ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Fans of skateboarding in the downtown are squaring off with a majority on the Alpharetta City Council over whether they can practice their skills around City Center.
A new ordinance, up for a final approval June 15, would ban skateboards and a host of other wheeled transports from use in areas of the core downtown.
The ordinance specifically prohibits operation of skateboards, long boards, roller skates, inline skates or other similar devices in a public alley way, sidewalk, public parking lot, public parking garage or elevated surface (including rails, ramps, and steps) within the area.
The ordinance defines the downtown core generally as the area from Old Milton Parkway north to Church Street, with Roswell Street and Cotton Alley bordering on the West and Haynes Bridge Road on the East.
At its first reading June 1 before the City Council, the ordinance drew a number of comments from residents, both in favor of and opposed to the restrictions.
Ethan Palmer, who appeared with his mother Holly at the meeting, spoke against the ordinance, calling it too restrictive.
Palmer said by banning skateboards on virtually all interior hard surfaces, the ordinance seems to imply it would be safer to use the streets for their activity.
“There are so many skateboarders in this area, because, for one, it’s basically a skate park within 100 feet of where I’m standing,” he said. “There are several stair-sets, smooth concrete, ledges, rails, curbs – everything you need in a skatepark.”
Palmer said the nearest skate parks are in Fowler Park in Forsyth County and at Veteran’s Park in Cherokee County. He said he’s old enough to drive, but a lot of the kids who skateboard downtown are not.
But a number of residents of the nearby Amorance Apartments say the skateboarders have created a din that has become more than anyone should have to endure. Residents have spoken to the council at prior meetings and at the June 1 session.
Melanie Levy, community manager for Amorance, says she estimates that since last September, she has received some 30 complaints about noise and concern over skateboarding.
She said some residents worry their cars will be damaged when skateboards fly out of control from under the riders’ feet. Others, Levy said, are simply fearful when the youths zoom past on the sidewalk.
The City Council is divided on the issue, but a majority favor the tougher restrictions.
That didn’t stop others from voicing their dissent.
Councilman John Hipes called the restrictions an overreach.
“The ask is to take away an existing right for our citizens and our taxpayers,” Hipes said.
Bicycles outnumber skateboarders 10-1 on the sidewalks, he said, and no one is talking about banning bicycles.
Councilman Dan Merkel said he recognizes the potential dangers of skateboarders racing through the parking deck, but the issue was first brought up as a noise complaint.
“I’ve had less than five people contact me that this is a problem,” Merkel said. He referred to remarks made by Hipes the week before that it sounds like a bunch of old people complaining about kids.
Merkel offered a substitute motion to ban skateboarding in downtown public parking garages and surface parking lots, but that move fell short of approval.
The original motion then passed, with council members Donald Mitchell, Karen Richard, Jason Binder and Ben Burnett in favor.
Councilman Donald Mitchell said he wants to be equitable to all sides on the issue, and he would support construction of a skate park when the city regains its financial footing.
“We limited it to as small an area as we could geographically whereas not to affect anybody,” he said. “We can look at making that smaller. I’m more than willing to look at that, as long as we take care of the residential areas where the folks have complained.”