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.
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.