Alpharetta Approves Avalon

North American Properties is working on getting another property's vested rights to apartments that haven't been built so it can have its 250 units over retail.

CORRECTION: Statements made by Linda Persing have been updated and corrected in this version of the article. Read her comments below the article for more on the issues and her interests and concerns.

The mud pit of shame may finally become history, as Alpharetta City Council approved a master plan amendment to allow Avalon to be built.

The North American Properties' development may not open on its anticipated date in October 2013, said the company's managing partner, Mark Toro. But now it's likely that it will be built.

North American Properties announced it had come to an agreement with another developer for its rights to apartments, in exchange for the use of commercial space in the Avalon project. That cleared the way for the project's approval, as that was the main sticking point for city residents.

Toro said he believes there are 220 to 230 apartment units zoned but not built in Alpharetta.

He wouldn't speak about the agreement with the other developer, saying negotiations continue and that it wasn't appropriate to talk about an agreement between two private parties at this time.

Local resident Kyle Tripp said the city's 85/15 ratio of non-rental residential to apartments was "largely pie in the sky, wishful thinking," and it shouldn't be allowed to stop this project.

Commercial real estate broker Brian Patton said the 2030 Comprehensive Land Use Plan says more than just the 85/15 ratio. It says mixed-use developments can have up to one third of their housing as apartments. And it calls for a variety of housing.

Linda Persing of Alpharetta said the middle of an active application was not the time to be debating the 85/15 goal of Comprehensive Land Use Plan. She was not opposed to apartments, but was concerned that approval without the transfer of development rights for apartments would set a precedent and allow developers who have been denied apartments, or come forward with new applications, to make demands of City Council.

Persing, like most opponents of allowing apartments without the transfer condition, was happy to hear the announcement of North American Properties getting the vested rights to another Alpharetta property's apartment units.

(For more from Linda Persing, read her comments below.)

Another bone of contention was the condition recommended by Community Development staff and the Planning Commission that would have restricted Avalon to signing a maximum of 15 percent of leases with retailers in the North Point Mall corridor for three years.

North American Properties attorney, Don Rolader, called this unconstitutional and unfair. He said it didn't offer equal protection under the law. If North Point Mall was getting protection from Avalon, then Avalon needed the same protection from North Point Mall, restricting it from leases with the 35 retailers it is negotiating with for space.

Councilman D.C. Aiken had the strongest words against that condition, calling it the "anti-capitalism " clause.

"I'm not only a banker but also an economist. I have to agree with Mr. Toro that that clause, I'm not sure whether it's constitutional or not. I'm not a lawyer. But I am a banker and I will tell you it's un-financeable," he said.

"I'm a big believer in our capitalistic economy. It makes things happen. Competition is a good thing. Competition makes things better," Aiken said.

The large expanse of surface parking in the plan was a concern, especially if it could be seen from the street. But Avalon's landscape architect assured City Council that the Avalon site would be more than 10 feet above the grade of Old Milton Parkway, creating site lines that would make it impossible to see more than the first row of cars. A four-foot hedge would block the view of even those cars, he said.

Public space was another concern for residents, several of whom agreed with the Planning Commission's recommendations on what could be considered public space. North American Properties promised more than nine acres of public space, including an express bike trail along the tree buffer beside GA 400, several "pocket" parks and public plazas.

