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Turn Out for Town Hall Meeting Larger than Expected

On Monday night some 500 Peachtree Corners residents came to learn more about city-hood for their community.

The turnout was larger than organizers expected for the Peachtree Corners Town Hall meeting on Monday night. Chairs were added as more people arrived, but it was standing-room only for those who arrived too late to grab a seat.

Organizers had planned for a little under 300, in the end some 500 residents came to learn just what it would mean for their community to become the county's 16th city.

Two speakers, State Rep. Tom Rice (R-Dist 51) and UPCCA president Mike Mason presented the facts and answered questions during the meeting which was held at the Peachtree Corners Baptist Church.

Since legislation was passed and signed by Gov. Nathan Deal in May, the movement for city-hood has been in the forefront for the community leaders who have been meeting with homeowners explaining the concept and the benefit to residents. This was the first Town Hall meeting which was open to the public.

Mason explained that the community would not stay in tact, eventually parts would be annexed and home values would drop. "Doing nothing is not an option," said Mason. "Parts of Peachtree Corners will be annexed and that will adversely affect our property values. Change is going to happen whether we want it to or not. Without protecting ourselves by becoming a city, it leaves us vulnerable to long term decline."

During the presentation, Mason explained in detail what the cost would be in terms of city taxes. The city's charter, which calls for up to 1 millage rate, would mean that the taxes for the average homeowner would be about $120 a year and that cost would be offset by the savings in the cost of garbage pick up through negotiated contracts that the city would be able to make.

Since the concept of city-hood was first presented, there have been a good number of supporters for the idea -- but there's also been a number of residents who have been skeptical that there was a need for their community to become a city.

Jim Nelems, a resident of River Mansions, a subdivision just outside of the city limits of Berkeley Lake, was not supportive of the idea.

"It's totally unnecessary," said Nelems. "We've got all of this without being a city. We don't need more taxes."

Tom Rice, who was instrumental in seeing that the charter made its way through the legislature and to the governor's desk, pointed out additional benefits for the residents to be represented by local government. The county has some 800,000 county residents and only four commissioners. Having a mayor, and city council to help operate a city of 38,000 would mean better service.

A number of residents expressed a good bit of skepticism on just how the new city government would work and were leery the low millage rate would quickly increase and they would be paying far more taxes than they voted for.

"Any changes in the millage rate must be made by referendum," explained Rice. "The charter guarantees residents are protected. In fact, Peachtree Corners residents are better protected than any other city. You have the most control -- more than any other city in the state."

Ken Craft, a resident of Peachtree Station, supported the idea of city-hood. "I think it's a wonderful plan, particularly to defend our zoning," he said. "We're lucky to have the UPCCA and fortunate to have good county commissioners."

Craft said he favored the idea of having direct control especially over zoning issues. He felt navigating through the county, certainly in the past, has been a bit "dicey," siting the recent scandals involving questionable land deals which ultimately lead to the indictment of one of the county commissioner and the resignation of its chairman.

