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Let’s talk Criterium Cycling Race, Pickleball Courts in Peachtree Corners [Podcast]



The Curiosity Lab Criterium 2023 @ Peachtree Corners is coming on Wednesday, April 26, during Speedweek. What does that mean for our smart city and what does AUDI have to do with it? Plus, we talk about a pickleball center with 30-50 courts and what that could look like in Peachtree Corners. Listen in to our podcast with City Manager Brian Johnson and your host Rico Figliolini.

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[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:01:42] – The Curiosity Lab Criterium
[00:06:49] – New VRU Technology
[00:16:32] – Pickleball in Peachtree Corners
[00:23:54] – Expanding Activities
[00:30:14] – Next Planning Commission Meeting
[00:31:58] – Closing

“This criterium, if it generates enough activity and interest from the technology industry, could become a reoccurring event… A lot of this is trial and error and we’ve got to come up with a mix of how much of this is benefiting the community and to what degree?  Is the juice worth the squeeze? So to speak… (The Criterium) is just a way of trying to make our community  very diverse in all aspects, including diversity of unique community events.”


Podcast Transcript:

[00:00:30] Rico: Hey everyone, this is Rico Figliolini with Peachtree Corners Life. And this is Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager Brian Johnson. Hey Brian, how are you?

[00:00:37] Brian: Good, Rico, how are you?

[00:00:39] Rico: Good. I love doing this every month. Get to learn new things that I didn’t, know before. Because I don’t know everything, so this is why we do this.

[00:00:47] Brian: Neither do I though, so.

[00:00:50] Rico: I know some things, maybe we can have one brain together.

[00:00:52] Brian: So there we go.

[00:00:54] Rico: But before we get into the interview and stuff let me just say thank you again to Eli from EV Remodeling Inc. Who’s a corporate sponsor of ours and supports our journalism. That’s just through advertising with us, but also supporting these podcasts. Great guy, lives right here in Peachtree Corners. We just had a feature story on him as well in the recent issue of Peachtree Corners Magazine. So check that out. It’s online now. See what he’s doing. Design to build home renovation. Great guy, beautiful family. Check him out at EVRemodelinginc.com. Thank you, Eli. So let’s get right into it. We found out something just now, you know, in our pre-talk, before the show about something I didn’t know that’s happening April 26th, which is kind of cool. That the city’s actually doing this. So tell us a little bit about this. What’s a race and what type of race it is and why it’s there?

[00:01:42] Brian: So we’ve enjoyed seeing Curiosity Lab continues to kind of, generate unique opportunities for the city. And an opportunity kind of fell into our lap through Curiosity Lab’s partnerships and interactions for us to have a professional cycling race here in Peachtree Corners. Now…

[00:02:06] Rico: Wow. That is cool.

[00:02:07] Brian: It’s important to know that within professional cycling, there’s generally three types of cycling races. One would be done indoors in a velodrome.

[00:02:21] Rico: Right.

[00:02:21] Brian: Which is a banked type course. You generally only see that on TV during the Olympics.

[00:02:27] Rico: Right.

[00:02:27] Brian: But that’s one type. Probably the most popular one that people know is called a road race. And a road course is, you start on point a, and you end at a different point and you don’t cross over the same point more than once. Like Tour de France would be the best example of that.

[00:02:46] Rico: Right.

[00:02:46] Brian: You never end at the place that you start. It’s a linear course.

[00:02:50] Rico: Right.

[00:02:50] Brian: So if you’re watching that one, you only get to see the cyclists come by one time.

