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The Property Tax Model is Broken Beyond Repair

Let’s be honest. The system of collecting taxes for county, city, and school taxes is broken. And the larger the area dependent on funding from property taxes, the more broken it becomes. North Fulton County residents pay tremendously more for the same county services than South Fulton residents.  Why?

Here are three reasons it needs to be scrapped:

  1. There is no correlation between the amount of taxes you pay and the amount of “services” you receive.

A family of six living in a $500,000 home and a family of two living in a $500,000 home, pay the same property taxes if they live in the same community.  Why?  What makes us feel its fair to collect three times as much tax on a per capita basis from one family than another?  What if the family of two lives in a home worth one million?  What makes it right to collect six times as much for the very same levels of services?  Should I mention that the family of six likely creates more demand for services than the family of two as well?

When property values are high, and tax rates are high, this can have the effect of driving out empty nester residents to avoid the high levels of taxes relative to the services they receive for those tax dollars.

2.  Property values rising(and falling) should have no impact on how much tax revenue is needed to run your county, cities, and schools.

We’ve seen property values fall during recessions and rise during better times.  This should have nothing to do with how many dollars are needed to provide services in your community.  Yet we have made the tax digest the first step in the taxation process, followed by each government agency voting on the millage rate to be applied to that tax digest.  Elected officials vote far more often on how much they will tax you than you have a chance to vote on whether or not they should remain in office.

Let’s add to that the huge infrastructure we now have in place at the Tax Assessor’s office to track every piece of property, every structure, and every improvement you make to your home, all in the effort to make sure every $ of real estate(real or imagined) is taxed.

Why on earth should you owe the government more dollars because you decided to finish your basement or add a deck?

The perverseness of this likely discourages residents from making improvements to their properties.

How much time and energy is used by the Tax Assessor’s office to gather all of this information?  How accurate is it?  Is it worth it?  Who is really benefitting?

3.  How many hours of effort will the Public spend appealing these assessments?

If 1/4 of the households in Johns Creek appeal, that could be as high as 7,000 homes.  Spend five hours on this process, and cumulatively we will have spent 35,000 hours fighting our high assessments.

Instead, why don’t we take a moment and consider a different system?  We do not tax each resident within an HOA a variable amount do we?  It’s a flat rate per household.  While not necessarily the same on a per capita basis, it is a fairer system than taxing each household based upon the value of their property.

What would a fixed property tax collected per residence look like?  First, it would treat all of us as equally as possible.

We would not need an army of government employees tracking our properties, needing to know everything about the inside and outside of our homes.

We would never have to appeal property taxes in the future.

Our governments would be accountable to us directly for the rate of taxation we face, and there would be no finger-pointing as to who is to blame.

The current system of taxation has more expensive property owners subsidizing the less expensive property owners.  In a society where wealth redistribution is frowned upon by most of us, it is curious to me why we are so willing to allow tax redistribution with property taxes, where the level of services received are so far removed from what the property owner pays in taxes.

Johns Creek could lead the way to a better model of taxation for its residents.  It’s time we slay the beast that taxation based on property values has become.   Taxation should not be unfair or onerous.

It’s time for a change.  Contact your locally elected officials and tell them you want a different system.  Tell them you want a better, more equitable system.

 

Fulton County Assessor Meeting – Location Changed to JCHS

District 1 Tax Assessment Meeting with Commissioner Liz Hausmann and Chief Appraiser Dwight Robinson
June 14, 2017 @ 7:00 pm
Johns Creek High School Auditorium

5575 State Bridge Road

Johns Creek, GA


Johns Creek: Second Best Suburb(and Now City) in Georgia(And Here’s Why)

Recently, Johns Creek was named the second best suburb(and Now City) in Georgia to live.  Coming in second to Decatur, I was curious as to what makes up that ranking (and what role might our local government take in that ranking.  Interestingly enough, other communities are omitted from the suburb category, but are some of the best cities in Georgia to live in.  (It seems that given enough rankings, we can all be winners)

The largest contributor to our ranking is the educational level of adults living in Johns Creek, of course.  We know we are well educated, and that category is 15% of the weighting.

Now which factors are because of our local government?

Property taxes show up in the Housing Grade category, with a ten % weighting.  The effect of Johns Creek on this category might be 1-2% points of that category.

Crime and safety is another category.  With a 5% rating, we will give ½ the credit to the police and fire, and ½ credit to the well-educated public, who should know better than to misbehave.  That brings us up to 3 ½ to 4 ½ %.

The last category Johns Creek contributes to is Outdoor. One-third of that 5% is from having access to parks.  Since this is not limited to parks within your city limits, but all parks including National Parks within a large distance, we will score this category as a 1% contribution from the City of Johns Creek.

In total, that would suggest that 4 ½ to 5 ½ % of our overall score our City Government could take credit for.

The majority of the success for Johns Creek belongs to you.  Yes you.

