At a public forum Monday, during the regular City Council meeting, 10 citizens spoke to question the city’s dedication to being a green, tree-friendly community.
As part of the downtown development project, the city has 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 contribute to the removal of too many trees and said the project, as it is being presented now, 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 with 71 percent of votes.
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 over the past 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.”
In response to residents who said the city is no longer concerned with being tree-friendly, 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, saying, “I don’t know that anything has changed in our desire to be green.”
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 city’s criticism is un founded 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 said the council will do its best to address concerns and answer questions and promised to listen to all feedback.
The city will have a City Center plan update during all upcoming city council meetings.
Meetings of the Alpharetta City Council are typically held on the first, third and fourth Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m.