Saturday, October 29, 2011

Peachtree Corners – City Charter – Solid Waste Disposal

The good news is that we can design the new trash plan after we become a City. Now we must do what the County requires. With a City we have choice. That means the City Council, with input from the community, will design the trash plan we want. Here is what we know for sure.

1) The state adopted a Solid Waste Plan in 2006 requiring municipalities to develop and document solid plans. The goal is to reduce waste deposited in landfills and encourage recycling. There is a reporting requirement as well. We are all aware of Gwinnett County’s draconian response to that requirement.

2) How the service will be implemented will be determined by the City Council once they are elected. They will have to develop a plan for Solid Waste Disposal, hopefully with input from the community.

3) It will take some time to transition from the county plan to the city plan. If the transition occurs prior to when the next payment is due on our property tax bills, there will be a mechanism in place to ensure there is no double billing.

We also know that many people in Peachtree Corners experienced an increase in their bill for trash collection once the county trash plan was implemented. Why did this increase occur? Our cost went up because the county averaged the costs over the entire county pick up area. We live in a densely populated area. The cost for collection in this area is less than in an area where homes are spaced more widely apart, like many other areas in the county. It is simple economics. It takes more gas and time to collect fewer homes in those areas. That being said, it is likely our costs will decrease once we have trash pickup exclusively for this area.

That being said, what are the options for trash pickup? Here are a few.

A local hauler that currently contracts with the county was contacted for a quote. Given our demographics, the quote was $15-$16 per month, including yard waste. For those who choose the solid waste option currently, that could be a savings of $10 per month. For those who do not, the savings would not be as dramatic, but we would have an additional service added for a little less than we pay now.

This price is predicated on continuing billing through the property tax bill. If we were billed directly, the price would be somewhat higher, but that would offer an option for some to provide proof of alternate disposal capabilities and be able to opt out.

While we could open the service to all haulers and allow everyone to contract with the service of their choice, there is an advantage to limiting the service to a single hauler. That reduces traffic in neighborhoods and wear and tear on roads.
Some have mentioned the “infamous” Duluth blue bags. The truth is, you pay for what you use. The bags are either $22.26 for 15 – 15 gallon bags or $33.92 for 20 – 32 gallon bags. All you pay is for the bags. Plus you still have recycling. If a family of 4 uses one 32 gallon bag a week that works out to just $7.35 a month. The smaller bags, perfect for smaller families, even less.

So there are real options on the table. The likelihood is there will be at least some savings. The only remaining question is what will the final plan be?

As always, please email us at if you have any questions about incorporation or suggestions for future blogs. You can also Follow Us On Facebook and Follow Us On Twitter. For more information about the city initiative, you can go to the Peachtree CornersYes website.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Peachtree Corners - City Facts - Presented By Rep. Tom Rice

Here are links to a presentation by our State Representative Tom Rice. It is in two parts. Tom discusses his role in the Peachtree Corners City initiative, debunks misconceptions and gives us the real facts about the charter and the city.

Presentation Part 1 and Part 2. Tom also provides additional information on his website.

It is critical that we all take the time to become fully informed before we go to the polls on November 8th. This is the most important decision we will ever make as a community!

As always, please e-mail us at if you have any questions about incorporation or suggestions for future blogs. You can also Follow Us On Facebook and Follow Us On Twitter. For more information about the city initiative, you can go to the Peachtree Corners web site.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Myths and Facts............ a rebuttal

Myth busters – a rebuttal
The Peachtree Corners Ballot Committee (the primary NO organization) has recently been distributing an article about the “Myths and Facts of Peachtree Corners”. Their article lists eleven “Myths and Facts” that they claim Peachtree Corners Yes (the primary YES organization) has been spreading as reasons to vote Yes on November 8th. The reality is that most of these “myths and facts” are simply straw man arguments that the Peachtree Corners Ballot Committee has made up on their own so they could knock down. Read below and note that the reality of each situation is in bold.

“The Myths and Facts about the City of Peachtree Corners”

In discussing the pros and cons of Peachtree Corners becoming a city, residents have given many reasons for and against becoming an incorporated city. But how many of these are not valid reasons for becoming a city?

Myth #1. “We will have more police protection.”
Not true. Fire and police protection will remain the responsibility of Gwinnett County, as they always have. Unless residents vote later to take responsibility for police protection, and vote themselves taxes 5 to 6 or more times the projected city rate of 1.0 mills, this will not change.
Additional Police protection has NEVER been promised as a result of incorporation. Existing levels of police protection are expected to continue.

Myth #2. “We can have Peachtree Corners as a mailing address.”
If you live in 30092, you can do that now. In fact the post office is in Peachtree Corners, Georgia,.
How is this a myth if you can already use Peachtree Corners for a mailing address??? The reality is that you can use any city you want for your address and as long as the zip code is correct the mail will get delivered correctly.

Myth 3. “I will vote for it because of the schools and the kids.
Becoming a city has nothing to do with schools or children. Gwinnett County will continue to provide public education, as they do in every city except Buford which has always had its own school system.
Changes to the schools has NEVER been promised or proposed as part of the cityhood initiative.

Myth #4. “More sidewalks.”

Not true. Roads and sidewalks will continue to be handled by Gwinnett County.
Again, improvements to roads and sidewalks has NEVER been promised or proposed as part of the cityhood initiative.

Myth #5. “It will keep the taxes down.”
Not true. Taxes will be raised not only for property taxes, but ad valorem on cars as well, plus franchise fees and a 2% tax on power bills, which we do not have now.
No promise has been made on taxes other than the Charter will ALLOW an increase of UP TO 1 mil. The reality is that franchise fees are already being paid by you to both governmental and corporate entities outside of Peachtree Corners. The only thing accurate in the above assertion is that you would pay for a 2% increase on your power bill – about $40 for a 3000 sq ft house that has an annual $2000 per year power bill. Dunwoody currently generates about $3.1M in franchise fees for a population of 46k. Peachtree Corners should be able to easily generate $2.0M to $2.5M in franchise fees with a population of 38k. Expenses for the new city are estimated at about $0.8M ($800k). Franchise fees alone should generate a significant surplus and as already stated YOU ARE ALREADY PAYING THESE FEES.

Myth #6. “It will keep out development and businesses we don’t want.”
This is nebulous and debatable. Zoning in place cannot change and current county zoning is totally adequate.
Current zoning decisions will be grandfathered in but once the new city is in place new zoning opportunities will be determined by the city. If you believe “current county zoning is adequate” then you must believe that development decisions over the last forty years that brought us the current state of Holcomb Bridge, Pleasant Hill, US 78, Beaver Ruin, Buford Highway, Peachtree Industrial (especially south of the split) and even parts of Peachtree Parkway were all wise, forward looking decisions. Ask yourself? Can we do better than this? Are you happy with the state of these commercial strips?

Myth #7.“It will raise our home values.”
Pure speculation. The economy, the home itself and location determine home prices.
The vast majority of real estate agents in our area believe this indeed will increase home values. These are people have worked in real estate for decades and know what customers are looking for. Common sense dictates that if an area is able to discourage undesirable development and encourage desirable development that people will pay more to live there. Have you ever seen an ad that said “cute Cape Cod located near a store that buys and sells gold”? Of course not because people don’t want to live next to one or near one. Zoning, Code Enforcement and Planning can help bring about higher quality development.
Think about it this way. On a $300k house just a ONE PERCENT increase in home value will generate a $3k increase to your net worth. Is paying 2% more on your power bill (about $40 per year) worth an extra $3k in net worth?

Myth #8. “Voting No is no option.
Of course it is.
Are you serious? Everyone knows that people have the option to vote No. This was not meant literally.

