It took Alpharetta City Council an extra month, but its members approved rezoning property on Haynes Bridge Road near GA 400 from office use to mixed use during its Feb. 28 meeting.
MetLife asked to rezone 47 acres of property next to its existing office buildings along Haynes Bridge Road and Lakeview. The City Council held its public hearing on Jan. 24, but put off a vote until this meeting.
The rezoning trades more than half a million square feet of office space for 470 residential condos and townhomes. The original zoning allowed more than 1 million square feet of office space, while this rezoning cuts that to a little more than 470,000 square feet. Community Development Director Diana Wheeler said it also cut almost 40 percent of the original retail, proposing 70,000 square feet instead of the 119,000 square feet that was allowed under the zoning for office use approved in 1988.
Multi-family residential units caught the ire of local residents opposed to the rezoning. A few of them saw the city's approval of the application as a move to urbanize Alpharetta so MARTA can expand its rail line to the city.
Comparisons to the problems of the bankrupt Prospect Park project, which has been a blot of clay and dirt on Alpharetta's landscape were made as well.
Councilman D.C. Aiken dismissed those concerns, saying the problems that failed project had led the council to put in conditions to "try to make sure that never happens again."
"The other thing is the partner, in this case, MetLife," Aiken said. "It don't get much deeper pockets than that, folks."
Mayor Arthur Letchas said though condos are not selling now, the developer will not be building for three or four years.
"They'd be foolish if they went out and started building this project now. And they are not going to do that," Letchas said.
"If everyone would just study this, it's a great project for Alpharetta," he said.
Alpharetta resident Jimmy Gilvin took the rare opportunity of a second round of public comment that the mayor allowed. He said the property as zoned for offices "would provide more than 3,300 badly needed jobs. It replaces 1,800 of those jobs with 500 condominiums. Why trade $123 million in salaries for 500 condos," he asked council.
"Tonight this city will decide whether to continue urbanizing the city of Alpharetta by adding more dense housing," Gilvin said.
Adding density in housing is just a move to urbanize and bring MARTA rail to Alpharetta, Gilvin said.
"I'm here to ask you to stop approving high-density housing," said Tom Miller, another city resident, "urban style housing project in your quest to bring MARTA to Alpharetta."
Councilman Doug DeRito said a possible run for mayor by him or any other candidate wouldn't influence their votes.
"I'm going to vote with my heart and what the right thing long-term is for the city," DeRito said.
DeRito said this is an opportunity to build the city's economy. Residents may not all like multi-use development, but the partner behind this project has been a great partner for the city. Looking at that, "this is a project that begs the support of the city."