At a recent City Council meeting, 10 citizens questioned the city’s dedication to being a tree-friendly community.
As part of the downtown development project, the city plans to remove 23 of the 104 specimen trees on the 26-acre site because they are in poor health or in a hazardous condition. The city has also identified 11 specimen trees that can be moved.
Deb Zemlock, president of the Alpharetta Natural Resources Commission, said the city could do a better job of preserving mature hardwood trees and specimen trees.
“We could have a project that’s a model for the preservation of the urban forest,” she said.
Other residents said the project’s parking deck will force the removal of too many trees and said the project, as it is now presented, is too different from the original concept that was presented before the $29 million bond referendum passed.
But council members pointed out the parking deck was a part of the conceptual sketch that preceded the bond vote. Councilman Michael Cross noted that the referendum passed by 71 percent.
Resident David Cox said three water oak trees will have to be removed with the version of the site plan that was recently passed, and he spoke about the trees in the city that have been taken down in recent few years by bad weather.
“We can’t stop Mother Nature. But we can stop poor planning,” he said. “We want to preserve our trees.”
But Councilman D.C. Aiken said he is proud of the measures the city has taken to be green and promote sustainability.
Councilman Chris Owens agreed.
“I don’t know that anything has changed in our desire to be green,” Owen said.
Three residents from Alpharetta spoke in support of the downtown project and the city’s current site plan.
Alpharetta Business Association member Brian Patton said he commends City Council on their courage to “do something different.”
Patton said the criticism is unfounded and said the City Center project has been in the works for about 10 years. He also pointed out the recently approved site plan actually saves one more tree than the preliminary site plan did.
“This is a great plan,” he said. “If we do not give downtown a shot in the arm, we’re going to be sorry someday.”
Mayor David Belle Isle promised to listen to all feedback and said the council will do its best to address concerns.
Meetings of the Alpharetta City Council are typically held on the first, third and fourth Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m.