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Looking Up in Peachtree Corners



rafael garcia astronomy telescope technology
Rafael Garcia. surrounded by his Coulter Oddysey 12” Dobsonian reflector telescope on home-built tracking base. and an Orion Schmidt-Cassegrain catadioptric telescope with guiding motor in the foreground. Rafael used his laptop to run real time astronomical charts, eyepiece camera, and tracking. Sky charts; the old way of locating stars before the laptop and tablet lay before him.

When the brilliance of a clear night sky meets up with a young and impressionable mind, a lifelong fascination can result. Peachtree Corners resident Jay Brantley certainly exemplifies that.

“It started when I was about eight and I got a pair of binoculars and gazed up at the night sky, “he remembers. “I looked at the moon and it felt like I was pretty nearly on the moon. When I was 11, I got my first telescope and things evolved from there. The rest of the house would be asleep, and I was out with my telescope pointing it at the moon, the planets and the stars.”

Brantley started out wanting to be an astronomer, segued into engineering but has maintained his interest in Life, the Universe and Everything (to borrow from a book title) ever since. “There’s just something magical about it,” he said of astronomy.

Rafael Garcia, a retired architect and another longtime Peachtree Corners resident, has a similar childhood tale to tell. “Back around 1968, I had a little refracting telescope in Puerto Rico. We had a second story that had an opening to the sky, and I loved going up there. I could find many things other than the moon,” he said.

Garcia is of the generation that came of age during the moon race of the 60s-and says that also contributed to his decades-long fascination. “The whole concept of space travel was embedded in my psyche,” he said. “I saw the moon landing live on TV, so it’s always something I’ve been fascinated by. And I have always liked science.”

Stars in their own backyards

Jay Brantley, with his 150-millimeter refractor telescope, strong enough to see Jupiter, Saturn and distant galaxies.

Amateur astronomers have been prowling the night skies of Peachtree Corners for decades in parallel with the professionals who staff observatories and research black holes, the origin and evolution of stars and the formation of distant galaxies.

The backyard astronomers aren’t necessarily looking to push the boundaries of knowledge — they delight finding brighter sights, like the moon, the planets and their moons and even much more distant objects like the Orion nebula, star clusters and the Andromeda galaxy in the midst of a city where light pollution has grown steadily worse. Or they head for darker environs such as the north Georgia mountains to look for fainter objects. Others combine a love of roaming the universe with astrophotography, capturing breathtaking images of Saturn’s rings or streaking comets.

The technology involved with telescopes for the backyard buff has advanced steadily and prices have come down in the last 10 to 20 years, cutting out the tedious work of finding and then tracking celestial objects. These aren’t your grandpa’s telescopes.

“At one point, someone — it must have been my wife — gave me one of those department store telescopes,” said Ludwig Keck of Peachtree Corners, “and it illustrated very well why you shouldn’t have one of those. They make big [and to his thinking largely unfounded] claims on what you can see. They come with a tripod and a mount that aren’t very stable. And, of course, it has no drive, so you have to constantly reposition it.”

Modern consumer telescopic equipment of the last 10 to 20 years is a far cry from that. Motorized mounts and computer control make celestial tracking objects a snap — no constant repositioning.

Enthusiasts say you can program the equipment for a nighttime tour of whatever planets are visible, for example. Pair one of those higher-end telescopes together with a laptop, or even an app-equipped iPhone or Droid, and you’re in business.

Eyepiece and phone cameras can yield spectacular photographs. Even that app-equipped smartphone by itself can find and follow landmarks in the sky — no telescope required.

Spectacular night shows

Of course, one thing that hasn’t changed from the old days is the awe and wonder of having a front row to the universe.

Rafael Garcia’s photo of the moon during a solar eclipse, August 2017.

Jay Dunn is an assistant professor in physical sciences at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College. He teaches taught a slate of astronomy and physics courses and co-presides over the observatory on the Dunwoody campus, apparently the closest such facility to Peachtree Corners.

He says a major factor in his continued passion for the science is watching the amazed reactions as visitors peer through the eyepiece of their 14-inch telescope. “Even with less interested astronomy students, when they look through the telescope, they might drop an expletive,” he said.

