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Alpharetta Residents Repeat Complaints, Praise About City Center

City Council and local residents heard an update and an explanation of the current plan from the city's lead architect for the project at Monday night's meeting.

Alpharetta residents heard the second update on the City Center project in as many weeks, and comments fell along the same lines as before in support and against the current plan.

Accusations were thrown out that the city already had plans to make plans to change the new Haynes Bridge Road route from two lanes to four. But those were dismissed by Pete Sewczwicz, director of Engineering and Public Works. He told those local residents at Monday night's City Council meeting that the widening that is suspected is because it will include four-foot wide bike lanes and an eight-foot wide sidewalk.

"The roundabout stays, yes," he said. "The road was specifically designed for 25 mph, so I can't post it any higher than 25 mph."

Sewczwicz's comments followed a presentation by the city's architect for the project, David M. Schwarz, and comments by local residents.

Schwarz explained the general design of the City Center plan to follow the idea of a small, compact downtown center that mirrors the west side of Main Street in some respects. Small blocks of land bisected by narrower city streets that still meet fire department needs are envisioned, but with a larger section formed by the 8.5 acres that will include Brooke Street Park, a new City Hall and the Atlanta-Fulton County Library's new library branch.

This western side would have multiple trail entrances into the property from Academy Street, Haynes Bridge Road and a new narrow "E" Street that follows the general route of the existing Haynes Bridge Road. The park would still include an open area that exists on the site now, with a bandstand downslope for public events such as concerts and plays.

The 0.9 acre town green would front Main Street and include a water feature such as a fountain, grass, trees and benches. Streets surrounding it would include parking in front of 20-foot wide sidewalks that allow enough room for outside seating at restaurants, trees and other plantings. Schwarz said the interior city streets created would not be designed to affect downtown traffic flow, and all or some of them could be closed for events such as farmers' markets and festivals.

City Hall remains sited on what is considered the park property as a focal point, but Mayor David Belle Isle said alternate locations will be considered. He added the parking garage location also will be considered after hearing public comment.

Alexander Williamson returned to City Hall to comment for the Academy Park homeowners' board, saying their views were shared by many of the community's residents.

"To offer more commercial space over the comforts of so many residents is wrong," Williamson said.

He said relocating City Hall farther east as shown in the original concept plan created in 2011 was essential for his community. Academy Park is located east of residences that are along the old Brooke Street now being used as part of Haynes Bridge Road's new route.

Larry Attiq spoke in support of City Council moving ahead with its plans. He said the current plan is a good one, designed by professionals the city selected.

"I feel like we are going to mob rule; whoever screams the loudest we are going to listen to," Attiq said. The council and mayor were elected to represent residents, he said. "I trust you and I want you to move forward."

Dina Franch disagreed with Attiq, saying she backed a City Center as shown by the 2011 conceptual plan because it was pedestrian friendly. The concerns that Schwarz shared about retail businesses requiring streets in front of their storefronts weren't concerns shared by the public, she said.

She didn't like hearing about the future of the eastern side of what's the new Haynes Bridge Road route including possible commercial development, as Academy Park already feels that it is losing its buffer with City Hall being located in the park. And she felt a 450-space parking garage that costs $9 million is too much.

"We don't know how mch parking we are going to need," French said.

Above all, she asked for the public to have time to discuss the plan as it had during the development of the 2011 conceptual plan.

Mayor David Belle Isle said the updates planned for every City Council meeting until a final plan is adopted provide just what she's asking to have.

Art Trotter was another Alpharetta resident who spoke in favor of the plan again at this meeting as he did at the Aug. 6 meeting. He praised the presentation Schwarz put together.

"It's a wonderful package. I love it; let's do it," Trotter said.

See Also*

– Aug. 7, 2012

– July 31, 2012

– July 10, 2012

– June 19, 2012

– June 7, 2012

– March 6, 2012

– April 11, 2012

– Dec. 20, 2011

– Oct. 23, 2011

– July 30, 2011

– July 26, 2011

– July 17, 2011

– July 15, 2011

– June 30, 2011

– June 8, 2011

– May 3, 2011

* Dates shown are the dates articles first appeared, which usually meant one day after City Council meetings.

