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Alpharetta Planning Commission Puts Off Avalon Vote

North American Properties' general manager says this delay puts the October 2013 opening in jeopardy.

After more than three hours of a public hearing on Avalon, the development seeking to fill the empty space left when Prospect Park tanked, the Alpharetta Planning Commission put off making any decision for at least a month.

Mark Toro of North American Properties said, "I'm terribly disappointed that they chose to table it because... we're not going to be able to tell them anything 30 days from now that we couldn't tell them tonight.

"What it means is it crunches our schedule to start and to open in October of 2013," he said.

Planning Commissioner Francis Kung'u made the motion to table the decision, saying there was too much information to digest at the time. His motion included a proposal for two Planning Commission workshops before the April 5 meeting to discuss:

  • The city's 85/15 ratio of single family residential to apartments;
  • Transportation;
  • The 51 conditions proposed on the development.

The proposal by North American Properties was the subject of a that was attended by approximately 150 people. Most of the materials presented have been posted online, both on the city's website and a site devoted to Avalon by its developer.

Community Development Director Diana Wheeler said the property already is approved at a higher density. The proposal from Avalon actually is a 38 percent reduction, she said.

Replacing condos with the 250 rental units above retail and adding a few single-family detached homes is a change from the existing zoning.

Planning Commissioner Nancy Bristol asked if the developer had sought negotiations with other property owners who had apartments approved on their sites that hadn't been built. She said North American Properties could buy those development rights to be used at Avalon.

Toro said his company is investigating the transfer of development rights, but said it could be too costly for the project.

North American Properties is investing $250 million in this project, he said. Since it finances its own projects, Avalon won't have the financing problems that Thomas Enterprises had with Propsect Park, according to Don Rolader, who represents the developer.

Residents who spoke at Thursday night's public hearing were split about the project. Most were against adding the 250 luxury rental units planned above the retail stores. One even said the majority of Alpharetta homeowners wanted a cap on townhomes and condos in the city, citing comments from Windward and Garden district homeowners in the 2030 Comprehensive Land Use Plan approved by the city last year.