[00:02:56] Rico: Right. If you’re lucky. Yeah

[00:02:57] Brian: That’s it. But there is a third type of race, and it’s called a criterium. And a criterium is a closed race on city streets, usually done in a way in which, well, not usually it’s the course is laid out in a way that you’re going back over the same place over and over for a period of time. And it’s more fan friendly, but yet it’s not in, you know, it’s on city streets. So you set it up. For those who like maybe went to Georgia or go up to Athens, there’s a big one, long time one there called the Twilight, Athens Twilight. It’s done at night. It’s a cool event. I mean, you get to see professional cyclists, some of which are ones that are in the tour of France when it happens, in July of this year or every year. This is their full-time job. And in the US there is a criterium series that USA cycling manages throughout the entire US. And the race series or the race calendar starts here in the southeast, because our weather gets hotter than in a lot of the country. In fact the very first race of the year, oftentimes there’s a few jockeying cities within the southeast here. The last city I managed, Aniston, Alabama, when we were there, we were the very first race on the circuit. They’re third this year, they didn’t get the first one. But so I have some experience in managing, not directly, there is a race director that actually runs the event, but being the city manager of a city that had it. Back in the day, I used to race in them. So as an amateur, you can race in them. And how it’s set up is kind of a day long event and you’ll start, and there are categories, and the categories are time. So pretend like you had a one mile circle on city streets. Different categories of racers starting with amateur weekend warriors, you know, they don’t do it a lot. They can go out and race. And they’ll do like 30 minutes. So it’s basically like everybody starts at the same time. And you go around for 30 minutes and you’ll hear a bell at the very last lap. And whoever comes in first wins that race. And they’ll move up in categories from ones who have never done it all the way up to the professionals over the course of the day. So you’ll have, and there’s five categories. Five being the most amateur and you’ll have like, cat five men. Or it starts with cat five women. So it’ll be women racing, amateur women racing against amateur women, and then cat five men, and then cat four women, and then cat four men. Then you have breaks every day, or after every race.

[00:05:54] Rico: Through the day, right?

[00:05:56] Brian: Yep. You’ll reset the next one and then they’ll go.

[00:05:58] Rico: So is it a one mile race or is it, has that been established?

[00:06:01] Brian: It’s timed. So these racers are usually averaging probably 30 miles an hour. And so, for 30 minutes for amateurs at 30 miles an hour, you can do the math. So it’s not like a one mile race.

[00:06:16] Rico: Gotcha.

[00:06:16] Brian: Although, there is a kids race as well. And it’ll be three age categories. Three age, three to four year olds, five to six year olds, and seven and eight year olds.

[00:06:30] Rico: Yeah, yeah.

[00:06:31] Brian: It’s about a hundred, maybe 125 yards, like a football field in length. And it’s just, start here and end somewhere else. And then you start them all on the line and then you see who can get to the finish line the fastest.

[00:06:46] Rico: So where is this going to take place then?

[00:06:49] Brian: Alright, so this criteria. A very cool way to watch professionally, a professional cyclist, especially when married up with things that make it unique for the family, like food trucks and vendors for you to see things or whatever. Well, these things happen all over the country and Curiosity Lab happened to be the location and we were starting to talk to some companies that have technology that is getting ready to be deployed, that are in the call it safety area for vulnerable road users. And vulnerable road users, or VRU is a category that includes pedestrians, cyclists, people that might be on an e-scooter, moped, motorcycle. Anybody who uses a roadway or sidewalks or crosses roadway, that is not in a car. Those are considered vulnerable road users, because if they have an interaction with an automobile, they’re going to lose. A pedestrian hits a car, the car will win all the time.

[00:07:57] Rico: I think we all know someone that’s been hit on a bike by a car. Or especially around these areas.

[00:08:04] Brian: I have.

[00:08:05] Rico: Really? Damn.

[00:08:06] Brian: Oh yeah, about four years ago I got hit cycling up in Duluth.

[00:08:11] Rico: Yeah, there’s quite a few people it seems, sadly.

[00:08:14] Brian: Oh yeah. I mean, it’s scary when that happens, but there’s technology that is evolving to try to prevent these things from happening. And one of the technologies is a device that can go on bicycles. It can actually, it’s a mobile, it could be carried by anybody. It could be put in any car. But it’s basically a device that sends a signal, basically saying, I’m here. Here I am. And the device is done in such a way that vehicles will one day be able to hear that message from that other user. Versus right now automobiles have sensors that they can sense if there’s an obstacle. We have it in newer cars. You know, a lot of cars now, if you’re backing up and there’s something or even in the front, sometimes you get close and it’ll start beeping. That’s the cars own signal where it’s sending a signal out and it’s getting bounced back. But what it doesn’t have is the ability to see around corners or if somebody’s coming up and it’s not quite close enough for the car itself to detect it.

[00:09:32] Rico: Put that signal out.

[00:09:32] Brian: These devices are sending a signal a lot farther out or sometimes around corners saying, here I am. And the car can then know, and you can make it specific. Like if it’s on a bicycle, it can send a message that this device is on a bicycle. And then cars can actually see, like a message on your dashboard saying like, cyclist on your right, cyclist to your rear. And it alerts the driver that I’ve got a vulnerable road user around here somewhere that I might not have known had I not had this device telling my car about that VRU. So this technology is being deployed by a company called Spoke, and they had brought with them partners in Qualcomm, BMC Bike, which is the big Swiss bike manufacturer, and Audi. And they wanted a testing environment or an environment that the roadway was set up for them to showcase this technology. And we started talking at a conference in January that we were at. And I knew about criteriums, they were talking about this, doing this, and I was like, would you guys be willing to do this? At a race where we’ve got all these people showing up to watch? And they were just like, that would be the best opportunity for us that you could get.

