Alpharetta’s Mayor Belle Isle is a champion of all things that pertain to downtown Alpharetta. During his tenure he has seen many projects come to fruition that pre-dated his role as Mayor and he has also initiated and certainly influenced a great many projects in and details of downtown. It was sorely needed.
But, sometimes it seems that Alpharetta’s Mayor is a proponent of downtown only. Some say he is fixated on it. Recent discussions at City Hall have backed up this train of thought.
First, there was the T-SPLOST discussion where the Mayor bristled at road improvements at McGinnis Ferry and Haynes Bridge – two huge problem roads on the east side of Alpharetta. He initiated a 4 minute discussion on improvements to Ga. 400 at Holcomb Bridge Road (which, in light of his stand on MARTA rail makes sense). The road projects Mr. Belle Isle WAS interested in were road projects directly affecting downtown, i.e., the Webb Bridge Road bridge over 400 that is adjacent to downtown and the Cricket Lane extension, a road that is in the downtown district.
And second, there is the recent discussion at Planning Commission about creating a Design Review Committee within the Design Review Committee to review strictly downtown district architectural guidelines that will, in the words of the Director of Community Development, “expedite things”. The proposed creation of such a layer is an explicit throw of attention, time and energy at downtown above and beyond anything else. It was voted down by the Planning Commission, who said it was essentially an insult to the rest of the Design Review Committee because it fails to use the various strengths of each member of the larger Committee who have heretofore done an excellent job and that the current system is not broken, so why try and fix it? Of course – this item will still go to City Council for a vote, so you will want to hear that discussion.
It is ironic that so much attention is being thrown to downtown architectural guidelines, because Cheri Morris, of Mid-City Realtors, the developers of the City Center private out-parcels, has made it clear that their vision for the City Center space is all about looking like other things and other places. The view toward City Hall is like Bull Street in Savannah. The apartment buildings have the look of a village in England. If current day Alpharetta is guilty of anything, it is guilty of failing to commend and replicate the simplicity of historical Alpharetta. Simple was the architecture of downtown. Simple were the farmhouses and brick ranches. And simple can be easily done with quality materials. The “look of…..” often cheats with sub-par stuff.
And may we just say: a few statues here and there is art; too many statues is really big kitsch.
Again, the Mayor should be commended for being the driving force behind so many improvements to downtown, but if that focus neglects other improvements to Alpharetta, improvements on the east side, in Crabapple, south of downtown, and to roadways and traffic congestion, his focus will have been for nothing, for Alpharetta is one 21.4 square mile city.
Sir Isaac Newton once said, “If I have done the public any service, it is due to my patient thought.” Patience is commendable in civic duty and personal projects must never supersede other needs and priorities.