ALPHARETTA, Ga. — With a 6-foot space between each of them, Alpharetta City Council members assembled at City Hall for the first time in two months.
But, they were miles apart on the issue of whether to ban skateboarding in the downtown.
The issue was brought up during a workshop at the end of the council meeting which was live streamed on the city’s website and on YouTube. Officials also included a Zoom portal that was disconnected because of technical issues in syncing with the other feeds.
Skateboarding in and around City Center has been a feverish topic for a number of residents the past few months. Tenants in the Amorance Apartments near City Hall have complained the constant noise and banging from the wheeled devices, especially in the evenings and on weekends, has made their lives miserable.
The discussion Monday was introduced by council members Donald Mitchell and Karen Richard, who both spoke in favor of crafting an ordinance that would limit the practice in certain areas of the city, specifically around City Center and within publicly accessed mixed-use developments.
Richard said skateboarders present a severe hazard by using the four-level parking garage near City Hall as an incline to race to the bottom. She said she has also had to dodge erratic skateboarders on the sidewalks at City Center.
“I have literally had to jump out of the way of these guys coming down City Center sidewalks,” she said.
Mitchell joined in the measure by stressing the city encourages paver sidewalks in the downtown core. These pavers, he said, help generate a huge racket when used by skateboarders. The city has got to find a way to balance the freedom of young people to recreate with the constant din suffered by residents, he said.
Enforcement may be an issue
City Attorney Sam Thomas said the city would be hamstrung adopting any policy that would include citing children for violating the ordinance. The law could allow for citing parents of the children found in violation, however. Penalties could be set by the ordinance, he said.
“The only thing that I understand anybody is looking for is just deterrence from the standpoint of danger, safety, property destruction…” Thomas said.
But the issue drew pushback from others on the council who warned against the city adding more prohibitions on activities governing behavior. They were also hesitant to tell potential developers what they could and could not allow within their properties.
While all agreed skateboarding in the parking deck constituted a safety hazard, they were less anxious to extend a ban to sidewalks and other areas.
Councilman John Hipes said he is troubled by becoming what he termed a “nanny state.” In the past two years, he said, the council has limited vaping and outlawed e-scooters.
“Now, a bunch of us older folks up here, we don’t like skateboarding,” Hipes said. “Kids skateboard. We don’t skateboard… For every right we seek to grant to somebody, we are in the process of depriving somebody of a right that they currently have.”
Nearby residents weigh in
But two residents of the Amorance Apartments, Steven and Ashley Whitt, implored the council to consider the plight of those who followed the city’s call to live in a revived downtown when the City Center project was first proposed more than five years ago.
Steven Whitt said the city’s biggest problem is yet to come when someone gets hurt because of the unpredictable nature of the activity.
“When you designed downtown Alpharetta, when you designed City Center, you designed the perfect skate park,” he said. “You’ve got everything they’re looking for, and if I were a teenager, I’d be looking to do the same thing.”
He recommended the city explore providing young people with a proper skate park that is safe, free from traffic, free from nearby residences and free from pedestrians who might be injured.
Melanie Levy, the manager at Amorance, also emailed the council Monday saying the safety of the skateboarders is the biggest issue, adding that they jump out in front of cars and race down the parking deck.
Mayor Jim Gilvin said many of the skateboarders he sees rolling around City Center are not children, but young adults. Not only that, he said some of the skateboarders were engaging in dangerous, unpredictable maneuvers amid pedestrian traffic.
“When human beings respect each other, government doesn’t have to make these types of decisions,” he said. “But, right now, we have a situation where just normal, common courtesy, relying on common courtesy, doesn’t always solve the issue.”
The council is expected to take up the issue again in coming weeks to consider whether the proposal should be modified to impose age restrictions, where and when skateboarding can be allowed and how the city could enforce such an