[00:11:00] Rico: Sure.

[00:11:00] Brian: So I came back and I knew about this because of my previous city I managed. And just one more thing on the calendar. The beginning of the criterium season in the US, here in Metro Atlanta, there’s a thing called Speed Week. And it’s basically the first and second race of the year are weekends. And in between you have a couple of Metro Atlanta criteriums. And on the Wednesday of Speed Week, right in the middle of it, where the racing teams are already in Metro Atlanta is when we’re going to do, it’s when it could fit into. So you’ve got all these racing teams with all these bikes and salaried professional cyclists that travel with them. Well now they’re here. They love it because they don’t have to drive to the next race and all the logistics involved. So you have a lot of that. So we decided to do a race on Wednesday, starting at 3:30 in the afternoon out here on part of our autonomous vehicle test track right here out in front of City Hall. And they’re going to basically do what’s called a dumbbell, which is, they go down the race course and then they do a circle, and then they come back the same, and then they do another circle, and then they go back the same.

[00:12:25] Rico: I gotcha. Okay.

[00:12:26] Brian: It’ll look like two lollipops. So in front of City Hall you’re going to see them really four times in each lap. So it’s a great place to set up your lawn chairs, you know your tailgating chairs. Have the food trucks here at City Hall, get to see some of this cool technology, get to see professional cyclists. The play-by-play announcer is going to be Frankie Andreu, which is Lance Armstrong’s very first roommate. Back when they were racing in the Tour de France before. And he was the one involved in the trial with the the US anti-doping agency and everything. I mean, but great dude. Longtime professional cyclist himself. We’re going to have a bunch of vendors with some of this cool technology. We’re going to have a lot of bike manufacturers and others here. So it’ll be kind of like a little bit of a mini festival feel.

[00:13:23] Rico: Yeah. That sounds great.

[00:13:24] Brian: Come out and watch the professional cyclists. So it’ll start at 3:30, and as you go through all these categories, the last race is going to be the men’s professional race, starting at around 8:30 PM and they’ll go for one hour. So it’ll end around 9:30. And you know, Wednesday is a school night. We get it. But you know, you don’t have to stay the whole time. But it’s a great place to come eat dinner. Have some, we’re talking to some of the local micro brews of having some stuff out here. But it’s just a great place to see something that not all cities can set up. And in our case, we’re going to have a lot of cutting edge safety technology that you can’t, it can’t be showcased anywhere else because our city streets are set up to do this. And so we’re uniquely positioned, which is why all these big companies are like, oh, heck yeah. We want your location. And remember we’re talking about Audi here.

[00:14:24] Rico: Yeah, I mean, that’s exciting. I mean, it’s good to see the fruit from the efforts of going out to Europe and Israel and places like that to talk about what this city does. So, and then bring back that economic impact. So it’s great to do that. Plus, I mean, I, Jim Stone who heads Tytan Pictures?

[00:14:41] Brian: Yes.

[00:14:41] Rico: I know he’s a road racer. Some of his people are too. They do amateur stuff, but he’s constantly out there, riding from 41.

[00:14:49] Brian: Yes. And him and I have done this together. He worked with me and Aniston when we did the Sunny King Criterium, which is the one there. So Jim will be involved in this. Jim also like me, did crits for a long time. He did Velodrome stuff as an amateur athlete.

[00:15:05] Rico: Wow, okay. Yeah, I didn’t know that part.

[00:15:08] Brian: What this does is it gets the community a pretty unique, cool event that we wouldn’t have had, had it not dropped in our path.

[00:15:16] Rico: Right. And drawing from people from all over the place. I know there’s a pretty big youth cycling group out of Suwanee. I think, I mean, they probably would love to be part of this.

[00:15:26] Brian: That’s why Speed Week was so important. Speed Week has, every other day in between the two weekends is a race somewhere in Metro Atlanta. We just happened to steal one of the slots, the prime in the middle of the week’s slot because all these racing teams and everyone were like, oh, that’s a cool, that’s a cool reason to have it, all the technology. And there’s going to be potentially some technology, some of these devices, we’re going to get some and we’re going to distribute it amongst our local cyclists to further refine it and kind of call it, trial it out in the community as they ride. Some people don’t realize that Peachtree Corners has a cycling club.