Well educated, high income earners demanding great homes, working to keep the schools great through property and sales taxes, welcoming to people of all diversities, behaving in the eyes of the law, taking care of your health and the health of your families contributed the most to Johns Creek’s selection as the Second Best Suburb in Georgia.

Go ahead and pat yourself on the back.  You deserve it!

Factors Considered

Factor Description Source Weight
Higher Education Rate Percentage of residents who have received a bachelor’s degree or higher. U.S. Census 15.0%
Cost of Living Grade Based on the consumer price index and access to affordable housing. Niche 10.0%
Housing Grade Based on home values, property taxes, housing costs, local schools, and more. Niche 10.0%
Public Schools Grade Based on the average Niche K-12 Overall Grade for every public school serving the area, where each school is weighted by the number of students it serves. Niche 10.0%
Diversity Grade Based on ethnic, generational and economic diversity. Niche 7.5%
Shortest Commute Grade Based on typical commute times and methods. Niche 7.5%
Composite Overall Score Niche survey responses scored on a 1-5 scale regarding the overall experience of the place. Self-reported by Niche users 5.0%
Crime & Safety Grade Based on violent and property crime rates. Niche 5.0%
Family Grade Based on school quality, safety, and family-friendly living. Niche 5.0%
Health & Fitness Grade Based on community health statistics and access to healthcare. Niche 5.0%
Jobs Grade Based on employment rates, job and economic growth, and cost of living. Niche 5.0%
Nightlife Grade Based on access to bars, restaurants, theaters, and other attractions. Niche 5.0%
Outdoor Activities Grade Based on weather, air quality, and access to parks and other recreational opportunities. Niche 5.0%
Weather Grade Based on number of sunny days, precipitation, and average temperatures in an area. Niche 5.0%

https://www.niche.com/places-to-live/rankings/suburbs/best-suburbs/methodology/

How to Appeal Your Property Taxes

10 Steps to REDUCE your Tax Bill

1) File an online appeal here. This will schedule your appointment with the Board of Assessors. It will be some time before you hear back from them

1a)  Contact County Appraiser, Dwight Robinson and request the comps they are using for your assessment. 

2) Review your Property Records to ensure it is accurate, (fireplaces, beds, bathrooms, sq ft, etc)

3) Check for homestead deductions (homeowners & mostly for seniors)

4) Research recent sales in the Property Records of your neighborhood to find comparable homes

5) Review property assessments with the public records for comparables

6) Create a spreadsheet of comparables (3-5 Properties), and breakdown each property

  • – same exterior facade
  • – square foot comparison
  • – land value/ lot size comparison
  • – compare homes with more/less beds & baths, etc

7) Take pictures of the comparable homes

8) Set a reasonable value amount for your property

9) Prepare presentation: Create an easy to read packet to bring to your hearing

Front page – Picture of your house & the value “think” it is worth

Second Page – Spreadsheet with the breakdown of comparables

Next 5 pages – Pictures and info of each comparable property

Optional info:

Include pictures of the inside of your house, if it’s not upgraded

Pictures & details of backyard if it is sloped or devalued in some way

10) Attend your scheduled Hearing

*Have 7 packet copies to pass out to each board member!*

Be non-emotional and factual during the hearing

Present the data in a calm, logical manner

Good Luck!

Neighbors, do you have any suggestions?

Return to Sender: Federal HUD $$$

Federal HUD money to build an ADA Fishing dock & viewing platform in Shakerag Park is in the process of being returned.

This discussion didn’t go without a fight from Councilman Lenny Zaprowski, who stated within the Work Session meeting, ” I am a Big Proponent of these funds”. He strongly advocated for the City to keep the funds, regardless of the strings attached or qualification requirements.

Councilwoman Stephanie Endres stated the grant has stipulations and rules in which the City would have to meet to qualify for the funds, and the City doesn’t qualify.

City attorney chimed in that it would be “most prudent” to release(return) what funds we have left, back.

After discussion in the Work Session and 7 pm meeting,  the Council voted 5-2, to return the HUD money. Councilman Lenny Zaprowski & Councilwoman Cori Davenport voted to keep the funds.

A public hearing will take place on the issue and then 2014 funds would go back to Federal HUD office.

Johns Creek Comprehensive Plan Observations: What Johns Creek DOESN’T Want or Need

The City of Johns Creek held a workshop intended to review the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) and Transportation Master Plan (TMP) on Thursday, June 1st, 2017. The workshop began with an opportunity to review boards with information and depictions of several options under consideration for zoning, development, and redevelopment, then followed up with a presentation by the two consulting organizations with whom the city has contracted to lead and facilitate this work, and finally opened the floor to questions from the workshop attendees.

The Comprehensive Plan is still a work in process, and this final workshop was meant to provide residents with a preview of the materials prior to presentation to City Council on June 19th.

The importance of these plans and the direction they propose for Johns Creek over the next 20 years cannot be overstated. The plan that is ultimately approved by City Council will dictate the character of our city beginning almost immediately upon adoption.