Paula M August 17, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Mr. Allen, I think your best choice is what we are going to have to do which is hwy 9 to Old Milton left turn, then right turn on Haynes Bridge. Our subdivision will have to go north on hwy 9, U-turn then south on hwy 9 to get to town or points south. Add in increased traffic and wait times for increased population and congestion. Academy Park and surrounding neighborhoods will probably be the ones using the new Haynes Bridge threw the park to get to Publix. If they drive strait on Academy St. To hwy 9, try to turn left into Publix, that could be a problem. Wonder what the road plans are for that piece of road?
Mike Kennedy August 17, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Paula...where will you be coming from that you would have to U-Turn on Hwy 9?
Paula M August 17, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Correction : through the park
Larry Attig August 17, 2012 at 12:42 PM
I believe that the presentation by Mr. Schwartz thoroughly explained in detail how and why each of the design components was selected for the project. It is obvious that he believes that this is the absolute best plan for of success the site. It is unlikely that he would be saving his best plan for later. Now we are considering taking the opinions of the untrained citizenry to make changes to the plan based on their unprofessional ideas. This makes absolutely no sense. When we make decisions about buying new fire trucks do we ask the public what type of truck and accessories they would like to see on the trucks? No we do not. We leave that to the professional firefighters who are capable of making those decisions based on professional experience. I believed that we need to continue to follow the procedure that we have started on. We have had several opportunities for public input, we have had a bond referendum approved, the City Council has approved the plan and now we need to proceed with building. I also question the validity of those comments that are posted without using their names. It indicates to me that they are either embarrassed by their comments or they lack the courage to back up their position with their name.
Paula M August 17, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Mannings Ridge, Pine Grove Dr.
Paula M August 17, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Mr. Attig, I understand your frustration. All the plans presented so far are well thought out . Honestly, they are so much better than the variations from years past. The land scape design, the use of space, the fact that we can ad buildings at a moderate rate. Our concerns for keeping the great trees are valid. Making sure the traffic flow works for the community is important. I think of this as more of a tweaking process.
Lee at rootsinalpharetta.com August 17, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Hi Mr Attig. I agree and I'll post my full name - Stacy Lee Guy. Disclosure is a great thing. I advocate for it a lot. How about you disclose how much commercial real estate you own in downtown Alpharetta? How much would you stand to gain from large-scale development in downtown? What business do you conduct with the city? For me, the answer is "none" to all of these questions. I question the validity of those who advocate for development when they may financially benefit from it. The city does open the floor for public comment when considering large purchases like fire trucks. That argument is a weak one. I question the validity of comments from people who think that public comments should no longer be asked for. It's ironic really. But in the end, we should welcome and encourage comments - for and against, anonymous and not, financially beneficial or otherwise. I welcome yours, so why won't you welcome mine?
Paula M August 17, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Mike, it's probably going to be easier for our subdivision to shop north at Kroeger or Walmart. We have to U-turn at Hwy 9 and Cogburn by Queen of Hearts antiques. I know it's going to be a problem for school, work and freeway access going south.
Travis Allen August 17, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Thanks Mike, I just consider that to be a busier intersection and typically avoid it.
Travis Allen August 17, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Paula, we certainly welcome you to Walmart, Target and Publix up Hwy 9 in Milton! ;)
Mike Kennedy August 17, 2012 at 01:19 PM
I wouldn't necessarily assume that traffic will increase on Hwy 9 north of downtown after city center is built. The narrowing of Haynes Bridge should take some commuter traffic off Hwy 9 and over to Westside. Another thought under consideration is to make Hwy 9 through Alpharetta a more local road and encourage some of that commuter traffic to take Westside and GA 400 as well.
Mike Kennedy August 17, 2012 at 01:24 PM
I currently take Haynes Bridge to Academy also. Taking Hwy 9 to Old Milton and around will just take some getting used to.
Paula M August 17, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Yes, I think Westside is helpful. It is a long way to make a U-turn. Almost to Windward. Sure would be nice if Mannings Ridge had an intersection and a light.
Larry Attig August 17, 2012 at 01:42 PM
I own a small .44 acre tract on North Main Street. Without those who are willing to take the risk to purchase real estate in the downtown there would be no downtown. My interest in this project has much more to do with my love for this city than any financial reward. I have lived in Alpharetta for 34 years and I owned and operated a business in the downtown for 20 years. I believe that I have made a contribution to the city. I would now like for the city to make good on a promise from 2003 that we would have a vibrant downtown. I doubt that I will realize any great financial gain in my lifetime. The value of my property has continued to decrease for several years. I do not conduct any business with the city. I have merely been an advocate for a vibrant downtown. I would like to know if you attended all of the meetings allowing for public input. Were any of your ideas accepted? Did you not feel that you voice had been heard? Did you protest then and demand more meetings? I realize that not all of the citizens iedas could be incorporated into the plan. There are things that I like about it and thinks that I may not agree with but I realize the value of compromise. We have had our opportunity for input, now let the professionals proceed.