Unfortunately, the observatory building was shuttered at press time due to COVID-19 restrictions. Dunn said they plan to reopen after getting the go-ahead from Georgia State officials.

Dunn is a professional, published research astronomer but is well in tune with what visitors like to see. He says the moon is most popular, particularly in the first quarter because shadows create an extra viewing dimension. Saturn and its rings also rank high.

Peachtree Corners sky watchers don’t disagree. Brantley says Jupiter, Saturn and distant galaxies are the preferred observational targets as objects that one can get more detail on, in contrast to stars. And when he points his 150-millimeter refractor telescope at the moon and invites youngsters to peer through the eyepiece, “They are absolutely mesmerized.”

Speaking to that same sense of youthful fascination, Keck was a Boy Scout leader and before taking kids on a campout, he’d consult a star chart and to learn what could be seen and what part of the sky it could be spotted in.

“I remember one trip where the Scouts were rowdy and talking and wouldn’t go to sleep, so well past midnight, I told them we were going on a star walk. After some hemming and hawing they complied,” he said. “We walked to a big field. And they were just fascinated. It was beautiful and clear and there were so many stars it was hard to pick out the constellations.”

The astronomy bug can be passed down through the generations. Garcia said his daughter is a semiprofessional photographer who does a great deal of astrophotography. He himself has linked an eyepiece camera to his motorized refracting telescope to take moon and eclipse shots and has posted them to a local photography club website.

Advice for stargazers

A word of caution — patience and technique are key for such photography. Forsyth Countian and retired broadcaster Jim Ribble has shot a plethora of sky pics. He says with fainter objects, the necessary light-gathering can take hours.

If he’s photographing Orion, for example, he might take hundreds of shots and then uses software to stack the 30-second frames into one, brilliant whole. He uses an 11-inch telescope and explains that the bigger the telescope, the more light it can gather, a key factor that outshines that of simple magnification.

And he enjoys the challenge. “It’s pointing the camera at a dark spot in the sky and realizing that it’s filled with incredible, colorful objects,” Ribble said.

Getting started in the hobby is akin to others, said astronomy buffs, as you can pretty much spend as much or as little as you want — $100 perhaps for a decent pair of binoculars to as much as $13,000-$15,000 for a very high-quality telescope.

With more time post-retirement, Garcia looks to point his higher-end refracting and reflecting hybrid telescope upward to find more galaxies as well as observing some of the planets. More digital photography is in the offing as well. And he’s among those who think that the SpaceX program and NASA’s plans to return to the moon and go onto Mars may fire up additional interest in celestial gazing.

For Brantley, there’s a strong linkage between astronomy and elemental questions of existence and origin. “You ask yourself the existential question ‘Are we alone?’ You look at another galaxy and it’s like our own, with billions of stars. Is there life there? There’s a philosophical debate on that and a religious debate. These are questions we’ve been asking ourselves since the dawn of humanity.”

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Peachtree Corners Installs Little Free Library in Memorial to Benjamin “Lloyd” Cloer 



Benjamin in Sedona

On May 17, the City of Peachtree Corners installed a Memorial Children’s Little Free Library at the Town Green in the Children’s Corner. The little library was donated by Steve Cloer on behalf of his son, Benjamin “Lloyd” Cloer.

The little free library encourages kids to take a book and leave a book to encourage increased literacy and the love of reading. The library was paid for with funds Benjamin had acquired during his lifetime and was designed and built by Benjamin’s father. It will be registered as an official Little Free Library and will be part of a program that provides over 150,000 libraries in more than 120 countries. 

Benjamin, a Norcross High School (NHS) graduate in 2011, lost his life in an act of senseless gun violence on November 10, 2019. While at NHS, Benjamin was an Honor Student, President of the Science Club, Co-Founder and Co-President of the Philosophy Guild, a member of the Math Team and a violinist in the Orchestra. He earned numerous academic awards and achieved an SAT score that put him in the top 2% of students in the nation.

Following high school, Benjamin was awarded an academic scholarship to attend Pomona College in Claremont, Cal. In 2015, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience with a minor in mathematics. 

