Are You Red? - Are you Sure?

The opposition to development in Roswell is getting pretty heated right now.  There are actually (I know some of you can't believe it) several projects active or planned that I find appalling.  However, I had to take some time to call a recent article (if you can call it that) concerning opposition to a project in Roswell out as pure tabloid garbage.

Let's not pretend that this Red Shirts on the Move rant in the Alpharetta - Roswell Review & News is remotely close to journalism.  This post is hysterical (in more ways than one), factually inaccurate, aside from it's portrayal of the opposition to this project, and logically inconsistent.  I just couldn't resist digging into some of the meaty morsels of journalistic integrity..

"..more than 225 residents who gathered to express concern, frustration and anger over a rezoning proposal for a 113-unit subdivision to go up in the middle one of Roswell's most attractive and livable neighborhoods. If approved by the city, the new development will replace nine single-family homes on 21 acres at Hembree and Chaffin Roads, with mainly townhouses and small cottage homes."

Seems straightforward at first glance but it implies that the new "subdivision" is replacing a "neighborhood" and that the new "subdivision" wouldn't be "attractive and livable." For those who aren't familiar, the developers are proposing a project inspired by Vickery Village in Cumming which is one of the most attractive neighborhoods in the Metro Area and HIGHLY Livable.  Additionally, the developers live in two of the nine existing homes and plan to live in the new development.  

Site plan with a mix of housing types and street connections that help disperse auto trips more effectively whil also adding walkable connections for neighboring properties to more easily and safely walk and bike around the area.

Site plan with a mix of housing types and street connections that help disperse auto trips more effectively whil also adding walkable connections for neighboring properties to more easily and safely walk and bike around the area.

This development is trying to create a natural neighborhood feel that has different types of homes next to each other.  This is a novel idea for the suburbs but it's actually the way human civilizations were built for centuries before we went off the deep end with cars and zoning.  I think the statement "Mainly townhouse and small cottage homes" omits some key details of the plan.  There are actually four 'main' types of homes in this development that deserve mention.  

There are 15 lots facing Hembree and Chaffin which will be single family and will have architecture that tries to achieve a transition from the neighboring properties as you work your way into the development.

Homes that would line Hembree and Chaffin.  Worthy of Red shirts?  Not my personal style but insanely better than what's there today.

Homes that would line Hembree and Chaffin.  Worthy of Red shirts?  Not my personal style but insanely better than what's there today.

There are 23 internal lots that will be single family homes.  These will be inspired by architecture in Vickery Village and what you would see in Serenbe, Historic Norcross or Glenwood Park.  

A sample of the single family homes on the interior of the development.  This is more up my alley.  Red shirt worthy?

A sample of the single family homes on the interior of the development.  This is more up my alley.  Red shirt worthy?

The cottage courts or court yard homes would total 55 and would be similarly inspired as the 23 internal lots.

A sample of what the courtyard homes could look like.  I think some people wearing red might actually like moving into one of these when they decide to downsize a bit.

A sample of what the courtyard homes could look like.  I think some people wearing red might actually like moving into one of these when they decide to downsize a bit.

Finally, there would be 20 townhouse units.  I guess 66% could qualify as "Mainly townhouse and small cottage homes," but leaving out the other 34% is a bit one sided.  

Pretty standard townhome product but this is just to illustrate the concept.  Nothing overly bad about these.

Pretty standard townhome product but this is just to illustrate the concept.  Nothing overly bad about these.

Moving on...

"The proposal was made possible by changes in Roswell's zoning code with the adoption of the UDC (Unified Development Code) that was voted in by the City Council in 2014."

This is downright false.  UDC or no UDC, the developers could have proposed this project.  What the developers are requesting is outside of what the UDC zoning allows.  HENCE the rezoning request.  This statement makes it sound like developers are emboldened by the UDC to request higher density and then implies that the City Council is to blame for making this possible.  REALLY?  The City Council votes a UDC in that keeps the zoning largely the same on these properties and is now being blamed when a developer asks for a zoning variance.  That's shameful and eliminates any journalistic integrity that existed.