Those who attended the meeting will recognize the visual representations provided by the consultants, both on the boards that were set up throughout the meeting room, as well as from the Powerpoint presentation that was reviewed with attendees. It’s important to understand where the emphasis was placed as it is indicative of those proposals that are receiving the highest priority from the consultants. It’s equally important to understand that these same consultants were hired with a distinct objective in mind, and have certainly been given guidance from city staff with whom they work most closely.

The staff position with the greatest interaction with these consultants would be our Director of Community Development, Ms. Sharon Ebert. Ms. Ebert is an employee of CH2M Hill, the company to which Johns Creek has outsourced many administrative functions. Her previous experience includes a role as Interim Executive Director & Director of Planning and Development for the Housing Authority of Bridgeport, Connecticut (distinguished as one of the large American cities that had declared bankruptcy), Director of Planning and Development for the Housing Authority of New Haven, Connecticut, and Deputy Commissioner Planning & Development for the city of Yonkers, New York.

I highlight these previous roles to bring to light the vast difference of community character between those locations, and the historic character of Johns Creek: the former represents high density, urban communities while Johns Creek has traditionally been suburban and residential. Keep that in mind as you review the recommendations that appear to be forthcoming in the Comprehensive Plan.

The majority of the boards and presentation material focused on mixed use (read: high density, urbanization), and various “nodes”. The Transportation plan has closely aligned with the various T-SPLOST projects, and was heavily weighted toward road widening efforts (capacity), the development of inter-neighborhood travel options, and introducing a grid system for certain nodes (primarily around Technology Park, and the area formerly proposed to become “The District”).

Some may recall that the Comprehensive Plan sought input through the distribution of an online survey available at the ConnectJohnsCreek.com website. Those who participated in the survey may also recall that the survey was structured such that it was clearly driving to a foregone conclusion: increased urbanization, higher density, and wider roads.

After some vocal feedback from residents who recognized that the survey was constructed with a lack of options that would support the opportunity to preserve the suburban residential character of the city, the survey was changed to provide the option of selecting “None” from among the presented high-density options. At no time did the survey present a set of options that would retain the current character of the city. The results of this survey were cited as representing the desires of residents, and as a key input to the Comprehensive Plan.

What can be concluded from this workshop? First and foremost, the Comprehensive Plan presents a vision of a very different Johns Creek than what we have today. Another conclusion is that proposals that have come up in the past, but were roundly opposed by residents, are back.

Attendees of the workshop likely experienced a strong case of déjà vu. The District was proposed as a new City Center, located within Technology Park, representing a city-funded redevelopment effort. That plan was roundly opposed by city residents. Well, it’s back. The city has already purchased a building for a consolidated City Hall in the area. A linear park is proposed in the Comprehensive Plan as well as a project funded by the Parks Bonds. Proposed redevelopment of the surrounding area effectively resurrects The District without calling it by name.

Mixed Use is prominently represented in the Comprehensive Plan materials. That means density and urbanization. Mixed use also means provision for retail. Anyone paying attention recognizes that the retail industry, at least in its brick-and-mortar form, is collapsing. Does Johns Creek really need more nail salons, dry cleaners, and empty storefronts?

The Comprehensive Plan proposes to redevelop several existing retail zones. If existing retail is struggling, why does the plan include allowances for more retail?

The Transportation Master Plan includes a many road widening projects throughout the city. For those residents who thought that their voices were heard when they appeared in great numbers to express their opposition, and who were told that road widening proposals would see full consideration in front of the City Council with an up-or-down vote, recognize that this plan is going to approve those plans without the promised hearing. These plans are targeted to increase capacity – meaning accommodating more traffic – but without any required coordination with adjacent jurisdictions. Consider that the recently held traffic planning session in Peachtree Corners immediately south of Johns Creek revealed no plans to widen State Road 141 through their city. That means that we are bypassing other less intrusive options in the rush to widen roads that will meet an immediate bottleneck at Peachtree Corners. To what effect does this proposal benefit Johns Creek residents, and what damage will be done to the residential character of our city through these routes?

Make no mistake: the Comprehensive Plan is clearly advancing Johns Creek to a highly urbanized future marked by high density, increased traffic volume, and a drastically different character than what exists today. Nothing that was presented in the Comprehensive Plan spoke to retaining our residential character, or how we might improve our property values for existing residential properties.

I urge all interested parties to review the presentation material for yourselves and determine whether the plans as presented represent a future for Johns Creek that you personally desire for yourself and your family. We are at a critical juncture, with a vision for the city that does not seek to preserve Johns Creek, but instead, imposes a very different future. We need to decide whether that vision deserves our support, or whether we stand up and fight to preserve and improve the city we call home.

Review for yourself. The Comprehensive Plan presentation can be found at:

https://connectjohnscreek.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/johns-creek-workshop4_draftv3.pdf

Fulton County Tax Appraiser Town Hall

Property taxes go up?

Fulton County Commissioner, Liz Hausmann is holding a Town Hall with Fulton County’s Chief Tax Appraiser Dwight Robinson.

