Alpharetta data centers oppose planned townhouse development

Data centers located in the Alpharetta’s northeast region are opposing a rezoning request that would clear the way for a future townhouse subdivision near Windward Parkway and Ga. 400.

Attorneys representing General Electric Company, E-Trade Financial and Carter Validus recently filed letters with the city’s planning commission opposing the request submitted in July by Sharp Residential LLC.

According to the application, the Alpharetta-based real estate developer wants to build 82 town homes on 13.7 acres of undeveloped property near McGinnis Ferry and Union Hill roads.

Attorneys from each data company requested the planning commission delay the rezoning hearing, but city officials said the hearing, scheduled for Thursday, would not be postponed.

Joshua Hill, an attorney representing GE, wrote to planners on Sept. 28 expressing “serious concerns” about Sharp Residential’s application.

“Residential usage in this area is inconsistent with the current commercial use and will likely cause a serious increase in operational and other risks to GE," Hill wrote.

GE leases a 180,000-square-foot building at Windward Concourse Hill, and the proposed town homes would be too close to the data center’s diesel fuel supply tanks and backup generators — which are tested throughout the day and night and would create “significant noise," for residents, said the letter.

Sharpe Residential's request would eliminate the office-institutional portion of the property's current zoning, and rezone the land as only a community unit plan zoning district. That type of district allows for a combination of residential— including rental — housing, neighborhood shopping, office and institutional uses.

E-Trade Financial leases property at 1650 Union Hill Road, which is adjacent to the property Sharp Residential wants to rezone. In a Sept. 30 letter to city planners, E-Trade Financial's attorney David Herr also expressed concerns about the zoning request.

“There are no benefits to the proposed residential development being located in this area, and rezoning the property … is likely to lead to conflict between the existing commercial occupants and future residents,” Herr said.

Attorneys for Carter Validus, which owns two parcels adjacent to the property Sharp Residential wants to rezone, also disagree with the proposal. The property was developed as a data center district in 1990s, and building homes in the vicinity poses environmental and security issues, such as people viewing confidential equipment, children trespassing and the exposure to diesel fuels needed to operate generators, attorneys said.

The application also asks for changes to the Windward Master Plan to add ‘Dwelling, ‘For Sale’ Attached’ to the list of permitted uses, along with a change to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan from “corporate campus office” to “high-density residential”

Supplemental documents to the application show that the Windward Master Plan allows a maximum residential development of 5,022 units. The plan has been amended six times in the past to allow residential development.

City staffers have said they can "generally support" requests for the master plan and comprehensive land use plan amendments, and rezoning.

Calls and emails made to Sharp Residential and attorneys representing the company were not returned Wednesday.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at City Hall.