There is something in Alpharetta that isn’t well known beyond the city limits of Alpharetta. And this is surprising because this thing is mighty. It may or may not have come about because of fiber-optic cable, but it certainly came about around the same time the fiber-optic cable was being laid. It was the original Alpharetta ‘mixed use development’ if you will. This thing is 3400 acres with a 195 acre lake and an 18 hole golf course in the middle of it. The original master plan for the site included both office and residential use, and today those office buildings are off of leafy avenues, barely visible as you drive by. This neighborhood claims more than 2400 households, who also live on leafy, tree-canopied drives and street and cul-de-sacs. This giant is the Windward community.
But this giant of a community has been feeling the strain of traffic issues for some years now and it’s getting worse. Specifically, the Windward Community is bounded by North Point Parkway, Windward Parkway, and Webb Bridge Road. It is impacted by Old Milton, Jones Bridge and McGinnis Ferry. The impact of the ever increasing traffic congestion on these roads has been felt as a quality of life issue for Windward residents and it’s not an easy one to solve. Even when the traffic lights are timed perfectly, and the left turns are exactly where they should be and the roads are as wide as they should be, the traffic on the east side of 400 near Windward reflects the fact that more and more people want to live in the Atlanta suburbs and these people are drivers. As for a proposed MARTA rail station, this unfortunately would do nothing to solve traffic on these arteries.
Of immediate concern to Windward residents are 3 proposed residential developments adjacent to or within Windward that will exacerbate the traffic situation. The Windward Community has been preparing to make their opinions known about these developments. But, will it matter? Time and time again, residents of the city of Alpharetta have come to City Hall and said “No” to proposed conditions or density of a development only to have Alpharetta City Council seemingly thumb their noses at residents and then give developers almost all they want. At least, this is the perception.
Here’s the thing, though. As a neighborhood, the Windward community may not realize just exactly how much power it really has in Alpharetta. At 5.3 square miles, the Windward community is larger than the city of Decatur – the same Decatur that has a vibrant downtown, it’s own school system and a highly politically engaged population. As for Windward, with 2400 households, if only 1 person from each household in Windward voted at elections, it could easily sway an election one way or another because Alpharettans barely vote. Up for re-election next in Alpharetta are Councilmen Mitchell, Kennedy and Owens. Does Windward want to get rid of them? Assuming someone challenges their seats, Windward has the power to send Mitchell, Owens and Kennedy walking.
But it will take Windward using that power, the power of all those voices, to change things in downtown-centric Alpharetta. But change Alpharetta, it can.
The most immediate zoning matter to impact Windward residents will be heard at Monday’s meeting of Council, December 14, 2015. Known as “MP-15-07/CLUP-15-08/V-15-21 Duke Realty Webb Bridge Road/Windward request for a Master Plan amendment, CLUP changes and the Variance”, this plan was recommended a “Denial” by the Planning Commission, but anyone familiar with Alpharetta knows that this means very little. Interestingly, one Alpharetta Council-person adamantly stated, back in 2014, that he would never let this Pod 66 parcel go residential – which is what is being proposed. This Council-person is known to straddle the fence, which is unfortunate because he has served the city well otherwise. We’ll see how D.C. votes on Monday night.