Mark Toro March 03, 2012 at 12:28 PM
It is very unfortunate that the Planning Commission was unable to act on our application, but we will continue to work with the City to bring The Avalon Experience to Alpharetta. We are very encouraged with the support we have received for our proposal and will continue to share our vision with the residents of Alpharetta. Our next presentation, hosted by the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, will be held on March 21. Follow us at www.Facebook.com/AvalonInsider or www.Twitter.com/AvalonInsider to stay up to date with our progress. Mark Toro Managing Partner North American Properties
Fritz Waldow March 03, 2012 at 01:45 PM
It is unfortunate indeed! As a neighbor to this project i wanted this project to start off today rather than on hour later. But, Mark, the problem is that a city, county or any other public institution that has set a clear set of standards -here in form of codes- that they have to adhere to. They must not set a paradigm or others try to follow. Please understand that, as much as I want you to succeed in all what is important to you and NorthAmerican Properties in this matter. Get this off the list and you'll get where you want quicker than you think and hopefully quicker than I fear... Fritz Waldow
Kyle Tripp March 03, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Planning Commissioners' contention that they must table the decision because the material was too much to digest does not hold water. The material has been spoon fed for weeks leading up to this meeting; a public forum, online material at City of Alpharetta, and online material posted by Avalon. An 80 acre eye sore formerly known as Prospect Park, which has been sitting for four years deserves more consideration than passing the buck. The Planning Commission whiffed big time, showing no intestinal fortitude. The data is there. Get over the rental units. Are they going to try to legislate how many homes are for rent next? People need to be allowed to make their own decisions on housing. Avalon is not an apartment complex, it is a mixed use development. Open your eyes and open your mind. Would you rather retain what is there now? The project will enhance the Downtown Development, not trounce it. The look, feel and intents of each are completely different.
Stacey Schechter March 03, 2012 at 02:35 PM
I agree with Mr Tripp's assessment that the reason for the delay is unfounded. This wasn't a surprise meeting. I thought this only happened in Congress. North American Properties plan should proceed without delay. If the city counsel continues to delay we may be looking at the Old Milton eyesore for another three years and no one whats that.
Mary DiGioia March 03, 2012 at 04:35 PM
The planning commission should have the fortitude to require that North American Properties buy development rights for apartments from other developers or scrap plans for apartments altogether. No need to delay the decision; just do it. Building a large scale project like this in current market conditions is speculative as it is. To request approval for 250 additional apartments in Alpharetta practically guarantees they will be building a slum from the ground up. I'd rather have the 80 acre vacant eyesore for another four years than a 250 unit occupied blight in the city.
Ben Bailey March 03, 2012 at 05:29 PM
I prefer that the city do their due diligence, and that is exactly what I would hope our elected representatives would do for us. What exactly is the problem with a one month delay where the council feels they need to look into more details to make a decision? This project is going to be with us for a long, long time, and I would prefer that it be done right for the whole city, not just for the developer. If the delay is a concern because they need for it to be finished in October 2013 so they can open for that year's holiday season, then I feel their argument is profit based for what's best for them, not what's best for my city. You could always make the case where, if they needed it by October 2013, they should have started sooner with getting their plans together - that property has sat empty and available for planning for a few years now, time they could have been using, and we could have been using, for planning. Where money is involved, the quicker someone wants to force me to take action, the more cautious I become. It makes me wonder what's the motive in trying to prevent me from doing my due diligence on whatever is being discussed. Their objections are making me feel like they are trying to steam-roll us.
Lisa March 04, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Please no more apartments! Just wipe it from the plans and proceed please!
Julie Hollingsworth Hogg March 04, 2012 at 04:24 AM
This was interesting: http://www.apartmentratings.com/rate/CA-San-Jose-Santana-Row.html#b
Kyle Tripp March 04, 2012 at 02:56 PM
It is about profit...and it should be. Developers develop to generate revenue above and beyond their costs. It is called capitalism. They must create a product that will attract consumers for both the retail, offices and homes. Profit motive is what rewards them for creating the right product, and helps to ensure their endeavor is filled to capacity so we won't have to stare in wonder at our current dazzling gateway to the City. The property sat empty for years because it was foreclosed upon. There was also a bank acquisition, Wachovia, the original bank holding the loan, was bought by Wells Fargo. Wells couldn't even tell prospective buyers whether they owned it or not. The passage of time from when NA bought it and collaborated with Community Development has been months. Clearly enough time to make a decision. A project of this size, magnitude and importance was not deliberated upon in Ms. Wheeler's office behind closed doors. Commissioners knew it was coming. The property is already zoned and approved for greater density and Condo units, not rental units. Should NA go ahead and build with the originally approved density with a product, (Condo units) that everyone knows will not sell due to the incredible glut of existing Condos? Construction financing for condos is non-existent while apartment construction financing is available because there aren't any available. The market dictates what can and cannot be done. Supply and Demand. Avalon is no exception.
David LeBlanc March 04, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Get over it people. I live adjacent to the project and welcome any development. Alpharetta needs to take their head out of there add and develop the eyesore.
Linda Persing March 05, 2012 at 04:24 PM
This property was purchased knowing full well that it was not zoned for apartments. If North American wants apartments at Avalon let them purchase/transfer the rights from another location within the city. One of the issues is the ratio of for sale/rental units within the city limits. Also, the outparcels need to be fully vetted. I don't want a drive in Chick-FilA facing Old Milton. Since Mark Toro lives in Midtown, he won't have to look at it. Avalon should be subject to the same scrutiny and requirements that Penn Hodge had to go through for Windward Mill. The planning commission is correct in making sure this developer doesn't cannabalize retailers and restauranteurs from North Pointe. Just because this has been a dust heap for five years doesn't mean the city should dive into the first proposal that comes along.

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