Myth #9. “Peachtree Corners will disappear if we are not a city.”
Of course not.
The reality is that trends over the last forty years, and especially the last ten, show that surrounding cities are aggressively annexing surrounding areas. This is not a scare tactic. This is reality. A recent research paper summarizing over 100 academic studies about why cities incorporate in the US over the last fifty years described neighboring cities views toward unincorporated territory (i.e. Peachtree Corners) as follows….
municipalities can be almost predatory in their stance toward neighboring unincorporated territories. they perceive adjoining land as part of their potential future economic base and thus, often seek to annex it. These municipalities are described as monopoly-like in their behavior.
This threat is real. Anyone who says it does not is fooling themselves. Fifty years of data from across the country cannot be refuted. If we do nothing it will happen eventually.

Myth #10. “Vacant buildings will fill up.”
Really. How would this happen?
No one has claimed vacant buildings would fill out. However, logic dictates that as zoning decisions and code enforcement improve our quality of life and by extension the financial viability of our area due to the improved stability brought by local control that companies would be more interested in locating to our area.

Myth #11. “We will be annexed into Norcross.”
Not unless a majority of residents vote to do this.
See above the response to Myth #9. The annexation might not happen next year or even in five years but studies done over the last fifty years about incorporation and annexation show that annexation is indeed inevitable at some point. To say otherwise is to refute massive amounts of data and research done across the country about situations just like ours.

Myth #12. “We will get away from Gwinnett County.”
Not true. Gwinnett County will continue to provide all services except planning and zoning, trash collection and code enforcement. County taxes will not go down/
No one ever said voting yes would do anything except the new city providing trash, zoning and code enforcement instead of the county. To say otherwise is simply not true. Now, let’s look at the facts.

Fact #1. “Taxes will go up.”

VoteYes supporters admit this. City taxes are zero now and can be raised. The tax on power bills is zero now, it will go to 2%. Franchise and busienss license fees can and will be raised. Ad valorem taxes on vehicles will be raised.
Incorrect. The charter simply allows for an increase UP TO 1 mil. No tax increase is promised and in fact franchise fees will provide more than enough to cover estimated expenses. As stated earlier you are ALREADY paying all the estimated franchise fees with the exception of a 2% increase in your power bill – about $40 for a 3000 sq ft house paying an annual $2000 power bill.

Fact #2. “Another layer of government will be added.”

What is another layer of government if not a mayor, city council and dozens of city employees
Totally false. The word “layer” implies an additional hoop you have to jump through to get something done. This is not like the corporate world where a senior manager is placed between a manger and a director in the company food chain. The government does not work like that. This is instead simply bringing services CLOSER to the end user (the tax payer).
The new city will not have dozens of employees. The feasibility study estimates just a handful of full time employees would be needed. Most services can easily be contracted out. Look at what Dunwoody and Johns Creek do. They are full service cities and have very few employees because services are contracted out.

Fact # 3. “We don’t need a city.”
We don’t need a city because Gwinnett County performs all the services the new city would perform, with no increase in taxes.
“We don’t need a city” is an opinion not a fact. The people will decide on November 8th is they want a city.

Become an informed voter. Read the facts, and ignore the myths.
We agree here. Become an informed voter. The reality is that for minimal cost, or possibly even at a net financial impact to your wallet, we can gain control of our destiny. Ask yourself? Is Gwinnett better off than it was twenty years ago? Am I satisfied with the zoning decisions and pro-growth strategy that has resulted in choking traffic, over developed and declining commercial strips? If so, then you should vote no. If you think you and your neighbors can do a better job than vote YES.

Why I Like the City of Norcross

This blog was prompted in part by a comment from Charles to the Town Hall Meeting article. He stated, in part that “…I am so used to hearing what is wrong with Norcross...” Actually, there is a whole lot that is right with Norcross.
I know we have all watched over the years as Norcross began to reinvent itself under the guidance of Miss Lillian and Mayor Bucky and all the others who have served on the city council and development authorities. The downtown area has been transformed from non-descript and run-down to a thriving business and restaurant district. Their parks have been improved and expanded. New housing has been added and new businesses are recruited to their city.
They have been tremendously successful and have transformed the City of Norcross into a vibrant and healthy community. How did they do that? In large part, by using two of the services that the City of Peachtree Corners will provide; Planning & Zoning and Code Compliance.
Because the City of Norcross has authority within its borders, it has the right to determine the best use of the land. This is done by developing a Master Plan. In Norcross, it is the Norcross 2030 Plan. I encourage you to check it out. It is an amazing vision of the future.
Appropriate and reasonable standards for maintenance are defined. Norcross has set out specific policies and standards for Code Compliance and has communicated these clearly to their citizens. They have the power and the resources to enforce these standards within their borders, but their goal is to work toward voluntary compliance. This combination of a plan and standards allows the city to create an ambiance that will attract appropriate development and new business as well as retain existing businesses and homeowners. Home prices do not just stabilize but increase.
Now Norcross is annexing an area to the east, along Mitchell Road to I-85. I was curious about the area and drove through one early morning before dawn on my way to work. I have to confess, I did not go far before I hit the lock button. It is not the most attractive of areas. You can see more details about this annexation in the Norcross Patch series on annexation.
Why would Norcross want to annex an area like this? Some City of Norcross residents are concerned about crime in the area. But if you look at the map that is included in this presentation, the city already encompasses this area, with arms reaching around it. If we hear of crime in this area, it is attributed to Norcross. This area is already perceived as part of the city because of its proximity to the city limits. But Norcross has no authority to improve it or to have an impact on the crime in the area. Why? Because it is outside of the borders of the city. An area does not have to be part of a city to have a negative impact on the city. Conversely, pulling a troubled area into the city limits allows these issues to be addressed.
Once this area is incorporated, Norcross can use Planning & Zoning and Code Compliance to bring this area up to standard. Gwinnett County and the CID’s use Code Compliance to decrease crime. Criminals are attracted to run down areas and areas become run down where criminals live. When code enforcement is used to clean up these areas, the criminals leave and the crime rates decrease. Planning and Zoning will set up appropriate land uses which will be applied as zoning changes are requested. Long story short, if the annexation is approved by the voters in November, these areas will be reclaimed and Norcross will be enhanced.
Their success story can be our success story. The City of Peachtree Corners will be able to reduce crime in the areas where there is a high crime rate. We will be able to improve the appearance of these areas over time. We can create a vision of our future and work together to implement that vision as a true community. We will be able to first stabilize and then begin to increase home values. And we will be able to attract new businesses to our city.
That is why it is important to Vote Yes on November 8. Not because we do not like Norcross, but because we can emulate the success of Norcross right here in Peachtree Corners!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Holy Cow! What Were They Thinking?

The debacle of the HOT lanes on I-285 is amazing. I heard on the news Sunday that there was a tremendous increase in traffic in the HOT lanes from 3,200 cars on Monday to 4,700 on Thursday, almost a 50% increase. Unfortunately, 50% of nothing is really nothing. And the bureaucratic spin continues. They are also going to do a study to see if the HOT lanes contributed to the extraordinarily backed up traffic last week. Like DUH?

Is it any wonder why many of us do not trust government? The Feds along with state bureaucrats came up with a plan without consulting us or considering the possible outcomes. And the governor states his hands are tied.
How is it that no one could see that charging the two passenger vehicles for what they had for free would cause a problem?

Here is where the problem truly lies. We have people with so little connection to us making decisions that they are made in such a way as to do more harm than good. The further away from us the decisions are made, the
less likely they will have a positive impact.

So at the Federal level, we have two Senators representing an entire state. They can have a bit of an impact as they are two among 50. We have a Representative who is much closer to us in terms of how many people he represents, but his voice is only one out of 435. Decisions made at this level (if they bother to decide) can be disastrous for those of us at the local level. And don’t even get me started on the unelected bureaucrats!

