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November 28, 2012ALPHARETTA, Ga. By the time Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle finally got around to announcing the upcoming tree lighting ceremony Nov. 26, the City Council chambers were nearly empty. Not that the crowd which had previously filled the seats Monday night for nearly four hours was in the holiday spirit.
After several hours of discussion, the Alpharetta City Council gave the green light to developer Tom Sharp to develop 108 homes on a 78-acre parcel in northwest Alpharetta bounded by Mayfield, Bates and Providence roads. The project will be re-zoned from Agricultural to R-15, which allows for up to three homes per acre.
The council, however, put in stipulations that lots would average a minimum of 20,000 square-feet roughly a half-acre however green space and non-buildable land could be used in those averages. In addition, lots fronting Bates Road would be required to be three-quarter acre minimums. Stipulations were also added that will govern building materials, landscaping, preservation of an existing lake and other considerations to fit into the character of the surrounding community.
"It is sad to say, but it appears that the City Council is not for the people but is for the developer/builder," said Leslie Dyer, a nearby resident. "The council gave us one bone. The houses on the perimeter of Bates North will be on three-quarter acre. Otherwise, the builder/developer won on the [overall] lots sizes."
The re-zoning to R-15 went against the vote of the city's Planning Commission that had recommended an R-22 zoning across the parcel, which would have kept density at half-acre minimums. While unusual to disregard the Planning Commission recommendation, Councilman Chris Owens maintains the commission's intent was considered.
"The Planning Commission sets a floor for the decision, but it didn't set a minimum lot size," said Owens. "We took everything into consideration."
After two hours of public comment, in which the sole vote in support of the project came from a real estate agent who has sold Sharp Residential homes, the council debated briefly before the motion to allow an R-15 zoning was made by Councilman Mike Kennedy. Councilman Jim Golvin was the lone "no" vote on the council.
Opposition to the project has been strong from the community in recent months, which turned out in force to the public information meeting, the Planning Commission hearing and the City Council meeting to urge the city to demand a lower density to keep the rural area of the community intact.
However, city councilmembers noted that while there are many large, estate home sites in the area, the surrounding area also has a mix of much smaller home sites.
Sharp Residential, an Alpharetta-based builder headed by Tom Sharp, expects to begin construction immediately, with homes starting in the high $400,000s up to $600,000s.
The project is divided into two parcels the Johnson Tract and the Bates Road Tract. Sharp had originally requested a change in zoning from primarily Agriculture to as low as R-12 (12,000-square-foot lot minimums) for the majority of the subdivision. After meeting strong opposition early in the process, Sharp revised their application to R-15 (15,000 sq. ft. minimum), which dropped the total number of planned homes from 130 to 108.