Benjamin in Sedona
Benjamin in Sedona

After completing his undergraduate degree, Benjamin continued to pursue his education at Georgia State University as a full-time student. In the fall of 2018, he entered the Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence (MSAI) program at the University of Georgia. In the fall of 2020, Benjamin was planning on attending Georgia Tech to pursue his Doctorate in Artificial Intelligence. 

At 26 years old, a few weeks before he was to complete the requirements for his master’s degree in AI at UGA, Benjamin’s life was taken. Benjamin received his master’s degree in AI from UGA posthumously in May 2020. 

Benjamin is described by those who knew him well as someone filled with compassion and caring for others. He had an innate empathic ability to feel when someone was in need. Many people have described him as being “an old soul.” 

Friends of the Cloer family created an endowment, the Benjamin Lloyd Cloer Endowment for AI. Thanks to everyone who has or will donate, there will forever be a “Benjamin Lloyd Cloer Endowment for AI” at UGA. The endowment began offering grants in the fall of 2020 to students in financial need who are studying artificial intelligence.

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Peachtree Corner’s Goal: The Best Streets, Sidewalks, and Multi-Use Trail System in Gwinnett County



Since the City was founded in 2012, Peachtree Corners has taken these goals very seriously: One, we want our citizens to be safe driving on the best streets in Gwinnett County, and two, we believe in having a walkable community.  With this in mind, we have planned several projects for the creation of new sidewalks and multi-use trails.

To ensure that the City can provide the best streets for our residents, we have conducted a technical analysis of each street to prioritize the order in which those streets are resurfaced.  State-of-the-art imaging technology called Laser Crack Measurement is used to develop a Pavement Coefficient Index (PCI) for each street. Each neighborhood is given an average PCI for all its streets, and all neighborhoods are prioritized based on those averages.  The City performed its most recent analysis in October of 2022.   

In April of this year, the City began work on its scheduled 2023 Street Paving projects.  The following neighborhoods are currently scheduled for paving in 2023.

  • Chattahoochee Station
  • River Valley Station
  • Spalding Hollow
  • Neely Meadows
  • Spalding Bluff
  • Holcomb Bridge Station
  • Spalding Chase
  • Peachtree Square Townhomes

These neighborhoods may not be paved in the order above, but Contractors will post signage in the specific neighborhoods before work begins.

In addition to roads, the City plans for the construction of more sidewalks and multi-use trails.

The location of new sidewalks and multi-use trails is based on the needs and gaps within our current network. We have been focusing on connections to businesses, schools, bus stops, and other public facilities as well as worn paths we have noticed throughout the city that show a clear need for sidewalks. 

Below is the list of sidewalks that will be under construction this summer:

  • Woodhill Dr
  • Meadow Rue Dr
  • Parkway Lane
  • Jay Bird Alley
  • Green Pointe Parkway
  • The Corners Parkway

Additionally, we have several sidewalks that are currently under design:

  • Jay Bird Alley
  • SR 141/Peachtree Parkway 
  • Jones Bridge Circle 

Multi-Use Trails that are currently under construction are in Technology Park, at Town Center, and the Riverlands Path, located on East Jones Bridge Road and Medlock Bridge Road.

In the future, the City will work towards the design and construction of the following multi-use trails:

Burdell Branch: This portion of the system will connect Engineering Drive south to Woodhill Drive. An existing segment of Corners Connector currently ends at Engineering Drive and Peachtree Parkway in front of the Corners Fine Wine & Spirits and RaceTrac.  This project will extend that trail infrastructure south to the Chick-fil-A area and its adjacent shopping centers.

Farrell Creek: Will consist of approximately 2.13 miles of 10′ to 12′ concrete multi-use trail. It is proposed to run from Peachtree Corners Circle west of Peachtree Parkway to Engineering Drive. This trail would run around two water features along Triangle Parkway and an additional water feature north of Engineering Drive.

Crooked Creek Trail North: Crooked Creek Trail North is composed of 7 segments totaling approximately 4.04 miles. The segment is planned to run along Crooked Creek from the area around Peachtree Corners Circle to Spalding Drive. In addition to the planned 7 segments, there is one alternative segment (.17 miles) that may be constructed as part of the project.

