ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Going into the homestretch of his campaign for Alpharetta City Council, Ben Burnett was gaining confidence.
“I ran into no resistance, and my team knocked on right under 3,000 doors,” he said. “We had maybe a handful of people who came out and said they were supporting my opponent – literally, no more than a handful.”
Burnett, an alternate on the Planning Commission, easily defeated challenger Ben Easterling, garnering 60 percent of the vote in the Nov. 7 election for the Post 2 seat on the City Council. The seat’s current occupant, Mike Kennedy, did not run for re-election.
Two other council seats were on the ballot, but incumbents Donald Mitchell and Chris Owens ran unopposed.
For Burnett, the issue was and will remain how to manage the city’s explosive growth.
“I ran a race that I believe honored the Comprehensive Land Use Plan as a more hard-and-fast set of rules than my opponent did,” Burnett said. “I knew from knocking on those doors downtown that there were a lot of people that looked up and thought ‘What are we doing?’ ”
Bennett’s hardline stance on honoring the land-use plan puts him in the corner with at least one other current council member, Jim Gilvin, whose dissent votes on zoning matters have left him as a lone wolf on the governing board.
At the same time, proponents of those growth strategies have argued that oftentimes, they are left with little choice but to approve some developments or face litigation. They argue that taking a less adversarial stance with developers can produce benefits, such as the proposed Alpha Loop, whereby property owners cede a portion of their land for parks.
That’s a fair point, Burnett said. But he added that the city has painted itself into a corner by setting precedents that allow variances in the land-use plan.
“What scares me is, with the precedents downtown, you’ve got buildings that are 67 feet high – and you’ve got more than one of them – it starts to look like a trend,” he said.
Burnett said he recognizes there will be some members of the City Council with views that don’t match his own. That’s fine with him, he said, because he doesn’t take civil dissent personally.
He said he encountered no nastiness in the campaign.
“Zero,” he said.
He also said he was moved by the warm greetings of congratulations he received from other council members, event some who did not support his bid.
Through it all, Burnett said he enjoyed the whole process and tried to keep his message positive and on point.
“I just felt that Alpharetta deserved to have a conversation, and it hadn’t happened in a long time,” Burnett said.
The election also delivered another dividend.
“I lost 20 pounds during the campaign,” Burnett said. “Every afternoon when I’d get done with work, I would knock on doors. There wasn’t a day I didn’t get 10,000-12,000 steps.”