Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Yes versus No - Point and Counter Point

YES SIDE: Peachtree Corners is a unique community, a great place to live, work, and play. While some expect the success of the past to continue, many of your neighbors recognize that they must act now to assure the community remains a great place to live. That means becoming a city.
Why do we need to become a city? Self‐determination. Shouldn’t we make the decisions that impact our property values and quality of life, just like the citizens of Berkeley Lake, Duluth and Norcross? No one could argue that those cities do not take actions to improve the property values of their citizens. Annexation attempts by those Cities will not stop because of the tax revenue available from the higher property values in Peachtree Corners. If annexation attempts are successful, we will lose zoning control of those areas and our property values will be affected. Some areas of our 40 year old community need revitalization. Who should we trust with that effort: the County, the surrounding cities, or the citizens of this community? By becoming a city, we will have the legal boundaries needed to stop annexation and the legal basis to determine our own future.

NO SIDE: We agree that we have a beautiful and vibrant community, but our community is our neighborhood and its surrounding area.  The proposed city encompasses Mechanicsville and parts of Doraville.  Its boundaries extend from Buford Hwy to the River and to Winters Chapel Rd.   Counting our community in the proposed new city will certainly help the property values of some of these places.  If we are really looking for a more prestigious and potentially property-value enhancing label, lobbying to become part of Berkeley Lake would serve us better than a new Peachtree Corners moniker.  (The dam is now fully funded by FEMA and not a burden to the tax payers there).
Are we in danger of being annexed? No.  Under GA code, there are 5 ways that a community might be annexed by a nearby municipality.  The first 4 require a vote by the residents to be annexed.  The last is the only way lands can be annexed without a vote by the residents.  But it only applies to areas of unincorporated land completely surrounded by an existing municipality and thus it does not apply to us.

YES SIDE: What services will our City provide? The three services the City will provide are planning and zoning, code enforcement and solid waste disposal. These are the key quality of life services that allow us to most economically influence our property values. All other government services will be provided by Gwinnett County, as they are today. This concept of a limited service city leverages Gwinnett County for services requiring economies of scale and allows the community to provide services that are best done locally. As a result, the overall cost of government is lower and assures the lowest total tax bill to the citizens.

NO SIDE: What about those great services?  The proposed city does have a limited number of services it will offer to start.  But the charter allows for easy growth beyond that.  It discusses buying buildings and land, creating parks, hiring personnel, and entering into contracts as the officers deem necessary.  In fact the feasibility study anticipates the need to create a municipal court, hire a judge, and provide infrastructure to hear cases under the new city power of code enforcement.  The study states that most municipal courts derive only 2-4% of revenues from code enforcement fines so to cover operating cost of the court additional jurisdiction would need to be granted.  Ask yourself a simple question about our community—Are there massive problems with the maintenance or aesthetics of property that can only be solved through a new city bureaucracy and guys writing tickets or making arrests?

YES SIDE: What does it cost? We will have an increase in property taxes of up to 1 mil (.001) on the assessed value of all real property. For example, a $300,000 home would have a tax of $120 per year, or $10 per month. Our maximum 1 mil rate compares favorably to Berkeley Lake, 5.386; Duluth, 5.992; and Norcross, 6.424. Solid waste disposal would provide a significant savings. All Gwinnett citizens pay $18 per month for trash pickup. Most citizens pay an additional $10 per month for yard waste, for a total of $28 per month. An estimate from a current trash hauler for comparable service was $15‐$16 per month, representing a $144 per year savings. There would also be a small increase in franchise fees on our electric, phone, cable, and gas bills. We already pay certain franchise fees, and those will now go to the City, instead of to the other entities.

NO SIDE: What about cost?  Initially property taxes will increase by one mill for all residential and business properties:
1. Business taxes and fees support residential services. If not enough businesses stay in PC, the City will likely borrow to make ends meet and then call for a tax increase vote.
2. The charter authorizes PC City to add-on to ad valorem tax for vehicles, boats, trailers, motorcycles, etc.
3. Franchise fees on utilities can and will be increased.
4. These increased costs to local businesses would be passed along in the form of higher prices to us.
5. There is no new garbage plan contract guaranteeing a lower price. There is a hope it can become cheaper.
6. Once the City incorporates, it must negotiate a Service Delivery Strategy (SDS) with the County.  There is no County tax relief for Redundant services.

The charter gives the city council the rights to set fees, assessments, and to issue debt bonds.  It reserves the right to spend money with impunity and we have seen what happens when a government can spend at will without the means to fund it—big debt.   The city will need buildings, IT infrastructure, employees, employee benefits including retirement, legal council and more to operate.  We already bought these things once for the County.  Why buy them again for a city?

YES SIDE: Why isn’t “doing nothing” an option? Ignoring the challenges that we face by “doing nothing” will leave us vulnerable to the actions and decisions of others. Historically, we have assumed our County Commissioner would always be an advocate for Peachtree Corners. But they are only 1 vote out of 5 on a County Commission increasingly focused on a shrinking budget. And, they may not always be from Peachtree Corners. Our volunteer effort, the United Peachtree Corners Civic Association, cannot sustain the effort to raise private funds for community beautification, create a community master plan for revitalization, and fend off annexation attempts. If we do nothing, we lose this unique opportunity to determine our own future.

NO SIDE: Beware of those diabolic “others”?  The Yes-folk declare we cannot “do nothing” and leave our fate to the County as we have historically done.  Presumably that is because those politicians are more diabolical and out-to-get us than any politicians that might use offices closer might be.  The notion that the United Peachtree Corners Civic Association needs/wants money is not a reason to build a city, for certain. Vote NO on a city.  It’s a sure thing.  A yes vote is just a hope that by some miracle this new government will be better than any other we deal with on a regular basis.  

Posted By: Ali