AMLI Residential couldn't convince Alpharetta City Council to ignore its for sale to rent housing ratio for the city Tuesday night. The developer's application for rezoning for a 300-unit apartment complex on Westside Parkway just north of Webb Bridge Road was denied at the meeting in City Hall.
Community Development Director Diana Wheeler said the development request would have required a land use change from O&I (office and industrial) to high density residential.
The property, which abuts the west side of GA 400, has several streams crossing it, hilly topography and a large number of specimen trees. All of those make it a tough property to build anything, said Phil Teague of AMLI, who presented his company's development request.
Wheeler identified four problems with the request for apartments:
- She said it is developable under existing zoning;
- The housing ratios in the comprehensive land use plans do not support the use;
- The property is "not within easy access of public transportation, which is what we always look for," she said.
- The final point was that it would set precedent.
Teague said AMLI's two existing apartment developments–AMLI at Northwinds and Milton Park–are both all but filled with tenants. Another AMLI apartment property that should open in June just south of Mansell Road near North Point Parkway has 40 leases signed even before an apartment can be shown, he said. Rent for the Alpharetta properties has been rising every year.
AMLI owns 30 percent of the 5,469 apartments that the Community Development Department lists in Alpharetta city limits, Teague said.
He also said the apartment units would help meet the demand for housing for diverse types of residents, including the thousands of high tech workers now commuting into the city.
The existing property owner bought the land 15 years ago and hasn't been able to develop it as zoned, Teague said.
Prior to rezoning to O&I in the late 1980s, the property was zoned for multifamily he said.
"Simplistically, we are asking for a reversal of what it was originally zoned," Teague said.
Councilman Mike Kennedy said North American Properties brought a lot of unique things with them when proposing Avalon, which includes for rent units.
"They also transferred development rights or are in the process of transferring them, which is not an easy thing," Kennedy said. "I'm trying to figure out what make this different."
AMLI's representative really couldn't answer that question directly, instead focusing on his points about the great demand for apartments, rising rental rates and providing housing options for those who don't want or can't buy a home, and for those who want to remain mobile.
He said a mixed-use development was considered, but "We didn't want to have a faux mixed-use deal, and something that was a negative to the city."
Teague was unable to sway the council.
"As much as I hate to see the property vacant, and I definitely emphasize with the property owners, I just didn't feel it meets the threshold for the comprehensive land use plan," Kennedy said.
"I completely agree," said Councilman Jim Gilvin, who seconded the motion to deny.
Mayor David Belle Isle and the rest of council joined in denying the apartment development.
"As great as Alpharetta is, it's only 28 square miles," the mayor said.
Amli could look to cities close to Alpharetta such as Roswell, Milton and Johns Creek, which might be great hosts for multifamily, Belle Isle said.