Paula M August 17, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Mike, what does that mean, make hwy 9 through Alpharetta a local road?
Lee at rootsinalpharetta.com August 17, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Thanks for coming clean, Mr Attig. I have attended meetings, both before the vote and after. Like Julie Hogg and other bloggers, I've written quite a bit about downtown Alpharetta. None of my ideas have been accepted but I believe the views are being heard. I protested for more meetings, not because my ideas were not being heard but because early on there was to be only one public meeting.
Mike Kennedy August 17, 2012 at 02:11 PM
To encourage -- through design or other means -- north/south commuter traffic to take other routes, i.e. Westside or 400.
Julie Hollingsworth Hogg August 17, 2012 at 08:53 PM
I don't think what Mr. Schwartz thinks of as a "best plan" is even relevant. Mr. Schwartz is indeed a professional but he designs per the requests, demands and suggestions of Council and input of certain staff.
Paula M August 17, 2012 at 10:07 PM
My personal choice is still Center City 1. The rendering we thought we voted on. I like the campus style. An Undisturbed park setting. I think it balances the west side. Center City 2 has incredible gardens, mirrors the west side, brings Academy Park right to the City Center. Brings much activity into the center of town with lots of small streets....and cars. Both have merit. My personal choice is CC1 conceptual plan.
No Name August 18, 2012 at 05:22 AM
Or something equitable to CC1. The intensity of CC1 was basically a two-pod plan, not a four-pod plan. I'm betting that if City Hall was pulled back west of current Haynes Bridge and the development was reduced to two pods similar to the intensity shown in the pre-bond renderings, and the larger trees along Publilx were saved, the natives would probably quit being so restless.
Paula M August 18, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Sounds great!
Julie Hollingsworth Hogg August 18, 2012 at 02:31 PM
@No Name above: yes, everything you said... Signed, One of the natives
Dina Franch August 18, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Re comments that the architects know best and therefore developed the best design possible to deal with traffic, iI would like to remind folks that the architects drew the plan without the benefit of traffic studies. As Mr. Kennedy explained, there has been no traffic studies yet. So...the plan would have been tweaked anyway. re putting through streets in city center, I took friends to Canton street in Roswell today. The traffic was very heavy and dining outside not very pleasant. I really think we would have a huge competitive edge in Alpharetta if we could offer some outside dining free from direct car noise and exhaust.
Larry Attig August 19, 2012 at 12:06 PM
In a perfect world or in fantasyland it might be possible to have outside dining without streets. The planners have learned from experience that it just doesn’t work. Businesses will not locate in that environment without streets. If the city were to complete the project with a pedestrian environment only would you be willing to open a restaurant in the City Center? I have been to Canton Street in Roswell several times lately and from the looks of things no one seems to be too concerned about traffic fumes. I have found that just about all of the food services establishments are doing quite well in spite of the traffic.
Julie Hollingsworth Hogg August 19, 2012 at 01:50 PM
It's interesting to read the previous two comments - because the architect for this project in his presentation last Monday night, and also City Council members themselves, have emphasized the walkability and pedestrian and "campus" feel of the City Center project. In this context, one would think such a project would pull the dining back and away from direct car noise and exhaust fumes.
Larry Attig August 19, 2012 at 03:24 PM
It was agreed that all parties liked the idea of a campus type atmosphere. However, the architect also made it clear that in an effort to have a vibrant environment with restaurants and shops it was going to be necessary to have street access. He also pointed out that these are not thoroughfares. Think of streets more like Old Roswell Street and Old Canton Street on the west side of Main Street.
No Name August 19, 2012 at 06:52 PM
As much as I prefer the campus-like setting, I can see the need for streets. Maybe it could be designed with an eye toward a pedestrian-only mall if/when the area becomes established? Then again, maybe a pedestrian only mall could be Alpharetta's niche since every other town is doing exactly the same thing we are (generally speaking). How many downtowns can reasonably be sustained if they are all pretty much carbon copies of one another? There is some worry that people will use the through streets as a cut-through, especially during peak traffic times. Seems like it would be really useful to have that traffic study data first.
Larry Attig August 19, 2012 at 07:38 PM
As much as a pedistrian only seems like a good idea, Mr. Schwartz pointed out that many cities who have tried that concept by closing off streets to pedestrian only mall settings have in recent years abandon the idea and have now opened streets up to traffic and parking. With Main Street and Haynes Bridge Road bordering the the City Center they both seem to be more likely choices for traffic movement. Think of using the streets of The Avenue Forsyth as a cut through to save time. It really doesn't seem to be practical.
No Name August 19, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Interesting article on pedestrian malls. http://www.concentratemedia.com/features/pedestrianmalls0175.aspx?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ConcentrateMedia+%28Concentrate+Media%29
No Name August 19, 2012 at 08:57 PM
More ped mall data. http://www.nfta.com/pdfs/Appendix%20A.pdf

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