Alpharetta City Council discusses potential skateboarding regulations at May 18 meeting

Alpharetta City Council members discussed the potential for regulations on the use of skateboards during the workshop portion of council's May 18 meeting. (Kara McIntyre/Community Impact Newspaper)
Alpharetta City Council members discussed the potential for regulations on the use of skateboards during the workshop portion of council's May 18 meeting. (Kara McIntyre/Community Impact Newspaper)

Alpharetta City Council members discussed the potential for regulations on the use of skateboards during the workshop portion of council's May 18 meeting. (Kara McIntyre/Community Impact Newspaper)

Alpharetta City Council and Mayor Jim Gilvin, as well as other members of city staff, discussed the potential for regulations on the use of skateboards during the workshop portion of council's May 18 meeting. During workshop portions of council meetings, items on the agenda are open for discussion purposes, but no action can be taken on those items.

Prior to the last two months of council meetings, which have been held virtually due to COVID-19, Alpharetta residents had submitted complaints and spoken during public comment portions of Alpharetta City Council meetings about public safety, destruction of property and increased noise due to skateboarders, particularly in City Center and in the parking garage on Park Plaza, Alpharetta City Attorney Sam Thomas said during the workshop.

The draft ordinance prohibits using a skateboard, roller skates or other similar devices on any sidewalk, public parking lot or parking garage within City Center's business district, and it allows police officers to cite violators over age 17 or cite the parents or guardians of violators under age 17 after a written warning is administered and the violation occurs again.

However, this ordinance was not passed May 18 and was not voted on by council.

"This is not the type of environment that can support [skateboarders] in City Center or down Canton Street. We've created a very walkable, pedestrian-friendly environment, and we don't have the ability to manage that type of activity in a safe environment," Council Member Karen Richard said during the workshop. "In my view, it is the core business district. The sidewalks are the concern for me—and the alleys. That's what I think we need to address from a public safety perspective."


Mayor Pro Tem Donald Mitchell said during the workshop that a large portion of complaints have been due to noise from the skateboarders, as City Center is designed with tapered sidewalks that naturally create more noise, he said.

"Even though [residents] moved to City Center—and I get it, you accept some of the noise when you move to a busy, bustling downtown. I totally get that," he said. "But it doesn't mean you have to be awake at 6 a.m. with skateboarders at 7 a.m. and [have] your peace disturbed constantly from the skateboarding over pavements and over sidewalks and steps. It's not an easy thing to bring up because I think we all want kids to have fun, but there's got to be a balance."

Council Member John Hipes said he supported the parking decks and parking lots portion of the ordinance, as there is a public safety concern with skateboarders colliding with vehicles; however, he said he did not support the rest of the ordinance, calling the proposal the work of a "nanny state City Council."

"For every right that we seek to grant to somebody, we are in the process of depriving somebody of a right that they currently have. ... The noise argument is lost on me," he said. "While I can fully support the parking deck and parking lot aspects because of the interaction with vehicles, I'm having trouble taking away existing rights for skateboarders, people who own skateboards, people who pay property tax to ride on their sidewalks—because other people think, 'That's too noisy for me. That particular noise is too noisy.'"

Alpharetta resident Steven Whitt spoke in support of the ordinance during a nontraditional public comment portion of the workshop. He said skateboarders in Alpharetta do not have a proper skate park to go to for skating and called for a skate park to be constructed for them.

"Basketball players go to basketball courts. Softball and baseball players go to ball fields. Football players go to their respective fields. Tennis players go to tennis courts. But skateboarders have no place to go, so they have to use downtown Alpharetta as their de facto skate park, and that's what they do," Whitt said. "I'm advocating for the skateboarders. They need a place to go, and they need a place to skate, and they need an outlet, like every other person who is recreating has a way to satisfy their outlets for recreation."
By Kara McIntyre
Kara started with Community Impact Newspaper as the summer intern for the south Houston office in June 2018 after graduating with a bachelor's degree in mass communication from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. She became the reporter for north Houston's Tomball/Magnolia edition in September 2018, moving to Alpharetta in January 2020 after a promotion to be the editor of the Alpharetta/Milton edition, which is Community Impact's first market in Georgia.