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.
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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.
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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)
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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

6 Responses to Letter to the Editor: Johns Creek is at a Crossroads

  1. EJ Moosa says:

    Since Bodker and Hutmacher promoted the concept of our “residential-commercial” property imbalance several years ago I never would have known that Johns Creek really had any issues.

    Every year we have a tax surplus.

    Empty store fronts showed we have plenty of commercial space. Empty office buildings showed we have plenty of office space. Yet somehow it becomes the City’s job to redevelop Tech Park. And yet here was someone trying to redevelop Tech Park using their own dollars who had to sue the City to be able to do so.

    Of course, the City Council that is supposed to represent ALL of us decides that is not in our best interest. Instead they deny it and hope for a day that commercial is built there.

    Why? For revenues? Maybe. This City is awash in money. TSPLOST dollars, park bonds, hotel/motel taxes and the property tax revenues will continue to flow in.

    It is not too hard to think that they are down at City Hall not just in love with the tax dollars you and I pay, but the fantasy of all the tax dollars they could get IF they build their fantasy Sim City Johns Creek Edition with all sorts of urban attractions(and become something we are not today and were not interested in becoming in the first place.)

    I’ll trust the judgement of 33,000 households who said Johns Creek is the type of place that they wanted to be and put their money where they wanted to be now rather than the judgement of four at City Hall that want to plan the City for people who are not even living here, in an effort to attract them.

    We know why Johns Creek attracted us in the first place. My hard question to you is this-would you be as attracted to Johns Creek today? I’ll suggest the data cited in the piece by Mr. Bradberry says no.

    Why have our incomes fallen so sharply? Why have our residential property values not kept up with commercial property values? What is going to change that trend?

    Does the high density housing destroy the value of our current residential property? Of course it does. Buyers of those properties are buyers NOT looking at your property unless you drastically reduce your prices relative to where they would have been if there were NO high density housing being added to Johns Creek.

    Our priorities need a serious adjustment before it is too late.

    • Jeffrey Emenecker says:

      Why do you believe the per capita income in Johns Creek has dropped since 2007?

      • EJ Moosa says:

        There could be many reasons as to why it has dropped, all contributing in various ways.

        We have more assisted living than we did ten years ago. We have more apartments and high density housing than we did ten years ago. The incomes needed to qualify for all of those housing choices is likely less than what is needed to qualify for single family detached homes, on average.

        But I doubt that would be enough to lower the average per capita incomes completely.

        So, I imagine a % of the wealthier earners are voting with their wallets, and moving to areas that are less expensive, less congested, and provide more bang for their bucks, and have less of a property tax burden going forward.

        Calculate your anticipated amount of property taxes and sales taxes that you will pay if you stay in your home for the next ten years. And these amounts keep rising. Not a small amount is it?

        At some point the tax burden will drive away all those who can afford to get away. Which tax will it be that breaks the taxpayer’s back overall? I am not sure. But we are certainly getting closer to finding out.

  2. Ed Thompson says:

    What is the point of zoning codes if we’re granting waivers to those codes that then become the precedents that eliminate the zoning restrictions we sought to protect the community for unwarranted development in the first place? Every waiver granted is another step that weakens our ability to control the types of development deemed acceptable. The result is that the character of our suburban residential community is being transformed at an increasing rate, and for the benefit of whom?

    I would suspect that most Johns Creek residents moved here with the expectation that their quality of life would be foremost in the minds and actions of our City Council. Instead, we hear that REGIONAL interests are being taken into account instead of LOCAL interests.

    Case in point: we were asked to support a Parks Bond Referendum in order to acquire and develop parks for Johns Creek residents. Now we’re being presented with plans to develop Cauley Creek as a “destination” park with the ability to host tournaments that will consist primarily of out-of-town participants. The budget for this proposal is in excess of $50MM dollars. The property is squarely in a residential area, and plans will impose higher traffic counts, and may cause light and sound disturbances for local neighbors. And again, WHO are these parks meant to benefit? It certainly isn’t an investment that is focused primarily on residents.

    We should expect that our Mayor and City Council are looking after the interests of Johns Creek residents first and foremost, and that they’re being good stewards of our tax dollars that, when spent, are being invested in the best interests of our residents. We should expect that they protect our zoning ordinances in order to preserve the suburban residential character of our community – and that they NOT undermine those zoning restrictions meant to maintain quality of life standards.

    Johns Creek’s motto is “Be the Exception”. Instead, we’re seeing that we are far too often in the position of “Grant the Exception”, all at the expense of Johns Creek residents.

  3. JCR says:

    ” No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. [emphasis added]”

    Zoning variances are NOT equal protection are they? One entity must leave a 40 foot buffer. Another has it waived. Why is that?

    Should your neighbors be entitled by law to do something on their property that you are forbidden to do?

    All properties are heavily encumbered by zoning rules and laws when they are purchased. Developers with the financial resources pursue a waiving of the rules and laws, and go before your City Council to do so. When a variance is granted, your City Council has, in effect, customized the law for that specific property owner.

    I’ve heard the oath taken by City Council members as recently as the swearing in of Chris Coughlin. And they do affirm that they will follow the US Constitution, part of which is cited above.

    Why do members of the Council then so willingly provide waivers to the law?

    From the Georgia Constitution: Paragraph II. Protection to person and property; equal protection. Protection to person and property is the paramount duty of government and shall be impartial and complete. No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws.

    Is your property protected when waivers are granted to owners of other properties? Is it impartial? Will the same law apply to you if you seek the variance or waiver?

    Of course not. Therefore, it seems that all of these variances also violate the Georgia Constitution. Our Council Members also took an oath to uphold that as well.

    Arbitrary laws are the bane of society. They empower those that can arbitrarily grant the variances while at the same time deny the rest of us equal protection from those variances.

    Of course this is what City Councils have done for years. But that does not make it right, does it?

    Demand equal protection under the US and Georgia Constitutions. It’s your right.

  4. We need a new Mayor in the worst way. We desperately need someone who has the best interests of the long-time Johns Creek residents.
    We moved here because we wanted to have a peaceful, bedroom community. Not be surrounded by ugly tall boxes instead of beautiful subdivisions.
    John Bradberry, please consider running for Mayor. You have shown your devotion to preserving our city and I know we would be lucky to have you represent Johns Creek.

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