sell soon, you may only break even. You might also be surprised how many of these homes in Alpharetta go into foreclosure and are sold at public auction. You can find that information by searching the Fulton County Daily Report, they won’t publish that in a readily available local paper – it would hurt the towns reputation.

    There will soon be so much traffic and chaos in Alpharetta that people will be leaving in droves, and property values will plummet. No one will want to live in a town that has 100 apartments right in the shopping district. This isn’t, as Julie pointed out, Midtown. It’s a shame, really, that so many are falling for this scam.

    I apologize if my comments hurt, but you don’t know how many other people I know that DO drive 2 miles (increasing traffic downtown) to park and walk around.

  8. Hi Lisa,
    We are actually on the same page when it comes to development. I don’t mind appreciation, but I do have a problem with artificial appreciation. I hope I can live in my home until I retire. I didn’t buy it to flip it or make money; I bought it to love and live in it. I think the problem with Alpharetta values isn’t council, but the American need to live beyond our means and the idea that bigger is better. I know the people buying these $700+ homes and they really can’t afford them. They are mortgaged out. They can’t afford to fix things when they break They “lease” their cars, they buy second hand clothes for their kids (which is fine if you live on a budget, but weird to mean if you skimp on your kid to buy a Beemer). Also, many people in these home don’t seem happy. They walk into my modest and affordable home and often say and say “it’s so cozy in here, I wish I had a small house like yours” (which makes me laugh as I still have 4 bedrooms ).

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