Both will answers questions and discuss the Property Tax Appeal process.

June 14, Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Johns Creek Environmental Campus

8100 Holcomb Bridge Road.

 

Op-Ed: What is Free Speech, Really?

By: Stephanie Endres

Quoting Wikipedia, “freedom of speech is the right to articulate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship, or societal sanction.” 

The Johns Creek City Council established an ordinance when the city was formed to limit free speech at city council meetings to 30 minutes at the beginning and end of each meeting with each individual only being allowed to speak for 3 minutes. 

Since I was elected, I have supported allowing any individual who wants to speak to the council the ability to do so without placing an arbitrary 3-minute limit on their opportunity to address the Council.

A proposal is being made to lock down the rules with council members going on the record to continue the 30 minutes maximum time limit, but permit individuals 5 minutes each. 

In my experience, residents come to the council meetings to give public comment for 3 reasons: sharing information, looking for support, or expressing frustration.  Ninety percent (90%) of the public comments can be categorized as expressions of frustration, and folks come to council meetings to share their frustration because they don’t feel like their views were heard through the normal channels of phone calls or emails.

The public comments provided at the council meeting held on May 22, 2017, lasted for 80 minutes and were comprised of 19 individuals speaking on topics ranging from Taylor Road Middle School students winning the robotics award, concerns regarding the perceived over-development of Cauley Creek, issues with voting in the last election, history of the Rogers Family, purchasing the former Dean Gardens property, ICC Permissive Codes, Linear Park development, Pocket Park development, and recommendations for traffic relief on Medlock Bridge. 

If only 6 individuals spoke, who would win the ability to share their information and who would lose the right to speak?  What direct, public venue will residents have to get the attention of the elected representatives that sought their vote?

Why would council members wish to restrict public comment?  The reasons shared by council members are:  “There is business that must be conducted and we need to spend time on the actual business”. ” We have families at home and don’t want to be here all night”. “Why should the individuals who are here to participate in zoning hearings or presentations of awards have to be subjected to all this negativity?”.

My belief is the city council meeting is the meeting of the people. It is housed in a building that was paid for by the residents, and lead by the individuals that were duly elected to represent the people’s interests.  No matter how long it takes, all individuals should be able to speak and be heard as these comments directly relate to the decisions the council is being asked to make.

The first amendment to the US Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” 

The Johns Creek City Council is our Congress and when an ordinance is passed to restrict public comment, it is directly prohibiting free speech and restricting the ability of citizens to petition the government for redress of grievances publicly. 

So if this restrictive ordinance is passed, do we have free speech in Johns Creek at City Council Meetings, really?

Letter to the Editor: Johns Creek is at a Crossroads

Like most, I’ve been concerned about the direction of Johns Creek.  Zane Edge’s article on the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) update was well-written and important, but unfortunately, the mischief surrounding the plan is not surprising.  It highlighted yet more examples of our city government “going rogue”.  To Zane’s point, we need to remain vigilant in the CLUP update.
 –
Let’s be frank: the City, either by Community Development or through that department at the direction of city “leadership”, is pushing an urbanization agenda that targets the greater region as the “beneficiary”.  In many cases, the weight of these regional benefits are carried on the shoulders of Johns Creek taxpayers; these benefits often come at the expense of our community’s sacrifice.  After so many real world actions repeatedly pointing to this, we can only conclude that this is, in fact, their agenda.
 –
Case in point:  “In August 2014 the applicant JC Flex, LLC, requested a rezoning of the 6900 Block of McGinnis Ferry Road and 11300 Block of Technology Circle which encompasses three parcels totaling 19.40 acres from M-1A (Industrial Park District) condition to CUP (Community Unit Plan District) to develop 53 single-family lots at a density of 2.73 units per acre.” (Source: Council Agenda Report on the case)
 –
Community Development recommended denial for this rezoning from high-intensity usage to low-intensity residential usage.  The Council agreed to the denial.  The applicant sued Johns Creek and won.  Why did the applicant win this judgment?  They won because our city council had granted zoning variances to other developers that were then used as precedents to justify overriding the initial denial.  In effect, by granting variances to established zoning, our city council handed the applicant the tools with which they could easily defeat the initial denial.  We have seen this many times over the last several years.
 –
In the recent Order handed down from the Fulton Superior Court, the City’s priorities were revealed.  According to the Order, the City Staff’s testimony was essential, “the City wants more commercial property, but that the City has ample supply of residential property and does not need anymore.”  So despite our repeated calls for maintaining Johns Creek as a bedroom community, our government is often working at cross-purposes to the desires of current residents.
 –
You can read the full court order here:
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This zoning case is just more evidence of the pattern that we have seen.  That pattern is having a very real effect in Johns Creek.  The most recent CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) illuminates some disturbing trends.  Commercial property has increased in value by $272 million from 2007 to 2016, a rise of 39.31%. On a per capita basis, commercial property has increased by 17.10% over the last ten years.
 –
Compare commercial with our residential property values.  They have increased in value by $197 million from 2007 to 2016, a rise of 6.13%. On a per capita basis, residential property has DECREASED by 10.79% over the last ten years.  Likewise, per capita income has decreased by 32.39% over the last ten years. Eventually, these changes in demographics are going to impact our safety, schools, and home values.
 –
Some might characterize the above as “negative”.  Similar claims were made during the recent City Council election as one of the candidates raised very valid questions regarding the direction of our city.  Some might call into question my own love for Johns Creek for raising these issues and asking these questions. Let me be clear: My love for Johns Creek is a big 10, but my level of concern is also a 10.  Johns Creek is at a crossroads and everyone who loves this community should also be concerned.
 –
The next election will have far-reaching effects on our future as a community.  We will have two choices.  We can either return to our original vision of protecting the quality of life by preserving our traditional residential character or stay on our current path.  That path will continue to bring ever higher density, urbanization, and now, the threat of local roads widened into thoroughfares and thoroughfares into highways.  If we stay on this path, we will soon experience the full weight of the agenda that will irreversibly make us a pass-through part of an increasingly urban region.  We can’t let that happen.
John Bradberry
Preserve Johns Creek