At the State level, it gets a little better. We are closer to our Senators and Congressmen. But the decisions are still made at the macro level and we still have an unelected bureaucracy to deal with. Case in point, I have been self-employed for many years. I took a “real” job last year and owed no taxes. In one quarter last year, I orgot to
file my GA Unemployment Tax (OK, so I goofed). I got a notice that I owed $40 in penalties, so I filed and paid. A few weeks later, the check was returned to me. No note, no nothing. I called and finally found someone to answer my question, “Why?” Turns out they can’t impose a fine if you don’t owe the money. So much for the State being “user

Then there is the County. Again, we get a little closer to home. I have found most county departments to be responsive to my requests. The decisions made are better because the decision makers are closer to us. But still, we have just one voice out of 5 on the Board of Commissioners. One voice representing over 200,000 people and growing. What happens when the one voice representing our needs is outvoted? Decisions are made that have a negative impact on us.

That is why a city is so important. We will be represented directly by our neighbors and friends. Folks who will be as impacted as we will be by the decisions they make. Seven voices all speaking for those of us who live in Peachtree Corners! Local government, not another layer of government.

When voters are upset with government, how easy is it to remove incumbents en masse? In the case of the Federal and State governments, impossible. At the county level, we in Peachtree Corners have the opportunity to remove a single Commissioner every six years. At the city level, in year two, Districts One and Three can each vote for their City Councilor and everyone votes for one at-large Councilor. There is a possibility of removing three Councilors! Two years later District Two gets to vote for their Councilor and we all get to vote for two at-large Councilors and the Mayor! It is possible, within a span of four years to replace the entire City Council.

That means that these people, once elected, really need to listen to us! If they don’t, well… I guess they won’t hold office for any length of time.

How many of us have spent an hour plus during rush hour trying to get to the County Board of Commissioners or Planning Commission meetings? It makes it difficult to participate actively if you hold down a job and care for a family. By having Council meetings in Peachtree Corners, it will be easier for us to participate in our own government. Even in rush hour traffic, we can get to anywhere in the city limits in 15 minutes or less.

So by voting Yes on November 8, we are voting for direct, local representation. We are voting for the ability to quickly remove those from office who do not represent us well. We are voting to have more access to our
government on those issues that matter most us: Planning and Zoning, Code Compliance and Solid Waste Disposal. Can you say "No brainer"?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Facts are Stubborn things


One of the biggest issues I hear people ask in the debate over whether to create a city of Peachtree Corners is why should we incorporate now. A regular line of argument from anti-city people is “what is the rush”?

When they are told that the threat of annexation from Norcross is one of the main drivers in the push to incorporate they discount the idea as fear mongering by the UPCCA. They claim that Norcross is not interested in any residential areas in Peachtree Corners but only in Tech Park. They claim that no one wants to annex Peachtree Corners and that there is no need to do much of anything because no one is ever going to annex us.

The soothing reassurances from the anti-city crowd reminds me of some B grade horror movie where the very nervous girlfriend (i.e. soon to be victim of someone with a mask and a chainsaw) is told not to worry about those strange sounds coming out of the woods nor to worry about her two friends who have been missing for hours. She is told those sounds are just her imagination playing tricks on her and that her friends are probably out taking a walk. Of course we all know how the story ends for the poor girlfriend who takes the bad advice despite her misgivings that were based on evidence of something bad about to happen.

Of course I am convinced that annexation is just a matter of time but I decided that it might be insightful to research why other cities have incorporated to see if my belief was supported by actual research and not just my assumptions and personal bias.

During my research I found a very insightful and interesting academic paper that was actually a summary of over 200 academic studies of the reasons for incorporation across the United States for the last 50 years.

This paper was quite lengthy (24 pages) and to analyze it in detail is beyond the scope of this blog plus probably beyond the scope of many people’s attention spans. But there were a few very interesting rationales given by the paper about why cities incorporate I wanted to share. I have highlighted the most poignant parts in red and have provided as much of the excerpts as I believe can stand without falling asleep.

Excerpts are in italic

To avoid annexation
Several new cities incorporate to prevent potential annexations to existing cities. Beche

(1963) notes that most new incorporations in Colorado in the 1960s were motivated by the threat of annexation. Mumphrey et al (1990) found that many incorporations are "defensive incorporations," created to stave off the threat of annexation. Mumphrey, et al, further note that incorporations set the stage for eventual incremental annexations as the city grows, and they find evidence that annexation and incorporation interact spatially at the state level. In the 1980s, no county experienced annexation without incorporation, according to the authors. The mapping suggested a highly regionalized pattern of this interaction.

"There is apparent overlap in the two urbanization processes," the authors conclude (Mumphrey, Wildgen, and Williams 1990, 17). Though they could not determine causation definitively, they found it reasonable to suggest that incorporation "is used as a political
prophylactic, or preemptive, to halt annexation" in many cases (Mumphrey, Wildgen, and Williams 1990, 17).

Some cities incorporate to avoid the higher property taxes associated with proposed annexation. Miller's (1981) analysis of several Lakewood Plan cities in Los Angeles
demonstrated that many new cities incorporated to avoid annexation attempts by the City of Los Angeles.

The primary purpose of these new cities was to limit property tax burden on homeowners and businesses, and limit the size of government bureaucracies and welfare programs.

However, Sokolow et al (1981) note that measures such as California's Proposition 13, which effectively freeze property tax levels, reduces this incentive for incorporation.

Liner and McGregor's (1996) research supports the theory that incorporations occur to avoid annexation. They suggest that municipalities can be almost predatory in their stance toward neighboring unincorporated territories. they perceive adjoining land as part of their potential future economic base and thus, often seek to annex it. These municipalities are described as monopoly-like in their behavior.

Thus, one reason communities incorporate is to avoid annexation to an existing city.

Communities may find annexation undesirable for many reasons, including anticipated tax increases or an anticipated loss of autonomy as the community is absorbed into a larger city.
Depending on the state laws involved, communities may perceive that it is easier to incorporate than win a political fight to defeat annexation.

To Increase or Decrease Service Levels
The most commonly noted scholarly explanation for new cities is service provision (e.g. Miller 1981, Stauber 1965.). In this line of thought, communities incorporate because they want
more services, such as more police, better roads, more libraries, etc. Conversely, communities may incorporate because they want fewer services (and the lower taxes associated with that
choice (Miller 1981)).

In short, residents choose to incorporate to provide service levels that

more closely fit the community's preferences. Gaining city status also may qualify a community for grants and funds from state or federal sources that were previously unavailable, grants which
can be used to increase services. This literature is often identified with public choice theory.

Tiebout whose emphasis on consumer-voter mobility as an indication of preference led to the popular phrase “voting with your feet.” Tiebout set about to describe a “market type” solution to
determine the level of expenditures local government should spend on public goods. Due to the constraints of fixed factors or resources (such as land or beach or space), local government can only offer a limited pattern of preferences. Assuming that consumers are mobile, knowledgeable,
unrestricted by employment, and have choices, a consumer-voter selects the community that offers the pattern of services and goods he/she desires. Thus, a large number of communities or incorporations are desirable and necessary. Consumer-voters move to communities that best expresses their bundle of services and these communities in turn, send their agents (leaders) to purchase the goods and services (policies) preferred by their residents.

To Stop Land Use Change

Some communities incorporate to control land use and growth, often to stop undesirable land use proposals or changes, in some cases land use change that may result in socioeconomic and/or racial differences. Fischel asserts that zoning vies with public education as the two local issues of greatest interest to voters.

In a study of incorporations since 1910, Fischel found that the dominant motive was land use control (Teaford 1979) (Fischel 2001) (Teaford 1979). A study of the incorporation of Wimberly, Texas supports the emphasis on growth management.

Despite vigorous opposition, the town eventually agreed to incorporate because they wanted to preserve town character, prevent excess signage, protect scenic ridge lines, and protect
waterways and community centers (Caldwell 2002).