Still in the third paragraph..

It has ignited a strong firestorm among residents who believe that high-density housing in established neighborhoods with no capacity to expand infrastructure to support that level of runaway growth threatens to alter the character, quality, and value of all of Roswell's neighborhoods.

This statement starts off fair enough but ends taking the reader on a trip to fantasy land.  First, let's look at the "high-density" statement.  Current zoning allows about 1.5 homes per acre.  This request would yield a little over 5.  That is 'higher-density' but it's a far cry from any rational definition of "high-density."  Higher-density does not equal "High-Density."  

Second, let's look at the "no capacity" claim.  Is there anything to support this type of hysterical opinion?  Traffic studies on this project showed an increase in trips (that's obvious) but no significant increase in congestion.  The road network can easily handle this level of development. EASILY. The city looks at impacts to infrastructure and schools and will make informed recommendations to the developers and to the council on what needs to be done to address any real concerns.  Reds need to stop deluding themselves that our city is doing nothing and sitting back getting railroaded by developers who then get a pass from our 'density-thirsty' city council.  I am constantly amazed by how much pushback developers get from the city staff on the details of projects before there is ever even a public hearing.  These details are vetted and they are vetted in EXCRUCIATING detail.  It would be enlightening to see just how many projects don't even make it to the public meeting portion of the process exactly because our staff IS paying attention to these details.

Third, there is a "level of runaway growth" threatening to "alter the character, quality and value of all of Roswell's neighborhoods."  Well, we are in the middle of a development cycle and fortunately we live in an area where businesses, investors and developers want to put capital to work.  Would it be better to live in a place where people didn't want to put money to work?  A lack of quality redevelopment is what the author and Reds should be concerned with when they say this might threaten the character, quality and value of ALL of Roswell's Neighborhoods.  Seriously, how could you print a statement like that?  The only thing that could be classified as "runaway" here is the author's imagination.  JUST WOW!

Some residents were quick to point out that three City Council seats will be decided in local elections November 3, that the two incumbents running voted yes for UDC, and it was this vote that makes projects like this rezoning possible.

This resident is quick to point out that pigs don't fly, leprechauns aren't real and that dragons don't exist.  The logical implication of this statement is that the UDC is allowing this request and that if we oppose this project as well as 'run-away high-density' development then we should punish the council for voting for the UDC by electing Horton and Palermo.  

The funny thing is...

THE UDC IS ACTUALLY DOING EXACTLY WHAT THE REDS WANT.   

It is preventing developers from building density in areas that aren't zoned for it.  They have to ask permission.  This is no different than previous zoning codes.  Rezoning requests weren't invented by the UDC and they aren't prohibited by the UDC.  That type of zoning would not hold up in court and quite frankly it would be un-American to prohibit a property owner from asking for a variance, rezoning, etc.  

What I find so interesting about the fierce opposition to this project is the fact that the reds are cutting off their noses..  The current homes on the property in question are largely unmarketable and are currently investment properties or stand to be in the next 3-5 years given their demographics while these homes would be new, high-quality and unique to the area.  

If this rezoning doesn't get approved, there is a distinct possibility that no development will happen which essentially means this section of Chaffin and Hembree could soon be lined by investor owned properties that will not be redeveloped for years.  The properties aren't attractive for redevelopment under the current zoning and investors don't quickly kill their cash cows.  So, you might not have any additional traffic but you might get some stubborn investment properties that don't juxtapose so nicely with neighboring subdivisions. Be careful what you wear red for.

If there is this much opposition to a quality development of this nature, then I've lost hope that any development of quality can be achieved outside the historic district in this city.  I guess it would be preferable to get a tract home developer to come in and scrape the land, build homogenous product at a lower density and leave us with another unconnected subdivision that makes zero effort to blend in with its neighbors.  But, that is the conventional way that we've come to know and love.  I'm doubtful we'd see any red at that neighborhood meeting.