Part 2: Comp Plan Progress?

Given recent events with the city looking at controversial road widening projects, the Comprehensive Plan update project has taken on renewed public attention. This attention is a good thing. The Comp Plan is a very critical document for the city’s future with zoning, transportation, and more. Let’s continue with our analysis of the progress. This is Part-2 of a 2-part series.

For those citizens who attended or watched the videos, many public meetings associated with the Comp Plan update project featured outside speakers and consultants that most certainly promoted high density. One guy from North Carolina spent over an hour presenting busy 3D graphs to convey that high density means higher city tax revenue. Why is the premier residential community in Georgia persistently being subjected to this type of consultant bias? The 3-day workshop presentation document2 mentions high density on page 37. Here is a quote from that document. “Additional traffic generated by increased density is not significant”. The meeting videos showed that some CAC members were definitely swayed by this type of general consultant advice, especially the Business Community members. I do appreciate the tough job the CAC members had to recognize and sort through all the bias they were being exposed to.

Next, exactly how did the dense development proposal for the AAC property come about from the Comp Plan work? A city leader is on record saying it resulted from the CAC meetings with public input3. Yet the development rendering was never created in any CAC meeting that was made available to the public. The completed drawing first appeared in the 3-day workshop presentation document2 that was given to the CAC. In that presentation, the speaking consultant said “the city does think this (the AAC property) should be developed as one cohesive master plan area”4. So someone from “the city” had definitely given direction to the consultants. But not the CAC, and not the public. So the consultants went off and unwittingly stepped on a historic Johns Creek zoning case landmine which then triggered a written rebuke from the current AAC management. Why was the Comp Plan project proposing dense developments on private property?

Bottom line, we should all be quite concerned about the Comp Plan update. Skewed CAC representation, misdirected questions to the public, misleading public surveys, consultants advocating high density, chaotic CAC meetings expressing widespread opinions all over the place – that’s the progress we saw in the meetings. And at one point we learned there were “private draft” CAC surveys that were not intended for the public. According to the Director of Community Development, one of 12 CAC members apparently leaked some information about the McGinnis Ferry road widening from a “private draft” survey, and this type of public disclosure is not allowed5.

So with this backdrop, we all await the new draft Comprehensive Plan which is due to be released real soon. All we can do at this point is hope the outcome of this convoluted and chaotic project preserves and protects the exceptional residential community that is Johns Creek for the next 10-years.     

Sources:

(1) Resident Zones & CAC Member Residential Locations (city document showing demographic data and actual CAC membership)

(2) Connect Johns Creek, shape an exceptional future, Three Day Workshop

(3) City Manager at approximately 01:21:10 in the video from the Town Hall, Feb 22: johnscreekga_a664dcf1-48af-4571-8cab-19738f47768a.mp4

(4) Consultant at 43:22 into 3-day workshop presentation video: johnscreekga_89be1d3f-27a1-458d-82db-a528f03fe528.mp4

(5) Johns Creek Herald, March 8th “False alarm emails upset McGinnis residents”

Medlock Bridge Rd Congestion Relief: Proposal

Here is a concept for the City Council to consider that will provide a direct and exclusive use and traffic relief for residents.

Bury the power the lines and create a multi-use path for golf cart use on both sides of Medlock Bridge Rd. A wide path will allow for local residents to traverse to nearby areas, shops, and amenities etc. High School Students can go to school safely, by taking a golf cart on a dedicated path. Walkers, strollers & bicyclists can utilize these paths as well.

What Medlock Bridge Rd would look like with No Power Lines

A tree lined golf cart path will bring an aesthetic appeal to the community, and can improve our property values.

Burying the utility lines will bring reliability as storms disrupt service. Line Maintenance is easier and less frequent as well. This will also reduce the negative health impacts of overhead line (EMFs) electromagnetic fields.