One of the most striking thing about this exhaustive research paper was that the reasons given why cities have chosen to incorporate over the last 50 years are some of the exact same reasons supporters of incorporation Peachtree Corners supporters have stated – Zoning, Service Delivery, avoidance of annexation by a surrounding city.

I found the rationales and behavior that existing cities have for annexing surrounding area particularly powerful – “They suggest that municipalities can be almost predatory in their stance toward neighboring unincorporated territories. they perceive adjoining land as part of their potential future economic base and thus, often seek to annex it. These municipalities are described as monopoly-like in their behavior.”

I feel sympathy for those that moved to Peachtree Corners to specifically avoid living in a city. Unfortunately 50 years of research and annexation efforts currently underway by Norcross to annex residential areas to their south clearly show that it is just a matter of time before the residential areas of Peachtree Corners will be annexed. People’s emotions may be telling them that annexation will never happen but it truly is just a matter of time. I think a famous quote by John Adams sums up the dilemma faced by many opponents of incorporation.

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

John Adams, 'Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials,' December 1770
US diplomat & politician (1735 - 1826)

Many of the opponents of incorporation have shown a white hot passion to prevent a city of Peachtree Corners from happening. They have very strong convictions for why they want to stop this effort and one of their main arguments is that there is no need to incorporate because annexation will never happen. They have an almost religious fervor to their argument despite historical data and trends that show annexation will ultimately happen.

The residents of Peachtree Corners have a choice. We can continue to keep our head in the sand and our fingers in our ears and believe the anti-city crowd who claims the threat of annexation (and the 6.4 Mil rate that comes with it) is just a scare tactic by the UPCCA or we can accept that 50 years of data and current annexation efforts by Norcross of areas to their south clearly show that if we do not incorporate (along with the 1.0 Mil rate that comes with it) we WILL be annexed.

On November 8th make a decision based on facts and data and not one based on emotion

Top Eleven Reasons to vote No.... and a rebuttal to each


Over the last couple of weeks I've been following the ongoing discussion about cityhood from afar as I enjoyed some family time at the beach. As I read comments against incorporation both here on the Patch and at other websites one of the interesting things I've noticed is that many of the same anti-city arguments are brought up again and again by different people but with long periods of time (many days and sometimes weeks) separating the repetition of the comment.

As a result the discussion about incorporation often seems to just go around and around discussing the same things over and over again with minimal new topics and certainly a lack of facts and data to back up assertions.

In some cases the comments end up even going off on a tangent that honestly are often irrelevant and make absolutely no sense to me (i.e. if we incorporate we will end up having to pay for Berkeley Lake's dam repair). So, I thought it might be useful as we are now less than three months from the big vote on November 8th that we revisit all the anti-city arguments all at once so that we can then move forward into some new and interesting topics or at a minimum press the "refresh" button on some of these topics and possibly discuss in deeper detail by providing some new facts and information.

So, without further ado here are my top 11 "Reasons to vote No" that I have heard and read in the last few months......

1. Won’t incorporating create an “additional” layer of government and bureaucracy that citizens have to deal with?

Creating a city will not “add” an additional layer of government. Unlike the military or the business world, governments don’t report to each other in a hierarchical fashion. For example, when is the last time you saw the Governor of Georgia contact the President to request permission to do most anything? The Governor works for Georgia and not the President. So, just as the Governor does not work for the President at a local level a City Council does not work for the County Commission. As long as the City Council’s decision does not violate some state law then what they decide is final. The reality is that having a City government actually brings government closer to the customer (i.e. the tax payer) instead of creating an “additional” layer of government.

2. Everyone knows that once a government is in place that it will just grow and grow and grow. What assurances are there that the same thing won’t happen to a city of Peachtree Corners?

The city charter prevents any changes to the millage rate or to services provided unless approved by a referendum of the citizens. The City Council would be unable to arbitrarily increase taxes or add services. The citizens have control over what, if anything, can be added. Now I know a LOT of comments have been made by people who have combed through the proposed charter looking for secret back door ways to tax the citizens into oblivion. I have read the charter and I just don't see those same metaphorical "black helicopters" circling my house at night waiting to scoop me up and drag me away to a reeducation camp where I can be taxed to death by hidden taxes and fees in the charter. However, I don't claim to be an expert on legislative documents but I know there is another blog on the Patch that is going through the charter in great detail and I strongly recommend everyone read these informative articles to get a true understanding of what is in the charter.

3. I am pleased with the level and quality of services provided by Gwinnett County. Why would we want to change that?

The only changes to the existing services being provided by Gwinnett County would be trash, code enforcement and zoning. All other services (i.e. Police, Fire, Education) would continue to come from Gwinnett County. The reason to consider change is that the three services being proposed for Peachtree Corners could more effectively be run at a more local level. Gwinnett County has over 800k persons while Peachtree Corners has about 40k. A local zoning board and a local code enforcement department could focus solely on our area. Just compare the landscaping maintenace on Peachtree Parkway versus Buford Highway to see what is possible when their is local engagement by involved citizens and businesses. The potential is there for all of Peachtree Corners to have that level of support and maintenance if we incorporate. Additionally, if we became a city we would also have an opportunity to enter into a new trash contract that could potentially save each household $100 off what they are currently paying with the county wide trash program.

4. If we incorporate we will be “seceding” from Norcross. Why would we want to do that?

The idea of Peachtree Corners was born in the late 1960s and has been developing a separate identity ever sense. Peachtree Corners is not seceding from Norcross because we have never been part of Norcross. Many citizens in Peachtree Corners have Norcross addresses and have attended Norcross High School but there are also many citizens that have Duluth addresses and are zoned for Duluth schools. I have lived in this area for over 10 years and have never thought of myself as either a citizen of Norcross, Duluth or Berkeley Lake for that matter. In my mind those were nearby towns that I would visit for shopping or a nice dinner.

5. Isn’t incorporating simply an attempt to wall off ourselves from areas and groups that are different?

The demographics of the proposed city are quite diverse. The 2010 census indicated that the minority population of Peachtree Corners will be in the 40% range. When the boundaries of the city were being drawn great attention was given to ensure that no complications with the Voting Rights Act would result. The demographics of the proposed city and the effort to satisfy the Voting Rights Act are not reflective of an effort to segregate.

6. I like the schools that my kids go to. Won’t incorporating cause there to be a massive redistricting for the schools?

The creation of a city of Peachtree Corners would have absolutely no impact on school zoning. The city would only have three services (zoning, code enforcement and trash). Schools would continue to fall under the purview of the Gwinnett County School Board.

7. I hate taxes and am strongly opposed to any tax increase. Why would I ever vote to add new taxes?

The financial analysis provided by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia estimated that the new city taxes of 1.0 millage rate would cost a homeowner approximately $40 per $100k of property value. Current estimates for savings on a revised trash plan for Peachtree Corners estimate that the average homeowner could save $100. For a homeowner with a house valued at $250k this is a financial wash. Their overall tax bill would not change. For homes valued under $250k the homeowner could possibly realize a net tax decrease. On a personal note I am one of the biggest fiscal conservatives you will ever meet. I hate waste at any level whether it be personal or with my tax dollars. I believe in a balanced federal budget every year and the total elimination of the national debt. That being said some tax expenditures are good investments and to reflexively reject all taxes as bad and evil seems very, very short sighted to me.

8. Isn’t this incorporation movement simply a power grab by a small group of long time UPCCA members who have been trying to create a city for years?

The UPCCA is made up totally of volunteers who devote their time to the betterment of our area. Most have successful careers in the private sector. The new city would have a very limited number of full time positions and most of those would not pay anywhere near what someone in a successful private sector job would make. It seems illogical that someone would spend years to create a city just so they could take a lower paying job with the new city.

9. If we want to live in a city why wouldn’t we just try to get annexed by a surrounding city such as Norcross instead of creating a new one?