Ground Chuck August 31, 2011 at 12:25 PM
That is an outright lie by Mike Mason regarding annexation directly leading to a drop in home values. I guess he is unaware or just ignorant of homes inside the City of Norcross not only growing in value during the real estate boom, but ALSO sustaining more value than surrounding areas during the recent decline in values that has hit the Atlanta metropolitan area. This is nothing more than a power grab for Mike, because you can bet he intends to run for Mayor and will not debate this cityhood issue with anyone. By the way, I am an ex-UPCCA member.
Ground Chuck August 31, 2011 at 12:33 PM
One other note, it is absurd to think the new city can better negotiate trash pickup. pure nonsense. I've lived over there as well as Norcross, and the trash haulers cannot offer better deals to a city versus what they offer to an unincorporated resident. There is a fixed cost for removing trash, and the only absolute is when the County allows for competition. My trash service cost actually went UP monthly when I moved to Norcross from Peachtree Corners. Once again, a power grab is what this is. Maybe if Mr. Rice would do something to help congestion on 141...that would help is credibility. Other than spending time in the Love Shack picket line, I'm unaware of anything he has accomplished the past 15 years in the Legislature. "Cityhood" would allow for zoning controls alright...so that the new city politicians can have the lead on real estate deals inside the new city limits!
Alex J. Wright August 31, 2011 at 01:43 PM
Charles, Do you happen to have the real estate report showing values inside the city of Norcross held up better than other areas? Did the report indicate whether they held up better than those in Peachtree Corners? Thanks
Alex J. Wright August 31, 2011 at 01:55 PM
Charles, I have to disagree partially on the trash issue. My trash cost went up about $3 per month (from about $14 per month to $17 per month) when we were forced onto the Gwinnett plan. There is no doubt that we can get cheaper costs than what we are paying now because I had lower costs prior to this plan. The current Gwinnett plan has to cover all the logistical costs for areas of the county that are still semi-rural and houses are more spread out. Our area is probably one of, if not the most dense in all in Gwinnett. As a result you can cover lots of people (and hence generate lots of revenue) in a compact area with much less fuel costs and in a shorter period of time because of the density. It would seem logical that Norcross could have done the same but the city of Norcross has a population of about 9,000 per the 2010 census while PC has a population of about 38,000. PC could probably get a better rate than Norcross because it has about 4x the population Norcross to give it economy of scale and better than Gwinnett because of the much higher density. Just one person's opinion.
Jeanne Aulbach August 31, 2011 at 01:59 PM
Charles, I think you misunderstood how annexation affects property values. If the area around you is annexed and you remain in a little unincorporated island your property value will drop. If we do not become a city, chunks of Peachtree Corners will be annexed. Those of us left in the unincorporated areas will have a negative impact on our property values. However, by pointing out that Norcross City property values were not as negatively impacted by the economic downturn you actually make the point that if Peachtree Corners incorporates, our property values will be protected.
Ground Chuck August 31, 2011 at 02:37 PM
Jeanne, You are correct, I did miss the point, I apologize for jumping too fast into my reply. I am so used to hearing what is wrong with Norcross that I subconsciously responded (laughing out loud). That is correct, a good point made for incorporating into a city. However, real estate is very subjective, and I do not necessarily support the argument that homes could/would decline in value if incorporation does not occur although the "chunk" annexation idea is with merit and a problem. The infrastructure and benefits of the area would support just the opposite although that is just my opinion. On the other hand, that does not preclude one from supporting cityhood. Zoning and related enforcement of) rules are the most obvious need. The UPCCA land group has done a moderately decent job over the years but has lost some small battles nonetheless. No Alex, I do not have a report. I only gather information from the realtors I know who sell and market in both areas.
Ground Chuck August 31, 2011 at 02:42 PM
Alex, Good points. However, once the Gwinnett goverment got involved in the trash business (instead of free enterprise), costs were bound to go up (hear that Mr. President?!!) The objective was to get so many trash hauling vehicles off the streets. Well, obviously you cannot have your cake and eat it to as that idea led to more "regulation" of trash pickup and consequently, higher prices. Yes, it would allow the area to negotiate a better trash deal, but historically trash pickup has been a "dirty" business, so look out!
george August 31, 2011 at 07:53 PM
I DO NOT like to form another city government and ask us to pay more TAX for those who like to be an officers. After form of a city it will getting more and more TAX to support the officers, administrators, buildings, utilities, .... Where are those money come from? from the peoples who pay more TAX. Peoples pay more C
Alex J. Wright August 31, 2011 at 08:27 PM
George, The tax to support the city is limited to 1 mil (or about $40 per accessed property value). For a house worth $250k this translates into about $100 per year or about $8 per month. There is potential savings for each resident when we negotiate a new trash contract that could be as high as $100 per year resulting in a wash in terms of cash out of your pocket for people who have property valued at less than $250k. Even without even savings from a trash deal this is still an excellent opportunity to give ourselves local control which ultimately is the best way to protect our the value of our housing investment. I think you will find that the vast majority of pro-city advocates are not some latte drinking, NY Times reading, volvo driving, income redistributing boggie man that they are being made out to be. I know I certainly am not. Most pro-city people view incorporation as a very inexpensive way to secure control over our economic future. I would say this to you. If you are happy with the direction Gwinnett County is going and happy with the way they spend your money and you think that no one else or no other governmental set up can make things any better for Peachtree Corners than I encourage you to vote "No" on November 8th. However, if you think local residents can do a better job of determining what is best for Peachtree Corners then you should consider voting "Yes".
Ground Chuck August 31, 2011 at 08:54 PM
Alex, when you contrast Gwinnett County management with the potential of local "city" management, you are right on target. The unfortunate side of this is we cannot completely remove County government from our affairs (although I expect that to become a lesser problem with Charlotte now in charge). I guess there are excellent considerations to be had regarding code enforcement, property value preservation and cost containment. The flip side is obvious that people are afraid of more government taking more control and are not in favor of establishing any additional layer of government bureaucracy (not even on a local level thanks to the shenanigans going on in Washington these past two plus years). Fear is the root cause of support...people are wary of additional taxes, fees and other out-of-pocket funding when they are struggling economically.
Ground Chuck August 31, 2011 at 08:55 PM
Meant to say fear is the root cause on NON-support.
Sharron September 26, 2011 at 12:14 AM
Why do you think $100 isn't much to pay? Most of the homes in PC are valued much higher than $250,000. Explain where PC boundaries will be. I have yet to see a map. And< I see nothing wrong with staying the way we are. We don't need another layer of govt. My property value has declined quite a bit due to the economy.
Judy Putnam (Editor) September 26, 2011 at 12:20 AM
Sharron: A map of the proposed borders of the City of Peachtree Corners is included with this story. You can also find the map on UPCCA's website, (www.upcca.org).
Alex J. Wright September 26, 2011 at 02:51 AM
Sharron, 1) $100 is not a lot to pay if incorporation does nothing more than increase your home value 1%. On a $250k house that would be a $2.5k return on a $100 investment. 2) Incorporating does NOT add another layer of government. It simply replaces one level (county) with another (city). An extra layer would imply that the city has to go to the county every time it needs approval. Governments don't work like that. Just like the Governor of Georgia does not report to the President. 3) The proposed map of PC can be found on mulitple places online including at the UPCCA website. 4) One of the reasons your property values has declined is due to massive overbuilding including here in Gwinnett. Who do you think approved all that construction? The COUNTY zoning board. I hope you'll reconsider your opposition and vote Yes on November 8th. Regards

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