The trees on Medlock Bridge Rd can grow, and will not need to be hacked every year.

So how can we do this?

It will cost approximately $7 million to bury 1 mile of distribution line and 3 miles of the high-powered transmission line from JCUMC to the river.

We have $18 million that has been allocated through TSPLOST for Medlock Bridge Rd.

Within the TSPLOST legislation, burying power lines is an approved authorized expense.

Code Section 48-8-121(b)(1)(D) Relocation of utilities for roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths;

A few months ago, hundreds of residents attended Town halls and Council Meetings to oppose Medlock Bridge Rd widening to 6 lanes. Why? Because non-resident would primary benefit.  

This is the one proposal that will be directly and exclusively for Johns Creek Residents.

If Medlock Bridge Rd is to be our “Premier Boulevard” as our Community Director has stated, let’s have that begin, by burying the power lines and making it a scenic road, that we can be proud of.

We have the money through TSPLOST. State Law will allow the City to utilize it in this manner, the time has never been better.

Atlanta Audubon Letter to City Council: Reject the Current Plan for Cauley Creek Park

Dear Mayor Bodker, Councilor Zabrowski, Councilor Lin, Councilor Davenport, Councilor Coughlin, Councilor Endres, and Councilor Broadbent,

I am writing to you on behalf of the board of directors, staff, and constituents of Atlanta Audubon Society to express our concerns about the proposed Cauley Creek Park Master Plan. We would like to encourage the Council to reject the current proposed master plan for Cauley Creek Park.

Atlanta Audubon Society believes that where birds thrive, people thrive. With nearly 1,000 chapter members and more than 3,500 National Audubon Society members, Atlanta Audubon represents a broad constituency united by a desire to protect birds and other wildlife through education, conservation, and advocacy. Our constituency includes residents of Johns Creek and birders that frequent its parks and greenspaces, including the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA) park units.

The Cauley Creek Park Master Plan concerns us because of (1) the sheer destruction of habitat that would occur with the creation of the park, (2) human disturbance to remaining habitat, and (3) the increased erosion and pollution entering the watershed from new development.

Currently, the Cauley Creek property, adjacent CRNRA property to the west, and the river area of that borders these properties supports more than 135 species of birds. We know this because our constituency walks Roger’s Bridge Road south from Bell Road for bird watching and data has been recorded in the worldwide database, eBird. These bird species use the area for foraging, nesting, and protection. Some species come in the spring and summer to breed; some come in the fall and winter to pass the cold months where there are good sources of food and shelter; and some are year-round residents that call this area home.

American Kestrel may have to find a new home

Within this list of 135 are rare and threatened species, including the state-listed “threatened” Bald Eagle and state-listed “rare” Henslow’s Sparrow. These two species have been significantly impacted by pollution and habitat destruction over many years. Although the Bald Eagle is recovering in Georgia, this is due to active conservation efforts. Additionally, 38 of these species are considered climate-threatened or climate-endangered by the National Audubon Society. This means that local populations of these birds’ habitats will likely be affected negatively by the predicted changes to the Earth’s climate. You can imagine our concern when 30% of the species that this area supports are already threatened by larger factors out of our local control. If Cauley Creek Park is developed based on the proposed master plan, most of the birds inhabiting the area will be forced to find new homes.

It is important to note that the large, open, and undisturbed meadow habitat on the Cauley Creek property is much of the reason that the area supports so many different types of birds and wildlife. Grasslands have been one of the fastest declining habitats in the state of Georgia for decades. Species such as Northern Harrier, Eastern Meadowlark, American Kestrel, Bobolinks, Sedge Wren, and a handful of sparrow species depend on these habitats and have experienced declining populations in Georgia. Johns Creek is lucky to have such a habitat along the Chattahoochee River migratory corridor—it is special and unique, and it should be preserved as much as possible.

A secondary impact to the surrounding habitat of the proposed Cauley Creek Park is disturbance. While some area will be maintained as natural vegetative buffers, the vast increase in human use, vehicular traffic, light, and noise will impact the wildlife that lives in these small buffer areas and in the adjacent CRNRA property. Combined with the additional numbers of people utilizing the future greenway path along Rogers Bridge Road extending across the River from Duluth, there will be little opportunity for nesting birds and other wildlife to succeed. So in addition to direct loss of habitat, what will be left for birds and other wildlife will be of diminished value.

Eastern Meadowlark resides in the Cauley Creek Meadows

Our third concern is for water quality and the Chattahoochee River corridor. In 1973, the state of Georgia passed the Metropolitan River Protection Act, a forward-thinking piece of legislation for its time to help communities along the Chattahoochee River protect their drinking water supply. This Act protects land and floodplain within 2,000 feet of the River from land-disturbing activity, and gave authority to a regional development center (Atlanta Regional Commission, ARC) to create and adopt the Chattahoochee Corridor Plan. 