The millage rate for Peachtree Corners would be 1.0. Currently Norcross has a millage rate of 6.4. Being annexed by Norcross would result in much higher taxes than incorporating our own city.

10. Several new cities have been created in recent years in our area. Their spending has grown and grown. Why would we want to incorporate and have the same thing happen to us?

Analysis of the budgets of the new cities created in the last few years show spending that has either been flat or grown at a rate significantly below the growth rate of their population which means that spending per capita has actually declined. Even though government spending has indeed grown greatly in many parts of the country and at many different levels of government we have examples right nearby that show that spending can be contained and actually decreased on a per capita basis when the elected leadership is responsive to the desires of the population. Government that is local and closer to the citizens will be more responsive than a government that is separated by both distance and size from its constituents.

11. I have been happy with the leadership from the County Board of Commissioners. Why would I want to replace their leadership with a City Council?

The previous Board of Commissioners had two members either resign or finish their term under indictment. While a new Board has taken office recently and I truly hope they end up restoring our confidence in them, there is no guarantee that its stewardship of our resources or their ethical behavior will be an improvement over the prior board. As one famous American once said "Hope is not a strategy." Additionally, with over 800,000 citizens and only five board members it is increasingly difficult for a board member to be responsive to the needs of its citizens. There are some states that have fewer citizens than Gwinnett and they have full blown legislatures with dozens and dozens if not hundreds of members while we only have five commissioners. How accessible can a person be when they have 200,000 constituents (there are actually only four districts in Gwinnett with the Chairperson being elected county wide). With only 40,000 residents to serve in Peachtree Corners, board members would be much more accessible and also much more accountable than the current setup we have with the Board of Commissioners.

So, there you have it. The Top 11 reasons to vote "No" on November 8th and my responses. I am sure I missed some good ones so please feel free to post any relevant reasons why we should not incorporate so we can discuss and debate.

On a side note start looking for information online about an upcoming Town Hall that will be held to discuss incorporating a city of Peachtree Corners.

Political Planets are aligned to allow for incorporation.........but for how long

I’d like to preface this article with a disclaimer that my intent is be neither pro-Democrat or pro-Republican in the point I will be trying to make but instead lay out an argument for city incorporation by showing how historical voting trends and political party behavior could impact our options down the road if we choose not to incorporate this November.
Many of you who have lived in Gwinnett County for a long time, or Georgia for that matter, can remember when winning the Democratic primary basically assured victory in the General Election as the GOP was practically non-existent except in parts of the far North Georgia mountains and a few Atlanta suburbs populated mainly by recent transplants. This condition ceased applying at a Presidential level in Georgia as early as 1964 but at a local level it continued in many rural areas until the mid 1990s and in some cases even early into this century. I can remember voting for the first time in 1988 in Walton County and there were maybe one or two local contests with GOP opposition at all even though that county voted overwhelmingly for Reagan that year.
In Gwinnett County the GOP has been ascendant at the local level at least since the early 1980s (that is as far back as I could find any local detailed data). For at least the last 30 years Gwinnett has been a key piece of the GOP “donut,” around the heavily Democratic city of Atlanta, that has propelled the GOP to victory in an increasing number of state wide races. However, over the last 20+ years (since 1988) the Democratic share of the Gwinnett electorate has grown enormously even as the GOP gained more and more control at the state level.
In the chart below you can see the details of this 20 year trend (1988 – 2008). I have also included a forecast for 2012 and 2016 based on the previous 20 year historical trend using a Compound Average Growth Rate (CAGR). This tool has some shortcomings as it simply extrapolates existing trends which does not take into account future changes or changes that possibly happened in the last five years that may have been smoothed out somewhat by the longer timeline. For example, you can see from 2004 to 2008 that the number of GOP voters actually declined while the number of Democratic voters surged greatly. This potential trend (decreasing GOP voters) for 2012 does not really show up in the 2012 forecast as the model is forecasting based on 20 years of data.

GOP % of Dem % of Other % of
Total Total Total Total Total Total Total
1988 66,372 75.47% 20,948 23.82% 620 0.71% 87,940
1992 81,822 54.34% 44,253 29.39% 24,501 16.27% 150,576
1996 96,610 59.29% 53,819 33.03% 12,516 7.68% 162,945
2000 111,919 63.62% 57,975 32.96% 6,024 3.42% 175,918
2004 160,445 65.71% 81,708 33.46% 2,026 0.83% 244,179
2008 158,746 54.56% 129,025 44.35% 3,167 1.09% 290,938
2012 Fcst 188,993 49.87% 185,601 48.97% 4,388 1.16% 378,983
2016 Fcst 225,004 45.18% 266,985 53.60% 6,081 1.22% 498,069

CAGR 19% 44% 39% 27%

As you can see in the table, if current trends hold, the Democratic Party stands an excellent chance of reaching parity within Gwinnett County in the 2012 election and by 2016 the Democrats could have a significant numerical majority.
Many of you may be asking “how is this relevant to whether Peachtree Corners should become a city”? The relevance is that there is currently a window of opportunity where we, the citizens of Peachtree Corners, will get to choose whether to incorporate. This window exists because all the political planets (The Governor, the General Assembly, the Gwinnett Delegation to the General Assembly) are all in support of allowing us to vote on incorporation. Once the Democratic Party becomes the dominant party in Gwinnett (and voting trends indicate that is only a matter of time) there is a strong possibility that that window of opportunity will close.
This possibility is based on the fact that historically (or for at least the last 35 years) the Democratic Party in Georgia has been opposed to allowing new cities to incorporate. Sandy Springs first began an incorporation effort in the mid 1970s and it was not until 2005 that they were able to finally form a city. Dunwoody began an incorporation movement in the 2000s and they were able to incorporate in 2008. Johns Creek and Milton also began similar efforts around the same time. What was the change, specifically for Sandy Springs, that happened that suddenly cleared away a 30-year opposition to incorporation in the General Assembly? The change was that the GOP gained control of the General Assembly after the 2004 elections in addition to the Governor’s mansion which they had gained in 2002 with the election of Sonny Perdue. With both the General Assembly and the Governor’s mansion the Republicans were able to move legislation through allowing for a vote on incorporating.
The Democratic opposition was primarily based on economics. By incorporating, the new cities would be depriving the remaining unincorporated areas, in their respective counties, of tax income that would now be going to these new cities. Since the incorporating areas tended to be higher income areas the result was that the remaining unincorporated areas would have a lower average income and property value to tax for services. To maintain the same level of services would almost certainly require a tax increase of some sort. In both cases the unincorporated areas tended to be Democratic while the areas desiring to be incorporated were primarily Republican.
The current situation in Gwinnett is somewhat different from the those in DeKalb and Fulton as there is support from current Gwinnett County leadership (currently all five commissioners are Republican) for the Peachtree Corners incorporation movement. But considering the changing voting patterns in Presidential elections over the last 20 years it is just a matter of time until the Board of Commissioners adds one, two and eventually possibly a third Democrat which would give the Democratic Party a majority on the Board of Commissioners.
Some may ask “what does it matter if Gwinnett becomes majority Democrat if the General Assembly is still controlled by the GOP and hence would still be open to allowing an incorporation vote down the road.” The relevance is that the same voting trends in Gwinnett are also occurring at the state level as well. The current makeup of the General Assembly (very heavily GOP) masks the fact that in the 2008 election the Democrats only lost the state by five percentage points and there are many reports that indicate the Obama election team has identified Georgia as a “battleground” state for 2012. This is because the current demographic population shifts underway in the state heavily favor the Democratic Party. This trend has not yet showed up in the makeup of the General Assembly but there is no doubt, based on historical voting patterns, that the Democratic Party will slowly but surely begin to gain back seats and quite possibly take back at least some part of the General Assembly in the next 10 years. Once this occurs the historical data indicates that the window of opportunity for Peachtree Corners to incorporate will probably be closed.
The point of this article is not to disparage the Democratic Party or praise the Republican Party or vice versa. The point is to show that the citizens of Peachtree Corners, both Democratic and Republican, have what I believe, is a limited window of opportunity in which to incorporate. If history is any guide, once the Democratic Party becomes the majority in Gwinnett and eventually the General Assembly, it is highly unlikely that we will have this opportunity again.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Peachtree Corners – City Charter – City Council

The Mayor and City Council will be the heart of our city government. They will make the policy and spending decisions that will determine how Peachtree Corners functions. It is important to understand their responsibilities so that when we elect our representatives, we can choose wisely.