[00:16:11] Rico: Yes.

[00:16:11] Brian: It’s called the Peachtree Corners Cycling Club. And you’ll sometimes see them out in a group riding, they do group rides. So yeah, it’s gonna be a really cool event. More to follow. But that’s happening April 26th, which is a Wednesday, starting at 3:30 ’till about 9:30. And it’s a great way to watch both amateurs and professionals race really fast bicycles.

[00:16:32] Rico: So from one great event and sport to another growing sport. You know, this city can be a lot of different things. So it’s not just smart city that we talk about, but there’s a lot of things that go on here. A lot of things people are not even aware of that we write stories about in our magazines and online that people will all of a sudden like, oh, I didn’t know. That’s cool. So the next thing, I mean, we were talking about this and I’ve just started getting into the idea of pickleball. Pickleball is a growing sport in the United States. Actually, it’s from the West Coast, I think. It’s been growing leaps and bounds. I mean, we, there are pickleball tournaments being played here in Peachtree Corners now. People are probably not aware of it at lifetime. And we were talking before and you were talking about how the city may be doing a feasibility study about a private public partnership with someone to bring in 30, 40 pickleball courts. Maybe a facility that can attract national tournaments. Or maybe even, and maybe even create our own invitational tournament. That would be kind of cool. I know this is just basic starting out of the gate, you’re still trying to look and see what you have to do, but what do you have in mind? And, well, what can you tell us so far? .

[00:17:44] Brian: So you hit on a couple of important points, and one is, you know, pickleball is the fastest growing sport. And it has certainly been, there’s a lot of examples out there of cities using it, starting to use it as an economic development driver in and of itself. Because there’s so many people who are wanting to do it. I’ve seen it in the community. There’s been some community tennis facilities that have, even private ones that have converted some of their tennis courts into pickleball because the demand, even from the tennis community. And there’s some that transition from tennis to pickleball because they feel like as they’ve gotten older, there’s less running it’s easier on the joints and whatever. And then others do both still. Some are like, I never played tennis and so I never developed the ability to do it, but pickleball doesn’t require quite as much technical proficiency when it comes to your racket technique. Your, you know, your stroke technique and everything. And so it’s a little bit more like, you know, ping pong on steroids, you know.

[00:18:58] Rico: Yeah. Or paddleball even.

[00:19:01] Brian: It’s like in between tennis and ping pong. And so people are like, alright I kind of like it. So anyway, it doesn’t really matter why it’s growing. It is. Given that, and given that we have one of the highest number of tennis courts per capita of any city around when you include, 16 courts that Fields Club has and what does Lifetime have? 22 courts or whatever. Now they’ve got, yeah, indoor. And you’ve got a number of other clubs that have it as well. Then you go just right outside our border and you have an Atlanta Athletic Club. We have a lot of tennis. And those are, some of those are migrating to pickleball, so we’re kind of, we recognize that there may be something here. So what we’re doing is a feasibility study on whether we can, as a city be a facilitator at some level of having a pickleball facility constructed in the city that is big enough and enticing enough. Not too big, but enough that it is attracting weekend tournaments. And if you’ve ever had kids in organized sports that do the travel stuff, you only can go where there are the facilities. And I’ve had kids, you know, my daughter’s big into volleyball and Lake Point, North I75 in between here and Chattanooga is a massive volleyball and baseball facility in the middle of nowhere. But it attracts big time tournaments on the weekend because that’s where the facilities are. If you want to have a volleyball tournament with 500 teams, you’ve got to have a massive facility to do it. Doing that, you’ve got all this ancillary activity.

[00:20:54] Rico: Right. And they’re running these tournaments for like whole weekends, sometimes a week if it’s during the summer, but usually it’s a three day weekend of tournaments from early morning to late night. Because they have it all lit and stuff. I mean, it’s just unbelievable. I mean, that’s just a business. Anyone that has kids doing travel team knows how much money it costs just to do that stuff.

[00:21:14] Brian: Yeah, yeah. Because you, yeah, you’ve got to stay in a hotel there. You’re generally, you don’t know when you’re going to, who’s gonna lose and when.

[00:21:21] Rico: Right.