48 “Senior” LENNAR Townhomes Proposed for Medlock Bridge Rd

 

The proposed development is to be shoehorned between the 141 shopping center with Benjamin Moore & Medlock Bridge Subdivision.

The developer is aiming to market to seniors and empty nesters. Not sure where there are many older people that will want a 3 story home.

192 residential parking spots are indicated, with 14 guests spots, 206 parking spots total. With so much parking for cars, the traffic count report the developer submitted appears to be very low. The traffic count indicated 22 cars in the AM Peak and 31 PM Peak. This appears very low considering many homes have at least 2 occupants and 2 cars.

No amenities are provided with this Development.

Reports submitted to the City suggest they plan to utilize Medlock Bridge Subdivision’s amenities & facilities. A walkway path has been included in the plans, including a description of the Medlock Bridge amenities.

From the Developer’s Environmental Report, page 6:

To the west of the site is an existing community with amenity that has green space and active amenity that will be used by this development.

This site will provide additional residence to help protect green space and add residents to utilize the parks and recreation nearby.

Variances requested to reduce setback from 40ft to 10ft.

This is to MAXIMIZE the land and squeeze in more units.

Source: City of Johns Creek

$54 MILLION Cauley Creek Park: How Much is TOO Much

Although the City has earmarked $16million of the Park Bond to build out Cauley Creek Park, with the 30 year bond with approx 3.5% current rate, it will cost about $34 million with fees, interest, and principal.

This is on top of the purchase price of  $20.3 million.

Proposed Cost Breakdown

Purchase Price: $20.3 Million

Build out Price: $16 Million

Bond Costs: $18 Million

Total Proposed Costs: $54.3 Million

 

According to Councilman Chris Coughlin, the City could have saved $16 million in 3 or 4 years with current millage and appropriated to build out, rather than borrowing money.

Residents, would you rather see some of this money reallocated for other Parkland acquisition in Johns Creek?

Considering a New Roof? Here Comes the Tax Man

Residents in Johns Creek are finding the city’s adoption and stepped up enforcement of Permissive building codes and permits, et al, is having an interesting consequence beyond anything publicly discussed so far.

The consequence involves a visit from the Fulton County tax assessor. In some cases, these are homeowners who have lived in the same house for 20+ years and may have had projects done many years ago under totally a different permitting authority and different rules. Yet now, after all this time, the county has suddenly awakened and is following up to reassess for tax purposes.

For some homeowners, a new roof is triggering the visit. The roofer must obtain a permit from Johns Creek to do the roof work. But interestingly, no one ever sees any follow-up on the part of the city to inspect or approve the quality or “life safety” of the new roof. So for such a project, one might ask, why require a permit? Don’t answer yet, read on.

It seems the city and the county have new and improved communication channels. The new roof permit from the city is prompting the attention of county tax assessors. He or she will then pay you a visit and look at any house roofline changes, regardless of the age of the associated project. If you ask, the assessor will tell you which recent permit prompted their sudden diligence. No excuses are offered about the county’s non-existent reassessment follow-up over the passing decades!

Presumably, the new roof itself doesn’t change your home’s value assessment. But be aware, during the visit the assessor might ask if you have re-done your kitchen or finished your basement or added other finished square footage since your last reassessment. Your last assessment may have been when you bought your house! And you better hope your home builder accurately filed your homes’ taxable details at the time of closing. But relax. The silver lining here is that such reassessment increases won’t be retroactive.

With the city’s Permissive Code permit enforcement, it won’t be long before Fulton County tax assessors won’t need to ask you anything about changes to your home. They will already know the changes and the costs, as filed with the required city permits. Finishing a room in your house, for example, would require any number of trade permits, all of which could trigger a county reassessment. And I shouldn’t have to tell you that part of this tax money goes to Johns Creek. We are told by our current city leaders that we need to grow, urbanize, expand business presence, widen roads, and be competitive. All of this requires money!

No one is advocating the avoidance of property tax responsibility. It’s just interesting to note how tax reassessment diligence has suddenly improved and what is actually driving this. If you have followed the Permissive Code topic in city meetings, you might now understand why the city struggles to provide a clear list of project work that requires permitting. This might make the dots a little too easy to connect for citizens.

If you have lived in your home for a while and you have had a Fulton County tax assessor visit you recently to review house projects that are old or very old, perhaps you can share your experience below.

Letter to the Editor: Take the Cauley Creek Park design plan back to the drawing board

The city’s preliminary design plan for Cauley Creek Park is overly developed and completely out-of-place where this parkland sits in the city.

In comparing Cauley Creek to another high activity sports park – North Park in Alpharetta – we found that up to 2000 cars were generated on a busy day of weekend sports activity.  North Park has parking for only 659 cars.  It also has two entry points, is only 97 acres and houses only 8 softball fields and 2 multi-purpose sports field plus 7 tennis courts.

The preliminary Cauley Creek plan covers 133 acres, has parking for up to 1200 cars, is much more dense with 13 plus fields and amenities, and has only one entry/exit point. As proposed Cauley Creek will likely generate 3000-4000 car trips on Bell Road during a busy weekend of high activity.