First, the Charter provides for six city council members and a mayor. Three of the city council members will represent our three districts as shown on our proposed city map. The remaining three members will be “at-large”, meaning they will represent all of our citizens.

Terms will be for four years and will overlap. In the initial election to be held on March 6th, three council members will be elected for an initial term of two years. These positions will represent Districts 1 and 3 as well as one at-large position. After that, all terms will be four years.

Elections will be non-partisan. This means that no one has to declare whether they are a Republican or Democrat. Most important, the City does not have to pay for additional elections for party primaries and party run offs.

The Mayor and Council members are required to be residents of Peachtree Corners for at least one year prior to the election and must maintain their residence in Peachtree Corners for their term of office.
All positions on the Council are part-time. The Mayor receives $9,000 and the Council members $8,000 per year. These salaries were determined by comparison to Cities of similar populations. Because these are elected positions, they are not generally eligible for benefits or pensions. For example, Norcross does not pay benefits or pensions to their Mayor and City Council.

The mayor will serve in a leadership role, presiding over council meetings and serving as spokesperson. The Mayor’s role is defined in Section 2.8. Otherwise, the mayor will vote with and serve on the council with the same rights as other members. That means there will be seven equal votes, with no extraordinary authority vested in a single individual.

Any member who has a financial interest in a matter being voted on by the Council must abstain from voting on that issue. Section 2.14 “Conflicts of interest; holding other offices.” is completely devoted to ethics of those who will make up our government.

Currently, we are represented at the county level by a single person. Lynette Howard is a great asset for us, but she has only one vote out of five. A single vote for over 200,000 citizens! In contrast, the city will have about 38,000 citizens. That works out to about 6,000 per city council person. That gives all of us in Peachtree Corners more representation that is close to home and responsive to us.

We will have local control, representatives who share our values and will be as impacted by their decisions as we will be, a government that prevents power from residing with a single individual, and strict ethical standards for our officials. We, the people of Peachtree Corners, will have the control of and responsibility for our own destiny.

Please e-mail us at if you have any questions about incorporation or suggestions for future blogs. You can also Follow Us On Facebook and Follow Us On Twitter. For more information about the city initiative, you can go to the Peachtree Corners web site.

Peachtree Corners – City Charter – Charter Origins

What is a city charter? Basically, a charter legally defines a city. It is a document that states what the city can do, how it is governed, how elections are held, how taxes are assessed and collected, and how the city can finance operations Here is how we developed the charter for Peachtree Corners.

When the decision was made to incorporate, a community based charter team was formed. At first, they attempted to create a charter from scratch, defining the city narrowly, based on the chosen services. This would have created a new form of government, i.e. a “City Lite.” Our local legislators attempted to introduce this concept and it was rejected. Then they tried another approach. They adopted the Georgia Municipal Association’s (GMA) model charter as the basis for the new city charter and legally modified it to “limit” the powers of the new city. This approach was successful and the legislation was approved. We will discuss the GMA model charter first then discuss how our city charter evolved from that.

The GMA model city charter sets out the format and content for both new charters and amendments to existing charters in the State of Georgia. Common features of municipal charters include: “(1) Provisions governing incorporation, boundaries and powers; (2) Provisions governing the structure and form of the government; (3) Administrative organization and function ;(4) Judicial powers and procedures; (5) Election procedures and regulations;(6) Financial procedures; and(7) General provisions.” (page 9).

A key concept is the difference between powers and services. Think of a power as an action the city is authorized to perform. These actions are limited by the services we provide. As an example, one “power” that generated some controversy at a recent town hall meeting was the provision for a municipal court and the possibility of providing a jail. We can only implement a municipal court for the service we will provide - code compliance. Any other use of a municipal court, including providing a jail, would not be authorized as part of the services we will provide. Our powers are limited by the services we can provide under our charter.

The model charter that was adopted for the City of Peachtree Corners includes all possible powers any city in the State of Georgia can exercise. But there was a major change made to our charter. That was the limit set on the services the city can provide. If you go to page 5 of our charter, section 1.12(b) defines the only services the city can provide at this time. “(b) Except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, the city shall exercise the powers enumerated in subsection (a) of this section only for the purposes of planning and zoning, code adoption and enforcement, and solid waste management services and those items directly related to the provision of such services and for the general administration of the city in providing such services.”

We are limited by law to these services. Is there a provision to add services? Yes. Section 1.12( c ) states that “the city council shall pass a resolution specifically stating the services sought to be offered by the city and shall submit the approval of such resolution for ratification by the electors of the city in a referendum.” The city council can pass a resolution, but the service can only be added if voters approve.

These checks and balances are unique in the State. No other City must ask the people to vote to add services. It allows us to choose the services the city provides. Because all powers are included, decisions to add services can be made locally without having to go back to the legislature to amend the charter—except to increase the millage rate cap. That must go back to the legislature to amend the charter.

So, the charter that was adopted is essentially the same charter used by all Georgia cities. The powers the city can exercise are the same as well. But these powers can only be exercised in the performance of the services specified in our charter. The key point is that we the people of the City of Peachtree Corners have the power to determine the services offered. No service can be added unless and until we come together, Citizens and City Council, and choose together to add it.

Our next blog will be about the City Council; positions, elections and responsibilities. As always, please e-mail us at if you have any questions about incorporation or suggestions for future blogs. You can also Follow Us On Facebook and Follow Us On Twitter. For more information about the city initiative, you can go to the Peachtree Corners web site.

Peachtree Corners – City Charter – Taxes and Fees

A topic of great interest to all is taxes and franchise fees. The city charter allows the city to collect both. Together, they will make up the operating revenues for the city.

The most well know tax a city assesses is the ad valorem tax on property. Section 1.12.a (27) of the city charter specifies the power to “levy and provide for the assessment, valuation, revaluation, and collection of taxes on all property subject to taxation subject to a maximum of 1 mill”. Property includes both real estate and motor vehicles. All Gwinnett County cities, except for Braselton and Rest Haven, collect taxes on motor vehicles.

The millage rates for the cities around us are: Norcross – 6.424; Duluth – 5.991; and Berkeley Lake – 5.386. Berkeley Lake just raised its rate in order to cover the costs of repairing the damage done to the lake by the 2009 flooding. These rates far exceed the maximum rate that will be charged by the city of Peachtree Corners.

As has been mentioned before, 1 mill translates to $40 annually per $100,000 of assessed value of property. Note that the charter states that the rate is limited to a maximum of 1 mill. The city council has the authority to set the millage rate up to the maximum. The city council also determines how taxes can be paid, either in a lump sum or installments and when the taxes are due.

What would happen if a service was approved by the voters that required more revenue than that collected at 1 mill? The charter would have to be revised by the state legislature. Just another check to ensure that the services provided and taxes collected are controlled by the citizens of Peachtree Corners themselves.

Section 1.12.a (21) governs public utilities and services. Franchise fees are charged by utility companies as part of the franchise agreement with a municipality. This agreement spells out how and where these utilities can use the public right of way. Each time you pay your cable, phone, electric or natural gas bill, you are paying a franchise fee as a part of that bill. For residents of unincorporated Gwinnett County, only the fees charged by the cable companies are returned to the county. All other fees collected are pooled by the utility and paid out to other municipalities. Going forward, these fees collected from Peachtree Corners will be paid directly to the city.

