2016 Mid-Year Progress Report for Mayor and Council

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As promised, we present our 2016 Mid-Year Progress Report for Alpharetta Mayor and City Council, based upon 19 City Council Meetings from January 4 until June 20.  The below facts are researched entirely from public records.  We save our opinions and subjective analysis for the end.

Absences:  Jim Gilvin: 1, Dan Merkel: 2; Donald Mitchell: 2

Approvals from your Mayor and Council:

  • Approved: an election to determine issuance of bonds in the amount of $52,500,000
  • Approved: a Supplemental Bond Resolution, which, among other things, approves the sale of revenue bonds with respect to the Alpharetta Conference Center
  • Approved:  3 matters relating to taxation 1) expansion of the CID district; 2) the fixing of an Ad Valorem tax rate; 3) a millage rate levy
  • Approved: Purchase of 2 fire engines, 8 police vehicles, a new 911 system; total cost of all: $1,435,859.12
  • Approved:  Various requests by EPW for improvements to sidewalks, roads, traffic signals, bridges, stormwater pipe, design services and matching grants:  Total: $1,921,799.43
  • Approved:  Improvements to park grounds, city-owned buildings, city owned equipment, matching grant contributions.  Total: $788,810.86
  • Approved:  Real estate transactions 1) sale of 4.03 acres at Thompson and Haynes Bridge for $1,125,771; 2) purchase of 90-92 Milton Avenue for $1,000,000
  • Approved:  Fiscal Year City of Alpharetta 2016-2017 budget
  • Approved:  to amend or update the following:  2035 Comprehensive Land Use Map and Downtown Master Plan Map
  • Approved:  9 licenses to sell alcohol

Approved Changes to City Code

  1. change to sign ordinance;
  2. change regarding sale of growlers;
  3. change releasing obligation of City Attorney to read entire text of Ordinances at Council meetings;
  4. change requiring more regulation of massage and spa establishments;
  5. change that allows police to issue citations to homeless people in wheelchairs

Council Votes Pertaining to T-SPLOST, DOT projects, MARTA:  5

Land Use/Zoning Matters:  

  • There were 12 land use/zoning matters brought before Council in the first half of 2016.  Some of these regarded changes to zoning; some were requests for variances.
  •  Of these items, 11 were approved by Council; 1 was denied (request to build a Marriott Courtyard off of Old Milton near Charles Schwab).
  •  Four (4) out of the 11 approvals are within the Downtown Master Plan.
  •  Total acreage to go under development: 114.77
  •  Total number of new single family residences: 142
  •  Total number of new townhomes:  56
  •  Total number of new hotels:  2
  •  One (1) new storage facility

Yes and No Votes:  The overwhelming majority of votes by Alpharetta Mayor and City Council are to “Pass” various motions.  Below we list Council members who made “No” votes.  We also list one motion that failed and one that was tabled.

  • A Resolution to expand the North Fulton CID passed.  Jim Gilvin voted NO.
  • A motion to approve a temporary licensing agreement with Basecamp Networks to use the city logo passed.  Jason Binder, Chris Owens voted NO
  • A motion to approve a Marriott Courtyard failed.  The NO votes that caused it to fail were from David Belle Isle, Dan Merkel, Jim Gilvin, and Jason Binder. 
  • A motion to allow a variance for Home 2 Suites at Webb Bridge and Morris Road passed.  David Belle Isle voted NO
  • A resolution to change the time of City Council meetings from 7:30 to 6:30 passed.  Mike Kennedy voted NO
  • A  motion to allow changes at Jones Street passed.  Jim Gilvin voted NO
  • A motion to allow the sale of 4.026 acres of land at Haynes Bridge and Thompson Street for $1,125,771 to MMS Alpharetta, LLC passed.  Jim Gilvin voted NO
  • A motion to Table the discussion/vote pertaining to the designation of time-limited parking spaces at the public parking deck at City Center passed.  Voting NO to the Tabling of this item: David Belle Isle, Chris Owens, Donald Mitchell.
  • The motion to adopt a fiscal year 2016-2017 budget passed.  Jim Gilvin voted NO
  • A motion to allow Environs a variance passed.  David Belle Isle voted NO
  • An ordinance adopting the final estimate of the 2016-2017 fiscal year budget passed.  Jim Gilvin voted NO

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(The following is mostly subjective analysis and opinion.  Read on and form your own conclusions.)

The most quiet member of City Council thus far in 2016 has been Donald Mitchell.  Donald is the internal liaison for Finance and the external liaison for downtown.  His votes have confirmed his interest in the latter, but not a whole lot of talk out of Mr. Mitchell.

Despite our own odd communications with Jason Binder this year, he deserves high marks for a few things.  His idea to offer “office hours” was a good one.  ~ We give him creds for questioning why the city should start from scratch and pay consultants $37,000 to draw up a list of T-SPLOST projects.  His suggestion was to use the 2010 CTP list as a starting point.  We see this as Binder’s contribution toward his election platform to help solve traffic issues in Alpharetta. ~ As the internal liaison for Recreation and Parks, Mr. Binder gives good end-of-Council meeting “Reports”.  ~ We were a little disappointed that he didn’t say more about the city’s new Bike Share Program – a missed opportunity to gloat over and praise an innovative and interesting program that has come to Alpharetta.