Traffic on Bell Road is already significant during afternoon and evening hours when school buses are out and people are trying to get home from work. The expected traffic from this park would create additional traffic congestion weeknights and on weekends. Do we really want thousands of more cars racing to their next game or practice on Bell Road, even on the weekend?  Do we really want traffic jams 7 days a week on that tiny, two-lane road?

Part 1: Comp Plan Progress?

Given that the Johns Creek City Council fairly recently punted the decision of widening Medlock Bridge to the city’s Comprehensive Plan update work, and we know the Comp Plan team has already explored controversial aspects of the McGinnis widening, the Comp Plan update project has taken on renewed public attention. This attention is a good thing. The Comp Plan is a very critical document for the city’s 10-year future with zoning, transportation, and more. But let’s examine the overall Comp Plan update progress so far. This is Part-1 of a 2-part series.

Early on, a Citizen Action Committee (CAC) was formed. The demographic information1 that helped to seat the CAC membership shows Johns Creek to have approx 28,000 residential addresses and approx 1,600 commercial addresses. That’s less than 6% commercial addresses. But the subsequent actual makeup of the CAC showed the Business Community represented at least 26% of the committee, assuming that the 25% representing education, arts, and religious institutions were not also predisposed to support business interests. So, right from the onset, we do not have representation on this team that reflects the makeup of the Johns Creek community.

Next, the work included public workshops directed by consultants where things like consolidating Character Areas were being considered. In one particular workshop, half of my breakout team didn’t even know what a Character Area was. Furthermore, they had absolutely no knowledge of the current Comp Plan. Many citizen participants didn’t know what they were being asked. This problem was not limited to my breakout team.     

Next, we had an online city Comp Plan survey that was misleading at best. Some would say it was downright deceptive. For example, one question asked about expanding “workforce housing”, defined in the survey as “giving people who work essential services within the city (police officers, firemen, teachers, medical personnel, etc) the ability to live closer to where they work”. This question was calculated deception at its finest. There is no consistent or accepted meaning for “workforce housing”. The responses to this question could be interpreted to apply to housing for anyone of any profession. In fact, “essential services” could be anything the city or the business community says it is. Because of these problems, the survey was revised at least once since it went live to the public. The extremely low turnout of public respondents has been attributed to citizens that were discouraged by the leading questions and deceptive options, so they never completed it.

Letter to the Editor: Cauley Creek Sports Complex: Do We Have More Money Than Sense?

Yes, we need more playing fields for our kids and, yes, we would like the prestige of having a large, beautiful, and enjoyable complex with multi-use playing fields to be used in Johns Creek and surrounding areas. But, if we are going to create such a place (and spend sixteen million dollars doing it), we need to do it the right way, and not hurriedly proceed with a location simply because the acreage is available. This is, however, unfortunately, what the City is doing with respect to Cauley Creek Park on the 2-lane Bell Road, at Rogers Bridge Road.

The current plans for the 133-acre, currently-undeveloped park include, among other things, at least 13 playing fields and parking for 1,200 vehicles. Despite the enormity of the project, which is by far the biggest of the Johns Creek park buildouts, the City plans to install the sporting complex (let’s call a spade a spade, it is not a “park”) with essentially no investigation into whether the location is actually feasible.

For instance, while the City conducted a traffic study (completed in 2016 and just released to the public yesterday), the study concluded that current road conditions were insufficient for the complex, modifications would be needed, and that additional studies should be performed. The City, however, has performed no additional studies, and the traffic data used was from 2010 to 2015 – two or more years old at this point. This also did not include the impact of the 2 large subdivisions built in the area recently, Bellmoore (~650 homes) & Brookmere (194 homes).

Further, the City has not done, or at least not provided to the public, any environmental study regarding the impact the development will have on protected wildlife living in the area, no information as to the level of light and noise pollution (i.e., to what field lighting and PA systems will be installed), no information as to how this development will affect the security of this purely residential area, and no information on the cost to maintain the complex and whether the complex can cover its costs.

We need to put more thought into this before spending sixteen million dollars.

Support for building the complex at this location seems short-sighted.

A beautiful new location for children to play sports would be great, but is it really so great once you realize you will be sitting in miles (literally miles) of traffic on a two-lane road to get to and from games? Will it be so great when you realize you will have seemingly never-ending battles with residents over lighting, PA systems, and hours of operation?

Will it be so great when you realize the fields are on a floodplain, which leads to canceled games?

Do not let the glamor of the renderings fool you; we need to look at context. Let’s not rush into this, especially when we have an alternative location in Dean Gardens off Old Alabama.

Rivermont Community Garage Sale: May 19th & 20th

Maps will be given out at all participating houses.

Starting at 8 AM til 4 PM.

Watch for signs and balloons.

OVER 23 HOMES PARTICIPATING!

Off both, Barnwell and Nesbit Ferry Rds.