There is no difference between the fees charged for unincorporated versus incorporated areas of the county on your telephone and cable bills. So the only difference you may see on these bills may be a designation that it is a Peachtree Corners franchise fee. There is a differential on your electric bill. The unincorporated rate is currently 1.0801%. The rate for incorporated (inside the city limits) is 2.9109%. So you will see a small increase in your electric bill.

The bottom line is there will be some costs to property owners and service consumers to provide city services. These costs will be partially offset by the savings on trash pickup. If the city initiative does not pass in November, there is a high probability that parts of Peachtree Corners will be annexed into neighboring cities. If you are annexed, the net cost will be much higher than what the cost will be if we incorporate.

Please visit our new Peachtree Corners web site There is a great deal of city information there with more to be added.

Also, mark your calendars for August 29th at 7:30 PM. We will be holding a Town Hall meeting at the Peachtree Corners Baptist Church. This is located at the intersection of Peachtree Corners Circle and West Jones Bridge Road, right across the street from the Robert D. Fowler Family YMCA.

In our next blog we will discuss the origins of the city charter. Please e-mail us at with questions and suggestions for future blog topics.

Peachtree Corners - City Charter - Powers and Services

This blog begins a series describing and explaining the provisions of our city charter. Essentially, the charter provides the foundation and structure for our government. In this blog, we will explore how the charter defines the legal powers of the city and the services those powers allow the city to provide.
In future blogs, we will explore other sections of the charter. The first paragraph of the charter summarizes this key concept of powers and services.

Section 1.12 (a) defines the comprehensive powers of the city government. These powers define what the city of Peachtree Corners is authorized to do in the provision of services. The listing of powers includes animal control, appropriations and expenditures, fire regulations, health and sanitation among many others. These are standard and expected powers for any city. In 1999, Berkeley Lake’s charter was revised. You can see that the powers are very similar to those authorized for Peachtree Corners.

The key difference between us and any other city is in Section 1.12 (b) of our charter. This section spells out the specific services the city will provide: Planning and Zoning, Code Enforcement and Solid Waste Services. The charter specifically states that the comprehensive list of powers can only be exercised in the provision of these three services. If a power is not required for the provision of these services, the power is authorized but cannot be exercised.

Because we have chosen to limit the services we can provide by charter, we refer to Peachtree Corners as a “limited services city” or a “city lite.” But from the point of view of authorized powers, we are similar to other cities.

What if in the future citizens want to add services to the city? The charter was written specifically to allow the provision of additional services. There is a two-step process to add a service.

First, the city council must pass a resolution stating the specific services to be provided. Then, the resolution must be ratified in a referendum by the citizens of the city. In other words, the council proposes and the voters approve or disapprove the proposal. If the referendum is approved, the city is authorized to provide this service. If the referendum is defeated, the resolution is immediately null and void.

This gives remarkable control of city services to the citizens of Peachtree Corners. It ensures that no service can arbitrarily be added by a simple vote of the city council. It also allows Peachtree Corners to amend the city charter without having to return to the legislative process.

So while the services provided by the city are limited, there is an ability to provide additional services if we chose. However, the process provides checks and balances to ensure that the services provided are those desired by both the city council and a majority of the citizens of Peachtree Corners.

In the next blog, we will discuss taxes and the city charter. Please e-mail us at with any questions or ideas for future blogs. Or you may use the Comment Box below to post questions or remarks.

Peachtree Corners – City Borders and Voting Districts

A frequently asked question is “How did you determine the city borders?” Especially as the city map shows borders well beyond the traditional “Paul Duke’s” Peachtree Corners.

There were several factors involved in setting the borders. The starting point was the original foot print of Peachtree Corners. The next factor was the location of the Peachtree Corners Overlay District.

As we mentioned in our last blog, the overlay was created “to provide enhanced aesthetic design for non-residential projects.” The overlay boundaries were drawn to include those non-residential properties located within unincorporated Gwinnett County that are close enough in proximity to the center of Peachtree Corners to impact property values and quality of life. The overlay also protects the property value of neighboring non-residential properties by ensuring uniform maintenance and development standards.

When the work began on the charter, setting the city boundaries was part of that task. There was a great amount of research done to ensure our boundaries would be legal. The first place to check was with county officials. The response from the County was essentially that since 2007, both the overlay and the original area were considered Peachtree Corners. Notice on the linked maps, how close the city boundaries are to the overlay boundaries set in 2007. The next step was to contact our Representative Tom Rice, who guided us through the process with the State. His feedback from the State officials familiar with developing boundaries was to round out the overlay borders to the nearest arterial transportation route or contiguous incorporated area, rather than leaving a small strip of unincorporated Gwinnett between Cities. This included extending our boundaries along Winters Chapel Road and over to Buford Highway along both sides of Norcross.

The final factor influencing our boundaries was the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits states from imposing any "voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure ... to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” The City must receive clearance from the US Department of Justice for compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the referendum.

We consulted with the State Attorney General’s Office and asked if pulling back from the overlay could be the kind of event that the DOJ might identify as having an impact on someone’s right to vote for the candidate of their choice. The area referenced was City Voting District 1, which has a higher African American population. The answer was yes, that is exactly the kind of thing that the DOJ would be concerned about. In other words, if we pulled back from the overlay district, it could appear that we were excluding this area in order to reduce the population of African Americans in the City. We also requested the State’s Reapportionment Office to draw the City Council districts so that they met the requirements of the Act.

As you can see, setting the city boundaries was a long and difficult process. But extraordinary research by the team into the proper way to do this ensures that the city of Peachtree Corners will be a well-balanced, diverse and vibrant community.

In our next blog, we will begin a series of blogs on the City Charter. Please email us at with any questions about city issues or suggestions for future blogs.

Peachtree Corners - City Services - Planning & Zoning

The most important service the city will provide is Planning & Zoning. Almost everyone is familiar with the concept of zoning. The zoning categories determine the permissible uses for a parcel of land. In general, the categories are residential, commercial (retail and restaurants), office and manufacturing/industrial. Even within these categories, properties can be restricted as to the specific type of use. The restriction is generally because of the nature of the surrounding properties. For example, a commercial property’s general zoning classification allows a gas station. But the specific zoning for that property could exclude the gas station while allowing other retail because the area around or close to the property is residential. Gwinnett County has a zoning FAQ with more information about zoning.

Zoning changes are usually requested when a property owner wants to use the land for something that is currently not permissible under the current zoning requirements for that property. We generally become aware of zoning when someone requests a change to the current zoning of a property nearby. We either see the yellow sign on the property or receive a letter in the mail. Currently, zoning changes in our community are approved by the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners. We only have one representative on the Board. The remaining decision makers have no stake in Peachtree Corners and decisions may be made that negatively impact our community.

Planning is somewhat less familiar to most citizens but critically important in assuring a community has balance between areas where people “work, live, and play.” Planning also involves determining the best direction for economic development to assure our balanced community has a diversified tax base. As rezoning requests are made, the decision on whether to approve a change is based on how the request fits into the direction for the overall area. Gwinnett County has the 2030 Unified Plan. Once Peachtree Corners becomes a city, we will also have a “Master Plan” tailored to our vision of the future of our community.

One important concept in planning and zoning is an “Overlay District”. The goal of an overlay district is “to provide enhanced aesthetic design for non-residential projects through the use of architectural design standards, increased landscaping, signage controls and streetscape design…” This description is from the resolution creating the Peachtree Corners Overlay District approved by the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners in March, 2007. The district requires the implementation of a higher, consistent standard for exterior appearance that more closely meets our needs. This does not guarantee that a variance from these standards would not be granted by the county.

By controlling Planning & Zoning, we will be able to develop our own Master Plan and determine the appropriate uses for land within our borders. As changes in zoning are requested, we will have a mayor and 6 council members who have the same stake in the decisions as the citizens of Peachtree Corners.

