Question #3 for Johns Creek 2019 Council Candidates. Some argue the City’s Johns Creek community development lacks rigor. Do you agree or disagree, and if so, how would you improve the zoning and environmental quality standards in Johns Creek?
Yes. We can always do better but I would let City staff and department heads make their recommendations in their respective areas as that is their job. I would also promote economic development when possible always remaining mindful of the Comprehensive Land use Plan with regard to zoning applications.
I agree that Johns Creek community development lacks rigor, we need to plan and drive Johns Creek in the forward-looking direction. Basically, we need to strike a balance between three components in community development, economic, housing and social opportunities. This should be a collaborate effort between city and residents to take action on what is important to residents of Johns Creek.
We should activate half occupied shopping centers and also attract businesses into empty office space in the Technology Park. These initiatives will not need any zoning changes, but will stimulate the weak office market and increase the occupancy rate in shopping centers.
Environmental quality standards with respect to quality of life will have to be addressed through green space and energy efficiency. Johns Creek currently has 200 acres of area for parks, less than 1% of total Johns Creek area and with proposed new parks we will be at 424 acres, still less compared to other cities. So, the first step is to start construction and get the proposed parks completed as soon as possible, then we need to work on adding another 100 acres of park area. Also, we need to work towards making Johns Creek energy efficient city, by utilizing solar energy, with smart streetlights, and through energy efficient buildings. We should be practical in tapping into smart technology in guiding Johns Creek into the future.
I cannot say that I sufficiently understand the premise of this question to say whether I agree or disagree. As a member of the Board of Zoning Appeals, I have worked with the Community Development department for three years to make clear what information is needed to support effective decision-making, and to enhance the quality and rigor of information presented to the BZA. Unlike other city boards that are recommending bodies, whose input may or may not be accepted by City Council, the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) is a quasi-judicial body that makes final decisions, which must be defensible before the Superior Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of Georgia.
In Johns Creek we have four major streams—Johns Creek, Cauley Creek, Long Indian Creek, and the Chattahoochee River—that are reported on by the State Environmental Protection Department. These four streams are ranked four on a scale of one to five where one is best and five is worst. I will use my BZA experience to improve our stream buffer variance process by making it more technically focused with measurable targets for improvement in our stream water quality.
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*Although Adam Thomas did not respond to the questionnaire, we included his name and photo to show he is on the ballot and was not omitted on our part.*
At this point, I disagree. While I may not have answered this the same way in a previous election, I think the strides Community Development has made in the past couple of years is tremendous. I led the initiative to bring Community Development in house to provide more accountability and control while also realizing approximately $100k in annualized savings. Since then, we passed a resident- and business-friendly Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which will serve our community well in the future for rezonings, and any future development/redevelopment. We’ve also addressed or are addressing some of the most impacted concerns (e.g., stormwater, cleaning up and tying zoning ordinance to CLUP 2018, cleaning up land disturbance permitting ordinance) for our residents under the purview of this department.
Finally, with the switch of leadership to Kimberly Greer and now Ben Song, the work that Community Development has provided recently goes beyond rigor. The better development and quality assurance of packets and information, a data- and criteria-first perspective, and improved communication and planning have all contributed to this improvement and that’s why I’m excited to see this department help us achieve our community goals in the future.
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* Although Kent Altom did not respond to the questionnaire, we included his name and photo to show he is on the ballot and was not omitted on our part.*
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*Although Marybeth Cooper did not respond to the questionnaire, we included her name and photo to show she is on the ballot and was not omitted on our part.*
I share the goal of many residents who want the City Center built without further delay. We also need a long-term, comprehensive strategy towards traffic control, population growth/development, and environmental protection. These issues are intertwined, and do not exist in separate silos. Let’s become a Council with vision and willingness to approach these issues proactively instead of in an ad hoc manner. Without looking long-term at the issues facing Johns Creek, we cannot resolve them.
I support the Comprehensive Land Use Plan. This plan was developed with input from residents, a consensus was reached, and the plan was adopted by the City. I think we need to respect the work that went into developing this plan and stick to it. I would like to see Johns Creek be a planned community so we can move forward to realize our potential instead of being reactive. The ongoing approval of variance requests has led to overdevelopment and an increase in density. We need to temporarily stop approving zoning variances until we are able to resolve traffic and overdevelopment concerns.
Additional development only aggravates the traffic problems and has a detrimental effect on the quality of life for our current residents. We have an obligation to resolve the traffic issues before adding more development which will create more traffic.
The Community Development Department has undergone a change recently with the hiring of a new Community Development Director, Ben Song. Under his leadership there have been no real zoning cases of note so the verdict is out as to how he will run the department and the level of “rigor” with which potential zoning cases will effectively undergo. The newly adopted Comprehensive Land Use Plan has essentially lowered the overall density in Johns Creek. Currently the Community Development Department is working to align zoning ordinances with the new plan. As a member of council, I will always strive to make certain that the standards, including environmental, set by the Comprehensive Plan are followed.
Finally, stay tuned for the next "Ask the Candidates #2" Questionnaire!
Lastly, what do you all think of the Johns Creek City Council Candidates so far?