Dan Merkel.  On 3/21 Mr. Merkel made a Resolution to change the meeting time of Council meetings from 7:30 to 6:30.  It didn’t escape our notice that he had missed 2 Council meetings prior to this.  The Resolution was approved, even though Mr. Kennedy objected (and has since been late for a few meetings) and one resident came forward to voice his disapproval of the idea. ~ We should remind you about all the development interests that supported Mr. Merkel during his campaign.  Since being elected, 3 of his donors have stood before Council:  the Oak Hall Companies, who were approved to build a residential development at Shirley Bridge and Webb Bridge; Don Rolader, an attorney very familiar with Alpharetta City Council; and the law firm Porsley Friese Torgravman, who brought the zoning matter of Old Milton Holdings residential development before Council. ~Mr. Merkel drew attention to the problem of drug addiction among the North Fulton population during his campaign.  We’d like to hear him say more about this.

The busiest member of Council, at least during zoning hearings, would undoubtedly be Mike Kennedy and we give him creds for keeping it together during these highly detailed, long sessions. ~ We give him credit for stating that the public needed to voice their opinion about the potential re-opening of the Webb Bridge Road dead end.  (The public response was very negative).

Councilman Jim Gilvin votes like a fiscal conservative.  He voted “NO” to approving an expansion of the CID district because he thought it was unfair to sweep owners into this district (and the tax) whether they wanted to be in it or not.  Also, Mr. Gilvin stated that he could not vote to approve a west-side of Highway 9 parking deck with money that hasn’t been received yet (the proceeds from the private outparcels at City Center).  We are puzzled that he approved the Oak Hall Companies development at Shirley Bridge, the Fox Road development and the Duke Realty development at Webb Bridge.  All 3 of these developments are going to contribute heavily to the traffic nightmare that is Webb Bridge Road.

Chris Owens is as busy as anyone during Council meetings.  We give him creds for demanding public input and justification for the re-opening of the Webb Bridge Road cul-de-sac.  We also give him creds for balancing a Mayor who sometimes seems too focused on downtown.  For example, when discussing the T-SPLOST list of road improvements Mayor Belle Isle stated, “Some of these projects just don’t need to even be in here.”  To which Mr. Owens replied, “That’s just one opinion, Mr. Mayor.”  Mr. Owens also made one of our favorite comments of the year when he said, “We (the City Council) are the worst group in the world to comment on design.” (regarding Jones Street/South Main Kitchen re-design).  We find this ironic  and humorous given how involved this City Council was with the design of the public portions of City Center.

Finally, the Mayor of Alpharetta, David Belle Isle, cannot be accused of being vision-less or lazy in his role as Mayor.  He has a vision for Alpharetta.  It involves lots of development (forget that election platform of restricting density all those years ago!).  And he is clearly and particularly interested in downtown development.  For this, we both commend him and fault him, as the Webb Bridge Road is a looming disaster to which he seems to be paying no attention.  Furthermore, he sometimes comes off too strong with regard to road projects that are multi-jurisdictional, e.g. the McGinnis Ferry Road Capacity Improvements, to which he said, “That ain’t happenin’!”

We are puzzled by Mr. Belle Isle’s intense regard for parking decks.  And with all due respect to concrete pourers everywhere, we’re not sure how many people are interested in the fact that the public parking deck at City Center won an award from the American Concrete Institute.  What matters is that this deck was turned sideways for the sake of a tree, and then this Mayor sold the tree to Mid-City to do with as they please.

Finally, we couldn’t help but to notice that the Mayor disparaged all the “developers and lobbyists” who were at the Capitol when the MARTA bill was being discussed.  We find this comment disingenuous, for this Mayor, of all people, should feel right at home with developers and lobbyists.  Therefore, we are led to have a certain new skepticism about his opposition to the MARTA bill.

We are being particularly hard on this Mayor, we know, because he is the first face, so to speak, of the city.  We want him to do the right thing.

Final Low Point and High Point

Low Point – We felt the Hush and Rush of the Council item in which an ordinance was amended to enable the police to issue citations to homeless people in wheelchairs. Mr. Kennedy, who made the motion to approve, addressed this issue here on this website a few days ago.  He explained that this was the only way to “Help” the very specific victim that the city wanted to help.  But, we contend that the hushed tones and rushed words of that Ordinance change hide a different truth – that in another 5 years not a single person will remember the specific victim to which Mr. Kennedy is referring.  What will be true, however, is that the police can issue citations to homeless people in wheelchairs.  We contend that more language should have been added to this Ordinance change, insuring that this was not simply a measure to clean the streets of messy homeless people.

High Point – The city of Alpharetta has a AAA bond rating.  You have your City Council and a fine City Manager to thank for this.   This is an amazing feat and you are the recipient of its privileges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Replies to “2016 Mid-Year Progress Report for Mayor and Council”

  1. Thank you for all your observations, they are truly appreciated. Just a couple of thoughts. I moved here from San Diego where we have a dense inner city and the homeless camped anywhere they pleased including your front doorstep, using your hose for showers, defecating by your car, or at the threshold of your office. I understand there is a need but there are better ways to solve the problem than allowing panhandlers at every corner and the homeless living on the sidewalks and public parks. As you have said, you don’t live in the down town of Alpharetta but I do.

    One last thought, does it seem odd to any of your readers that the mayors office is collocated with the Alpharetta welcome center. It seems to be me that one could perceive a conflict of interest. Thank you.

    1. All good points, Lisa. Thank you very much. My goal is to state the facts and give enough opinion to make people think….

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