In our next blog, we will discuss how the Overlay District had a role in determining our borders. Please e-mail us at with any questions about city issues or suggestions for future blogs.

Peachtree Corners – City Services - Code Compliance

One of the most frequently asked questions at the Peachtree Corners Festival was “What is Code Compliance?” A simple definition would be enforcement of a common, minimum level of property maintenance. But it is really much more than that. It is part of the core services that impact our quality of life, community appearance, and property values.

All municipalities have a set of codes that define the maintenance requirements and standards for construction and zoning. Gwinnett County has a Property Maintenance Ordinance that covers items such as fences, exterior building maintenance, weeds and overgrown lawns. These codes specify a minimum standard and are fairly generic, unlike HOA covenants. For example, your HOA may specify the colors you are allowed to paint your home. The municipal code might only specify that the paint on your home should be maintained properly with no peeling or excessive fading.

Code Compliance is the enforcement of these codes. Violations are generally noted through routine inspections. In some cases, homeowners or neighboring businesses may report a violation. This would be especially true when foreclosed property in your neighborhood is not being maintained or if a business has been abandoned and neglected. Poorly maintained property impacts all of us. It detracts from the appearance of our community and depreciates our property values. The impact on property values is why we chose Code Compliance as one of our services.

Gwinnett County maintains a Quality of Life Unit dedicated to maintaining standards. Community Improvement Districts (CID’s) also use Code Compliance to improve the overall appearance of their communities. By enforcing the codes, they also reduce crime in the area. Criminals do not want to live or “work” in areas where there is active enforcement.

There are additional benefits of having Code Compliance handled by our new city, rather than by the county. The first is our ability to determine our own standards. What works overall for the county may not be suitable for Peachtree Corners.

We will have the benefit of a smaller area to be serviced, allowing a more timely response to issues impacting our neighborhoods. We will also be able to focus on areas that currently have higher levels of criminal activity. Hopefully, with that focus, we can help reduce the crime rates.

Overall, we already experience the benefits of Code Compliance and Enforcement. By providing this service through the city we enhance those benefits. Code Compliance is not designed to emulate or replace the more stringent standards maintained by HOA’s. Rather, it is a means to maintain the entire city at a basic, common standard.

In our next blog, we will discuss Planning & Zoning. If you have had any experiences with zoning changes that you would like to share or if you have any questions or issues you would like to see addressed in future blogs, please contact us at

Peachtree Corners – City Services and City Charter

In Georgia, a city is required to provide a minimum of three municipal services. There are no requirements regarding which three services must be provided. As we have discussed, Peachtree Corners will provide three quality of life services: Planning & Zoning, Code Compliance and Waste Disposal.

These services were chosen because they have the most positive impact on our property values and community appearance. They are also among the most cost effective to provide.

Rather than adding another “layer” of government, the city will be solely responsible for only these services. We will continue to rely upon Gwinnett County for all other government services. That means we can deal directly with our own city representatives for our three chosen services rather than trying to find someone in Lawrenceville to help us!

While we have limited the services we are offering, our City Charter allows the city flexibility if citizens in the future decide they want to change or add more services.

The City Council will have the ability to pass a resolution identifying the additional service(s) to be provided from those listed in the charter. If the vote is in favor of the service, that service will be implemented. If the vote is against, the resolution will be null and void.

By providing the ability to amend our charter, we will have the ability to determine the scope of government we desire. Without this provision, we would be required to petition the Georgia General Assembly for permission to add these services. Most Cities must ask the legislature for approval to amend their Charter resulting in citizens from all over Georgia having input into local City business.

We will be discussing Code Compliance in our next blog. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions for blog topics, please e-mail us at

Peachtree Corners - City Next Steps

Now that Governor Deal has signed the legislation authorizing the referendum on the creation of the city of Peachtree Corners, what are the next steps?

First, our charter will be reviewed by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to ensure it is in compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Once the Georgia Attorney General submits the charter for approval, the DOJ has 60 days for this review. They can extend the review process by an additional 60 days after that. The charter team worked closely with attorneys and other legal experts to craft the charter specifically to meet the requirements of this Act. We are confident of a positive outcome.

Next, the referendum will be on the ballot in the general election on November 8th of this year. Only registered Peachtree Corners voters are eligible to cast ballots. If you are not currently registered, you must register by October 11 in order to participate in the referendum. You can go to Gwinnett County Elections for information on how to register.

A simple majority of the votes cast (50 percent + plus 1 vote) will determine if the referendum passes. Once it passes, there are additional steps required before the city takes on the responsibility of the three quality of life services we will provide: Planning & Zoning, Code Compliance and Trash Pickup.

The next step is the election of the Mayor and City Council. This will be held on the same date as the 2012 Presidential Primary, March 6. You will have the opportunity to vote for a Mayor and a six member City Council. There will be three councilmen representing our three districts and three at-large councilmen representing all of our citizens. So you will vote for the Mayor, your district Council member, and the three at-large Council members. You can see the map of our proposed districts at District Map.

After the election, the real work begins. Our new government officials will begin to put in place the processes and procedures to provide the three services we have chosen. During the interim, the county will continue to provide these services. There will be a date set for the City to “stand up.” At that point, the city will begin to provide the quality of life services specified in the City charter.

There is still a lot of work to be done. Our first big milestone will be the election in November. It is important for all of us to participate. Our future is in our hands, the Peachtree Corners voters. We are looking forward to a large turnout in November!

In our next blog, we will begin discussing the three services the city will provide. If you have any questions or would like to see a city topic addressed in future, please e-mail us at

Peachtree Corners - City Beginnings

Peachtree Corners was founded in 1968 by Paul Duke as a work, live, play community. From the beginning, residents felt a strong sense of community identity. When asked where they worked or lived, the response was always “Peachtree Corners.”

Over time, the idea of formalizing the community through incorporation as a city was discussed with increasing frequency. The one obstacle that stood in the way was the cost of providing the full scope of city services.

In 2009, the city of Norcross made an attempt to annex Technology Park through the legislative process. The citizens of Peachtree Corners, working through the UPCCA and our representative, Tom Rice, turned back this attempt.

Tech Park has always been the business heart of Peachtree Corners. Without this “heart,” the dream of cityhood would be impossible. Our community began to look for ways to make the city a reality.

In November 2009, a vote was taken by the UPCCA membership to proceed with the steps toward cityhood. A new concept, a “Planning District,” was initially proposed combining the benefit of legal boundaries, limited services, and a very low tax rate. Because it would have required a change in the State Law to enable this new form of government, it was too late in the legislative session to proceed in 2010. But the work began to introduce legislation in 2011.

The first step was the decision to become a full city, but with limited services and limited cost, i.e. a “City Lite.” The state of Georgia only requires that a city provides three services. The three services chosen were those closest to the heart of our community: Planning & Zoning, Code Compliance, and Trash Collection. All reflect our desire to maintain the quality of life we have all been accustomed to as well as our desire to control our own destiny.

The next step required a feasibility study. The prestigious Carl Vinson Institute of the University of Georgia was selected to perform this study. The results showed that we did indeed have the ability to support ourselves as a city. The results of the study are here Feasibility Study.

The following steps were to develop the city charter and map our boundaries. These processes involved several months of hard work and discussion on the part of the teams, but the end result was House Bill 396, the legislation that will allow us to hold a referendum to realize our dream of becoming a city.

The governor signed the bill into law on May 11. Members of the UPCCA and the community were there to commemorate the occasion, including Ruth Strickland, a long-time resident and the former assistant to Paul Duke. You can see additional details of the signing ceremony in the article here on the Peachtree Corners Patch site: Governor Signs Bill for Peachtree Corners.

Where do we go from here? That will be the topic for our next blog – steps remaining on our journey to become a city.