Showing posts with label Peachtree Corners City Services. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Peachtree Corners City Services. Show all posts

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 blog@upcca.org 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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

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 16, 2011

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 http://peachtreecornersyes.com/. 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 blog@upcca.org 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 blog@upcca.com 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 blog@upcca.org 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 blog@upcca.org 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 blog@upcca.org.

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 blog@upcca.org.