Crooked Creek Trail South: Crooked Creek Trail South is composed of 7 segments totaling approximately 2.95 miles. The segment is planned to run from Peachtree Parkway West to Peachtree Corners Circle. It will be located along Holcomb Bridge Road from Peachtree Parkway to the intersection of Jimmy Carter Blvd. From that intersection, it will move along Crooked Creek to Peachtree Corners Circle.

That’s a brief update on the status of paving, sidewalks, and multi-use trails in the City.  Although there will be some delays and inconvenience, please bear with us as we complete our current paving schedules.  We want our citizens to be confident that we are making progress on our goal of having the best streets, sidewalks, and multiuse trails in Gwinnett County.  

Stay safe,


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City Government

How will drones be used in the city, new City Budget is coming up and City Marshals are ready to be hired.



The City Marshals will also be working with projects related to law enforcement and the use of drones.

The city of Peachtree Corners, Georgia has been continuing to make strides in technology and community development. In the latest episode of “Prime Lunchtime with The City Manager,” Brian Johnson shared several updates and plans for the city.

The Curiosity Lab Criterion Road Race

During the Curiosity Lab Criterion Road Race, Spoke Safety officially unveiled their new road safety technology. This device enhances safety for vulnerable road users by allowing for two-way communication between the device and automobiles, providing safety messages to drivers.

The event was livestreamed internationally, and Audi became an official partner in the project. The partnership will explore the enhancement of the vulnerable road user technology to make it better, easier to use and scalable.

Pickleball feasibility study

The city is considering building a 40-50 court pickleball facility and has commissioned a sports facility consulting firm to conduct a feasibility study. They will determine the market demand and economic impact. The study is expected to take a month, and results will be presented to the mayor, council and interested parties in early summer.

“Clearly there’s a demand,” Brian Johnson shared. “The question is, is it enough for the city to end up putting any time, energy and money into facilitating something? And we want to make sure that we are shooting at the bullseye that we need to.”

The city marshal system

Additionally, the city is starting a city marshal program, which will begin with three post-certified marshals. The job announcement and requirements will be posted in May with interviews to be conducted in June. The program is expected to start in July, and the marshals will be based in City Hall.

The city marshals will have access to brand new hybrid vehicles, drones and the fūsus technology. The marshals will have the same authorities as any other police officer but be limited by policy. The Mayor and council will establish the policies and limitations on what the city marshals will be able to do.

Budget, housing, dog parks and more

During the May City Council Meeting, the budget for the upcoming fiscal year will be officially presented to the city. The budget includes increased funding for street resurfacing, multi-use trail activity and housing redevelopment in the south part of the city. The housing redevelopment project aims to acquire foreclosed and dilapidated properties and build affordable starter homes with equity control to make them accessible to more residents.

The city is using federal funds from the ARPA and will work with the Gwinnett Housing Authority for this project. The purchase price of these homes will be controlled through agreements with the building entity to prevent prices from getting out of hand. This will help fill the demand for starter homes in the area and remove squalor, vacant homes and foreclosed homes.

The city is constructing a dog park at the Town Center with two separate halves for big and small dogs. The park will be made of Astroturf to prevent dogs from digging and getting muddy. There will also be shade structures and seating areas for owners.

After the last event on the summer event calendar, the Town Center will undergo construction to relocate playground equipment and improve drainage. The playground equipment will be organized into two different areas for younger and older children.

North American Properties recently had the groundbreaking for the upcoming Forum redevelopment. The first section of the interior parking spaces will be removed to finish the Linear Park. In addition, there will be new outdoor seating and the parking deck will start construction in the late 2023 season.

FAA and drone programs

The city is working with the drone regulation team of the FAA to help create a local drone activity regulation. The FAA is interested in how it can handle multiple drones using the same wireless signal, even when beyond visual line of sight.

Peachtree Corners and the FAA will work with partnerships with T-Mobile and Deutsche Telecom to utilize the 5G wireless environment in the City. The City Marshals will also be working with projects related to law enforcement and the use of drones. The goal is to help the FAA issue regulations on private drones.

Overall, Peachtree Corners is a city that is making significant investments in technology and community development. With all of these upcoming plans, it is clear that the city is working to improve the lives of its residents.

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