Dear Residents of Johns Creek,
First and foremost, I owe the residents of Johns Creek an apology.
During the Council Meeting on Monday, October 8, 2018, I misspoke and did vote Yes to support the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) to be submitted to Atlanta Regional Commission for review. At the October 8th meeting, I voted No on the final approval of the CLUP and I wanted to share you with why.
The CLUP is composed of dozens of policy statements that government implements to describe and document how a governmental jurisdiction is to be developed. During the summer of 2016, the City Council seated a Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) comprised of residents throughout the city. Their task was to review, document and finalize the CLUP, and to present to the City Council for consideration. The Johns Creek CAC endured 6 months of frustration working with a consulting firm hired to assist in the process. The CAC stood strong and took control of the process. After another eight months, they were able to present their draft of the CLUP to the Planning Commission and then the City Council for consideration. This was a tremendous effort, and all the members should be commended for their hard work, considerable investment in time, and completion of a thorough document.
Our current political environment is marked by a distrust of elected officials and a constantly escalating uncivil discourse which is rooted in perceived violations of principles between elected officials and the electorate. Residents look at each change and ask themselves “Who is this designed to benefit?” How is this relevant to the Johns Creek CLUP?
The City Council discussion regarding the review of the CLUP centered around some concerns a single property owner continued to bring forward to each public hearing held regarding the process. The issue was the assertion that the property owner’s fundamental rights were being violated by descriptive changes made to the CLUP. Working with the City Attorney, minor changes were made, and the legal concerns were addressed. However, several members of the City Council took this a step further and created a group of specific residents to work with this property owner. As a result, additional language was added to the CLUP stating changes that will be considered in the future. Council Members also made statements during the public hearing reinforcing this property owner’s ability to submit plans to change from AG-1 to some sort of Mixed Use.
Every property owner is subject to the same zoning laws and would have to request a zoning change or variance if they desired to change their property classification. Through the process that was allowed, this particular property owner was given “extra rights” through wording and verbal affirmation of a potential positive outcome in the zoning change/variance request process. Here is where policy separates and principles emerge with the perception of granting additional “rights” to a single property owner.
For the zoning process, the core principle is equal protection under the law and equality in opportunity. When the City Council added a statement in the CLUP that granted “special rights” to a single property owner at the expense of all the other property owners in Johns Creek, the CLUP ceased to be a singular policy statement, and instead became a variation in rights – fundamental rights that are the foundation of this country. And all the hard work of the CAC was thrown to the wayside.
Were we to grant “special rights” to one property owner, it is only proper that we should grant those rights to all property owners. We should not be picking winners and losers. By not granting “special rights” to all, we create a reality where some get preferential treatment and others do not.
When I was sworn in as a City Councilmember, I took an oath to adhere to the US Constitution, Georgia Constitution and the Johns Creek City Charter. My core principles are the basis for every decision I make and are articulated in these documents. Therefore, I could not support the CLUP because the City Council does not have the power to grant special rights, and the CLUP was favoring one property owner at the expense of all the other property owners in Johns Creek.
It is my opinion that almost all of the incivility in our society with elected officials can be traced back to core principles that residents or citizens have perceived as being violated by elected officials. That situation leads to a lack of perceived independence, perceived crony capitalism, and perceived denial of equal rights (equal protection, blind justice), to name just a few. For civility to return, elected officials need to start understanding that core principles cannot be negotiable and should not be confused when setting policy. Our rights come with responsibilities and every one of us has the responsibility to hold each other accountable. These initial principles were clearly articulated in the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
I welcome your thoughts and feedback and appreciate your time in reviewing my letter.
Johns Creek City Council Post 5