Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Review of the 5-1-12 Peachtree Corners City Council Meeting

The Peachtree Corners City Council had a special “called” meeting yesterday at 11:00 AM at the Peachtree Corners YMCA.  There was only one major item on the agenda: Whether to submit a request to the County for a moratorium on all permitting, zoning applications, business licenses etc.  
The lawyer – Bill Riley - laid out the argument that there is often a rush to the county for permits before a new city takes over.  He argued that folks will get caught having started the process under the county and may have to finish under the city causing confusion.  He recounted stories of troubles between Johns Creek and Fulton County.  Specifically that the county collected permit and inspection fees, but the city had to do the work because of the timing of the takeover.  That work had to be done without the funding because the county refused to turn over the money collected.  Although he says he does not anticipate any issues with Gwinnett officials, he is seeking to avoid this transition trouble through the moratorium.  In addition, he cautioned that without the moratorium, adult bookstores, massage parlors, etc. often try to slip into the area, believing that the county process will be easier than any new city process is likely to be.  
The councilpersons asked some good questions.  Wright, Aulbach, Lowe, and to a lesser extent Christopher and Gratwick all challenged the lawyer on the implications of doing nothing, the burden on businesses unable to get a license during the moratorium, etc.  Phil Sadd was not at the meeting.  The mayor had no questions for the attorney.  The discussion went on for a bout 25-30 minutes before the council was satisfied and voted to approve the request to the County.
Overall, I was satisfied with how the council handled this meeting.  The questions they asked were in my mind as well. I was pleased to see them challenge the lawyer’s recommendation, require examples of when the worst happened in reality, and explore the implications and burdens on residents and businesses that the moratorium may cause.
My dissatisfaction all centers on the speed that the meeting was called.  Most of us had only about 12 hours notice that it would occur.  It gave off the impression of a rushed, “secret” meeting, held at a time when most folks work and cannot attend.  The meetings are supposed to be announced in the Gwinnett Daily Post in advance.  The acting city clerk assured me that she contacted The Post last week.  Myself and others in attendance let her know that we were unable to locate that announcement, finding out through The Peachtree Corners Patch instead.  She promised to investigate the issue.
I talked to a couple of the councilpersons afterward, spending quite a bit of time with Jeanne Aulbach, Post 4.  I let her know that I felt this meeting ran better than the first one because we saw the council explore the implications of the issue before them.  They challenged the guidance they were getting to ensure it was sound and as many sides were examined as possible.  The last meeting was a series of approvals and hires without any feeling that due diligence had been done.  Those of us attending the meetings expect to see our council really engage and vet the issues, but it appeared they simply abdicated their responsibility to a contingent of Johns Creek bureaucrats.  Ms. Aulbach promised to do more to communicate with her constituents – which includes everyone in Peachtree Corners – so we see the due diligence happen and can better understand the trade-offs and ultimate decisions reached.