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Myth Busters ... A Rebuttal

The Peachtree Corners Ballot Committee's most recent marketing campaign is titled "Myths and Facts"... together, let's examine their assertions and bring some reality into the discussion.

Greetings,

The Peachtree Corners Ballot Committee (the primary NO organization) has recently put distributing an article about the “Myths and Facts of Peachtree Corners” through chain emails, on their blogs and through other news outlets.  Their articles list 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 Italics and 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 five to six 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 have 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 percent 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 percent increase on your power bill – about $40 for a 3,000 square-foott house that has an annual $2,000 per year power bill.  Dunwoody currently generates about $3.1 million in franchise fees for a population of 46,000.  Peachtree Corners should be able to easily generate $2.0 million to $2.5 million in franchise fees with a population of 38,000.  Expenses for the new city are estimated at about $0.8M ($800,000).  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 40 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 who 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 $300,000 house just a ONE PERCENT increase in home value will generate a $3,000 increase to your net worth.  Is paying 2 percent more on your power bill (about $40 per year) worth an extra $3,000 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 40 years, and especially the last 10, show that surrounding cities are aggressively annexing surrounding areas.  This is not a scare tactic.  This is reality.  A recent research paper http://citation.allacademic.com//meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/3/9/6/0/0/pages396004/p396004-1.php summarizing over 100 academic studies about why cities incorporate in the US over the last 50 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 50 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 allow the new city to provide trash services, 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 percent. Franchise and business 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 percent increase in your power bill – about $40 for a 3,000 square-foot house paying an annual $2,000 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 20 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 then vote YES.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Martin Dl October 26, 2011 at 11:57 PM
I have a question about the Police. Currently we are served by the Norcross Police, correct? If PC becomes a city, as I understand it, this will no longer be the case and we'll be served by Gwinnett County. There have been may comments here over the months about how stretched Gwinnett resources are and how by voting yes we'll have more localized focus and have to rely on the county less. Logic tells me that if Gwinnett County now has to police an area that was formally Norcross, there would be less police presence and availability. Does someone have data on this please that either refutes or supports my potentially flawed logic.
Jeanne Aulbach October 27, 2011 at 12:19 AM
Speaking of myths! We are currently served by Gwinnett County police.
Martin Dl October 27, 2011 at 01:45 AM
Jeanne, I can't tell whether you are joking or mocking? I thought I asked a couple of meaningful questions. I was really just looking for a meaningful response. You did answer in sorts I guess, though I'm surprised by the answer. I can't remember seeing Gwinnett County vehicles but do see quite a few Norcross ones. I assume with a yes vote that will no longer be the case?
Alex J. Wright October 27, 2011 at 02:13 AM
Martin, Thanks for your question. I think Jeanne was probably making a statement that was directed toward some people opposed to the city hood initiative that have spreading wild rumors. Your question was certainly valid and I really don't think she meant to come across in a mocking tone. Right now we are served by the Gwinnett Police but since certain areas of a future city of PC bump up against Norcross anyone who lives in that area might easily think they are covered by Norcross police since they probably do see the Norcross police fairly often. Your question is certainly a valid one. Gwinnett services are stretched to a certain extent but currently I think they are doing well with what they have available. One of the reasons to incorporate, in my opinion, is that down the road there is a possibility that Gwinnett services might decline and it would be nice to at least have the option at that point to consider developing other city services. Hopefully that will be never be necessary but it can't hurt to be prepared. Ask people in unincorporated DeKalb County, particularly those that have lived there for 30+ years, if they think their county services have declined and if they wish they had an option to get something better? Dunwoody incorporated in 2005 and Brookhaven is considering it right now. We are simply setting ourselves up to have options down the road in services do decline.
AL October 27, 2011 at 04:19 AM
Thank you for pointing out Myth #6. I'm really surprised at how often I've heard anti-city supporters say that Gwinnett County has done a fine job with planning & zoning and there's no need to for PC to be concerned with this matter. How can they make this claim when the county is filled with living examples of some very horrendous and selfish planning & zoning decisions? (every area Alex mentions, and then some) Re: Myth # 9 & 11 - there's still one unanswered question: Would we indeed have the power to prevent annexation by Norcross simply by voting against it? (even if we can, I'm still voting Yes for the city of PC...I think the best way to prevent annexation is to remove it from the table right now).
Bob October 27, 2011 at 11:35 AM
I will say this about zoning, you can zone an area for commercial or residential and then the question will become what businesses decide to develop in that zoning spot. So if a block of land is zoned for commercial, it could become almost anything. As I understand it, Gwinnett County will also continue to handle the business licenses and all that we will be responsible for will be the zoning and telling the businesses and houses that they need to mow their lawns. I realize that this is explanation is overly simplified, however that is the case. Grocery stores and other important retailers often desire to be a part of a shopping center, which is one type of zoning. Once that center and area is zoned for that area, then almost any store can enter it and set up shop. So zoning and code enforcement have some control over the matters, but not much. Having our own control over zoning is not suddenly going to make Holcomb Bridge free of all the apartments. It's not going to suddenly fix the almost empty shopping center at Spalding and Peachtree Parkway. And it is certainly not going to prevent the "We Buy Gold" stores that Alex is so adamant about keeping out of Peachtree Corners.
Jeanne Aulbach October 27, 2011 at 11:53 AM
Martin, I apologize. I was just a little surprised to see that some believe we are serviced by the city of Norcross. I am guessing you live on the PIB side of Peachtree Corners. Norcross tends to set up speed traps along PIB southbound. A source of revenue from non-Norcross city residents! That being said, we already get very good service from the county police department. I called recently about an issue in my community and got a response within minutes. Between that, the high cost of providing police service, and a desire to limit services to only those involving quality of life the decision was made to leave that service with the county. Is it possible we will be able to assist the police in targeting our more troubled areas once we become a city, I would say it is possible.
Jeanne Aulbach October 27, 2011 at 12:30 PM
Bob, you are correct. We are not going to suddenly fix anything. Having our own control over zoning means that we can make the necessary changes over time. We can set zoning to encourage appropriate businesses. We can use code compliance to clean up run down, unmaintained areas. As these areas are cleaned up, our representatives can work to encourage business to locate into these areas. So no quick fix, but a goal that can be achieved in the long run.
Bob October 27, 2011 at 12:48 PM
Jeanne, can you provide an example of how rezoning an already developed area would result in a more desirable outcome? I am still perplexed about how this control over zoning will prevent future issues. I mean once an area is zoned for commercial, there is really very little one can do to make it more residential friendly.
Jeanne Aulbach October 27, 2011 at 01:51 PM
Bob, happy to. The overlay district guidelines are a good example. While existing properties are not impacted, as zoning changes are requested by those properties, the overlay guidelines then become effective and they are required to make the changes to come into compliance. Also, as zoning changes are requested, additional conditions can be applied to the request. We did that on a property along PIB. They wanted to reduce buffers so we countered with no gas stations, etc. The change will take place when the property sells. Another example of this is the area along Medlock Bridge between 141 and Spalding Drive. These single family homes would probably be gone by now and replaced by something else if the economy had not stalled. By putting a master plan in place for that area, we can control what can be put there that will more closely match our vision when the time comes. Some areas are not meant to be "residential friendly". The area between PIB and South Old Peachtree and South Berkeley Lake is a good example. It is commercial/industrial and serves its purpose well. I think the Forum is an example of how commercial can be residential friendly. The biggest issue with zoning is not to prevent commercial or industrial development but rather to encourage smart development that works well with the surrounding areas. Hope this helps!

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