On the Straight and Narrow

The Alpharetta Design Review Board conducts a public hearing for design applications for commercial buildings, signage, and new site/landscaping plans within the “Corridors of Influence.” Corridors of Influence are roadways and transportation routes having the greatest visual impact within the City of Alpharetta and those roads that are “gateways” into the city. Corridors of Influence include Alpharetta Highway or State Route 9 or Main Street (except those portions which are in the Downtown Overlay), Haynes Bridge Road, Mansell Road, North Point Parkway, Old Milton Parkway, Westside Parkway and Windward Parkway (from State Route 9 to Georgia 400).

The board also reviews new residential construction within the Downtown Overlay. New homes within the Downtown Overlay are required to meet one of 12 architectural styles which include Georgian, Greek Revival, Neoclassical, Queen Anne, Stick, Folk Victorian, Shingle, Italianate, Romanesque, Tudor Eclectic, Federal/Adam, Mercantile/Mill.

The board grants or denies applications based upon a review of the application’s compliance with the city’s design standards and preservation of the historical, cultural, and aesthetic heritage of the city.

The board meets the third Friday of each month beginning at 8:30 a.m. at City Hall within the Council Chambers. Meetings are open to the public. 

Common Issues/Questions:

The most common question they receive is “What size wall sign is permitted?” A commercial property is permitted one sign per road frontage no larger than 1 square foot of signage per linear foot of storefront. The city recently changed the code to prohibit internally illuminated channel letters, and the Design Review Board encourages creative signage such as painting signage on the building and multi-layered designs with a focus on materials that relate to the business if possible. Additionally, to spark creativity, they require multiple materials with an emphasis on the overall thickness of the sign.

Other often missed site design items include sufficient landscape screening of detention ponds, visible roof-mounted equipment, and excessive site lighting distracting from the architecture or spilling over into adjacent properties. The board also discourages the removal of existing trees important to the character of the site. However, in some cases, removal is required to install streetscape including sidewalks. 

Parking structures are also reviewed and are required to provide architectural details similar to the building they serve. 

The board also reviews many applications to paint existing brick white. The board encourages unpainted brick. Where painting brick is the only option due to an addition being made to a building and it’s not possible to match the color of the existing and new brick, other colors besides white are encouraged.

There are many sites where required landscape strips along the roadways conflict with overhead and underground utilities. In these cases, the applicant must move the required landscape strip farther into the site to avoid tree canopy conflicts with utilities. Many commercial applicants are concerned with the number of trees required to be planted within the landscape strips for fear of obstructing views into their business. 

Procedures:  Applications are available online and submitted the first working day of each month.  They are heard by the Design Review Board within 60 days of the completed application being submitted. Most applicants meet with city staff before submittal to ensure they have a complete application to ensure a successful review and hearing process.  

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