Mark Toro April 24, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Many thanks to the Alpharetta City Council for demonstrating visionary leadership in approving Avalon last night. This is an extraordinarily complex project and the Council did an outstanding job, working to craft a win-win solution to some very thorny issues. We are thankful, not only to Council, but to Alpharetta's Planning Commission and City Staff for all of the hard work they have put into helping us make Avalon a reality. Now, we've got work to do, crafting The Avalon Experience and delivering it to the City of Alpharetta. Mark C. Toro Managing Partner North American Properties P.S. Many thanks to the citizens of Alpharetta, who turned out by the dozens last night to express their support.
Alpharetta Worker April 24, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Congrats this is great news.
Linda Persing April 24, 2012 at 01:45 PM
I would like to correct the comment attributed to me. I said that the middle of an active application was not the time to be debating the 85/15 goal of Comprehensive Land Use Plan. The developer made it very clear that financing for condos was unavailable. Avalon (Prospect Park) was not zoned for apartments. I was not opposed to apartments at Avalon. Like many others I was opposed to granting North American Properties the zoning in a way that would have set a precedent and allowed other developers who have either been denied apartment density or who cannot get funding for condos to come back before Council and make demands or threaten lawsuits to impose their will. I am very pleased about the transfer development rights and NAP, Mr. Toro, Council, Community Development and our wonderful volunteers on the Planning Commission deserve a great deal of credit for negotiating a solution. I look forward to the experience of Avalon.
M.L.H. April 24, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Congratulations to North American Properties and Avalon! I’m sorry that I couldn’t stay to the end of the meeting to see the votes cast. As a downtown Alpharetta resident, I want to express my appreciation to the Mayor and City Council for their continuing efforts to renew the City of Alpharetta with approval of this project. I also want to thank Linda Persing and others for their spirited debate over the apartment issue. It’s good to know that Alpharetta has so many citizens who care deeply about their community. Finally, I want to express my gratitude to North American Properties and Mark Toro for truly listening to the concerns as evidenced by their efforts to transfer development rights for the apartments they wish to build over the retail. In the end, clearly ALL worked together for the benefit of ALL! From just one Alpharetta resident, thanks to everyone who worked so hard! Think the sun may be shining just a little more brightly this morning over the mound of dirt on Old Milton. Lynne Hicks
John Monson April 24, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Mark: I want to talk to you about Krispy Kreme! accmonson@gmail.com 678-294-1511 cell I know you have a lot on your plate right now; but I am committed in my effort to explore the feasibility of this project. Thanks, John
Kyle Caswell April 24, 2012 at 04:23 PM
I also want to thank the Mayor and Council for their thorough analysis and approval of this complex application. As a member of the Planning Commission, I am proud of the efforts put forth by City staff, the Planning Commission, and our elected officials to see this visionary project approved. At last night's meeting, I heard almost every council member say to Mr. Toro, "Bring us something new, and special". I can only reiterate this statement, and implore NAP to take no shorcuts, and deliver to Alpharetta a product (and experience) that is the envy of cities across the country.
Saga Terrell April 24, 2012 at 05:04 PM
For the average Alpharetta resident, the question remains: how many apartments will be built at Avalon? If the number is indeed 250, then that's a problem. Concentrating 250 apartments in one location (rather than spreading them out among different developers in different parts of town) will result in yet another school density problem for whichever school gets the Avalon apartments. I just wish the City Council and the Fulton County School Board would meet and discuss density/zoning before deals like this are made.
Bob Pepalis (Editor) April 24, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Linda, Thanks for going in and clearing this up in the comments. Brevity in writing isn't good if I miss the actual point being made.
Mike Kennedy April 24, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Saga, I will be very surprised if more than 10 kids (spread over 13 grade levels) live in the Avalon apartments. Because of the size of the units and other factors, I don't think this would be a property that will be attractive to families raising kids. Furthermore, if Avalon is, in fact, valued around $500 million, that should produce somewhere around $3 million a year in tax revenue to Fulton County Schools. They should be able to make that math work.
David Cox April 30, 2012 at 09:01 PM
I too would like to thank Mayor and City Council, Community Development, Planning Commission, and all the City Staff who worked on this project. This project should no doubt be homerun and a great success for our City. I would just also like to reiterate some previous comments geared toward Mr. Toro. All of Alpharetta will be closely watching the progress of this project with total expectations that it will bring something new and special. Quoting Mr. Toro, "Quality in every aspect". We will most certainly hold you to that. We have had to live with this disaster area that was denuded of trees and void of life for way too long. It has been an embarrasment and an eyesore. So we now place our trust in your hands to do as you have promised.
Jessica S May 09, 2012 at 05:38 PM
As for retailers, Avalon needs to have a Trader Joes. I know Whole Foods is going to be there, but we already have a Whole Foods (Harry's) not even 2 miles away. Trader Joes is desperately needed in Alpharetta.
No Name May 09, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Agree, but let us not put the ball totally in Toro's court. It takes two to tango and we will need to hold our elected officials accountable to see this project through completion to meet the expectations set. When they come back for the outparcel variance, it needs to be voted down so that this project remains in character to what we were promised, not another Avenues which Toro claimed he didn't want to repeat. We need to make sure there are high-end tenants, luxury apartments commanding top rent, and top quality building materials (DRB). Anything less is a fail.


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