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Alpharetta's head planner resigns

Longtime Community Development Director Diana Wheeler steps down

Wheeler (click for larger version)
July 13, 2012
ALPHARETTA, Ga. – After 19 years charting Alpharetta's course as the city's chief planner and steward of development in the city, Community Development Director Diana Wheeler has decided to step down.

"It's been a sincere pleasure and a privilege to work for the city," Wheeler said. "I have enjoyed it, and now I'm looking forward to new horizons.

"Alpharetta is unquestionably the best community in the state if not the country. The city has wonderful leadership and wonderful employees. The future is filled with success, I'm sure, for Alpharetta."

She said she has no immediate plans at present.

Few people have presided over so much growth and change in less than two decades. Wheeler's department reviewed zoning plats and recommendations, ordinances and stood responsible for maintaining the city's standards.

She served under four mayors during her tenure, and saw the city grow from 16,000 residents to nearly 70,000 and a daytime population of nearly twice that.

When Wheeler came to the city, North Point Mall had just been built, but not the first tall office building. During her tenure 14 million square feet of Class A office has been built, an amphitheater and numerous upscale subdivisions.

Mayor David Belle Isle and former Mayor Chuck Martin said Wheeler has done a great deal for the city.

"Diana had a great impact on the city. Diana carried on the work of Mayor [Jimmy] Phillips and Marie Garrett. And she added to those plans and ideas. I think the plan for Alpharetta speaks for itself," Martin said. "Anyone who sits in that chair has a hard job. She did a good job for the citizens.

"Her heart was always with the city."

Former Mayor Arthur Letchas agreed.

"In all her years, she looked out for the city. I always said the best two hires the city ever made were Marie Garrett and Diana Wheeler. The city looks the way it does because of those two women," Letchas said.

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  1. report print email
    Wheeler resignation
    July 19, 2012 | 01:23 PM

    One of the primary jobs of a planning and zoning department is to manage/oversee growth/construction in a city - so that it is congruent to the specs,rules,regulations, and official land use plan that are in place and which are always at the end of the day, created and/or authorized/approved by that city's city council.

    Inherent in the ovesight of city council's zoning rules and regulations is the fact that someone has to have the backbone to say "no, that does not conform to the city's guidelines" when a project is presented that does not conform. At the end of the day, the person who is tasked with saying "no, it does not conform" or "yes, it conforms" is the head of the Planning and Zoning Department.

    Ms Wheeler has been criticized by many because she has been the person who enforced not her rules and regulations, but the city council's zoning and building rules and frequently had to say "no". Someone had to do it. And someone still has to do it.

    Unless city council starts to materially and substantially modify/change the planning and zoning rules and specs, no change of substance will occur. None. That is, killing the messenger accomplishes nothing. Only changeing the rules of the game will create real change.

    We will wait and watch for changes of substance in the building code and zoning specs that the current council makes.

    ray appen
  2. report print email
    I'm confused
    July 23, 2012 | 03:53 PM

    Ray, I'm confused with your comment, especially taken along with Hatcher's recent article. The two opinions of Wheeler's tenure with Alpharetta are not congruent.

    Hatcher gives her enormous credit for shaping Alpharetta's development. Hatcher talks of her authoring the city's code and steering development certain directions. Your take of her job was more of a referee, enforcing rules written by council. Which way is it?

    S Lee Guy
    Alpharetta, GA
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