sidewalks

Alpharetta is beginning talks to find new funding sources to address problems with its traffic, its sidewalks and its stormwater runoff. Members of the City Council are considering a push to extend the current transportation sales tax to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety. Also on the table is a special bond referendum to upgrade parks.

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — City leaders are scheduled this week to lay plans for funding a host of pressing transportation needs in Alpharetta.

The City Council was scheduled to vote on whether to formally support extending the countywide transportation sales tax for another five-year term and hear updates on a list of projects for funding. Based on current trends, the .75-cent sales tax, approved by voters in 2016, will have brought in close to $50 million in transportation dollars to the city by the time it expires in March 2022.

If the council moves the issue forward, residents could vote on whether to extend the tax through referendum this November.

The transportation sales tax, or TSPLOST, has already contributed to a host of local and area projects, including capacity improvements along major thoroughfares like Old Milton Parkway and McGinnis Ferry Road.

But already, the city has scores of other transportation projects lined up for funding — a list totaling more than $90 million over the next five years.

Tops on the list are recurring expenses like road resurfacing and sidewalk repairs that could run as high as $15 million.

Other top priority projects include:

  • Improved crossing from the new parking deck to the north side of Milton Avenue, estimated at $250,000
  • The extension of Marjean Way, estimated at $1.7 million
  • Mid-block crosswalks at Manning Oaks and Alpharetta elementary schools for around $175,000
  • Four pedestrian bridges for $2.5 million

The list of top-tier projects also includes more than $9 million for a portion of the Alpha Loop from Old Milton Parkway to Northwinds Parkway.

Parks bond proposed

While transportation improvements remain on the front burner, they are among a host of big-ticket expenditures on Alpharetta’s radar.

Just last month, council members began consideration of a multi-million-dollar bond that would help pay for major park improvements.

So far, City Council members have reviewed a rough draft of a project list that includes $5 million to be set aside for park land acquisition. The draft also includes major upgrades to Wills Park, including the Equestrian Park, and refurbished lighting at athletic fields.

The proposal was based on a bond of around $30 million.

It wouldn’t be the first bond Alpharetta voters have passed.

Local voters passed a $52 million bond referendum in 2016 with about half those funds devoted to capital improvements and land acquisition for Alpharetta parks and recreation. The rest of the money was applied to transportation projects.

Voters also approved a $29 million bond in 2011 to help fund development of the downtown City Center multi-use project, which also includes park areas.

They passed a $24.9 bond referendum in 1997, again with about half the money dedicated to parks.

Right now, Alpharetta property owners pay $5 million each year to retire debt from three earlier bonds. Final payoff for the first will not occur until 2026. The other two are scheduled to be retired in 2032 and 2041.

Stormwater issues surface

While celebrating its newly revived downtown, Alpharetta is facing yet another problem — stormwater runoff in some of its highly developed residential areas west and north of downtown.

As downtown’s commercial portfolio has expanded, so too has its residential inventory — townhomes, apartments and larger homes replacing older, smaller dwellings.

At a City Council retreat last month, officials wrestled with the fallout. In some areas near downtown, select residential areas are reporting a rising tide of runoff that is filling backyards and overwhelming retention ponds.

Because Alpharetta has no stormwater utility, it’s a problem looking for money.

Speaking at the council retreat, Public Works Director Pete Sewczwicz said the city already has more than $10 million in work orders for stormwater, but officials have asked him to document that figure.

Whatever the number, the city has precious few options to tackle the issue.

Alpharetta does charge designer impact fees on construction, but those funds are committed to funding parks, roads and public safety. And, there’s not that much to spare.

During the residential and commercial boom in 2019, the city collected just shy of $1 million in impact fees assessed on development activities. In 2018, it collected $1.3 million, and it collected $1.4 million in each of the two years prior.

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