Development of office buildings, homes, shopping areas, restaurants, can signal that jobs are plentiful and times are good. It can even be an economic stimulus in and of itself as construction brings about jobs and more people to buy goods.
But development and density come at a price to natural resources. First you see wildlife that is pushed out of developing areas to the margins, potentially threatening both species survival and the chain of predators that keeps species from over-populating. Next, air quality and noise become issues. At least 270,000 vehicles drive straight through the middle of Alpharetta every day on Ga. 400. This doesn’t even include the number of vehicles on surface streets throughout Alpharetta. And finally, development impacts our water, both quality and quantity. Increased development means more impervious surfaces, more run-off of petroleum products from our roads, more chemical run-off from herbicides and pesticides used in our yards and around landscaped areas at shopping centers and office buildings, more sedimentation in streams and more likelihood of sewage pipe failure.
Alpharetta is unique in that it contains, just barely, two watersheds. Parts of Mayfield Road define a ridge that separates the Chattahoochee River Watershed from the Coosa River Watershed. Both ultimately flow into the Gulf of Mexico. All that rural property in Milton with those lovely horse farms are an entirely different watershed from neighboring folks in Windward.
What happens in both of these watersheds and how we treat the land and what we do with it matters. It matters to those downstream from us and it matters to us when we want to drink water that came from upstream.
I once owned a piece of Foe Killer Creek. I say owned, but can you own what passes through? I saw that creek flood onto my floodplain. I smelled it when issues further upstream caused an overflow of sewage into the creek.
To me, that creek and that floodplain were less than beautiful. Foe Killer Creek, like Big Creek on the other side of 400, flows through a flat-land of piney woods and poison ivy, which themselves are indicative, in the bigger story, of older agricultural practices and land use. But life was always teeming near the creek. It was near the creek that I would see snakes, perhaps copperhead but also king snakes – that great friend of man who kills poisonous snakes as well as vermin. When creek levels dropped in the dry seasons, I could easily see the fish that managed to tough it out in Foe Killer Creek. In the early morning I might see deer or coyote. At night I’d hear frogs and two species of owl – the great horned owl and the barred owl. Amazingly, all this took place in the city of Alpharetta. But, that was back in the days of more rural properties in Alpharetta.
You can expect more density and development to come to north Fulton County, but expect it responsibly by discerning the impact. Understand that human footprints have ecological consequences. When your local politicians grant variances for developers, ask why? Those buffers matter. The CLUP matters. When a developer wants to take a stretch of woods and make it into a shopping center or subdivision or office park or all of the above, ask if that is the best land use over the long term. It isn’t a question of private property owners having the right to sell – they most certainly have the right to sell. But land use – the highest and best form of it – is a question for City Hall and therefore, residents. Ask yourself, what will be the impact to our natural resources?