[00:21:21] Brian: What your next, you can’t really plan on meals, so you’re usually eating in local restaurants. And then oftentimes you’re staying overnight and now you’ve got the evening where you’re like, all right, we’ve got some time to kill. What are we going to do? So it is a driver. And sales tax, lodging tax. And in pickleball’s case, unlike say if you were going to build a massive tennis facility, pickleball doesn’t require near as much space. You can essentially get two pickleball courts on one tennis court. And you can oftentimes go multiple stories because you don’t need the height that you would in tennis.

[00:21:58] Rico: True.

[00:21:59] Brian: So there are some opportunities to do it different. And so what we’re doing is we’re going to see where is the sweet spot? What would it, what size, and how would it look like if we constructed that pickleball specific facility and got those tournaments. And what kind of economic development activity would it in and of itself generate to better the city? Whether it’s to enhance an area that already has some of it, or maybe it’s in an area that needs redevelopment and needs a shot in the arm. We’ll look at, you know, the feasibility study will tell us what type of acreage we need. And then our job as a city, aside from doing this and identifying it, is to then start to cobble together those private players in this. And why that’s important is the city is not looking to just solely build this facility and then run it as a recreational component.

[00:23:02] Rico: I mean, yeah, some cities have like.

[00:23:04] Brian: We could do that, but we’re not, yeah.

[00:23:06] Rico: But then you have the maintenance and the budget to run it year in and year out. Like you said before, as we were doing, as we were doing our pre-talk before the show, public-private partnership makes more sense. Well at least the public partnerships in the sense of facilitating things to be done by a private entity that’s interested in investing in this here to help make it easier for that type of facility to get here.

[00:23:31] Brian: That is exactly a perfect scenario would be the private sector builds it and the private sector operates it and you know, whatever money they make with it, that’s great. The city has no involvement in it. However we win, because it generates the activity. And the sales tax and lodging tax that come from hotel stays and restaurants and other stuff is what ultimately does come back to the city.

[00:23:54] Rico: If we talk, we were talking about like 30, 40 courts, maybe 50 courts. Part of that feasibility study would be checking out other tournaments, national tournaments, national organizations, regional players. And it doesn’t exclude a city like ours from doing a Peachtree Corners Pickleball Invitational or driving some of our own events. We’ve talked about the only real event that the city puts on, well officially we’re just a sponsor of Peachtree Corners Festival. It’s not even like a city event.

[00:24:24] Brian: That’s right. It’s not the city’s. I mean, right now it’s really the concert series.

[00:24:29] Rico: That’s right. Okay.

[00:24:31] Brian: You know the concert series, you could maybe argue, we’ve had two years of the decathlon on the fitness trail.

[00:24:37] Rico: Right. Cool. And that, that gets better.

[00:24:39] Brian: But it is an event that people travel to. This criterium, if it generates, enough activity and interest from industry, technology industry, it could become a reoccurring event. And it is known maybe even nationally or internationally as the bike race that new safety technology is showcased every year because of Curiosity Lab. But a lot of this is trial by error and we’ve got to come up with a mix of how much of this is benefiting the community and to what degree? You know, is the juice worth the squeeze, so to speak? Is it a lot of effort by the city, but the community is like, eh, or maybe it’s not a lot of effort by the city and maybe it’s not. The decathlon has a very unique interest base, but it doesn’t require a lot of resources from the city, so it’s not a lot of squeeze net necessary. Criterium a little bit more, but still it’s not as. So, this is just a way of trying to make our community very, diverse in all aspects, including diversity of unique community events.

[00:25:44] Rico: Yeah. This is, this is what I like about it. What I like about it is, and what I like about what, how the city looks at things, is that it’s not just, you know, we talk about being a smart city and all, but we have a lot a lot of places that attract people here. Right? Simpsonwood Park, Wesleyan, Cornerstone, private schools, great private schools, great public schools, IB programs at Norcross High School and through the school system. You know, we have other things. It’s interesting what attracts you and what it comes to the city even at, that are taking place at the Hilton, for example, events and conferences that people are not even familiar with that get.

[00:26:21] Brian: There’s a range of stuff. There’s like a whiskey tasting conference. There’s been a fleet management conference and there’s been, yes. And the Marriott’s got some stuff too. And you’ve got, you know, you do have baseball tournaments at Pinkneyville Park.

[00:26:37] Rico: Correct, right.

[00:26:38] Brian: I mean, even just outside our border or you know, our city limits, like the Gwinnett Aquatic Center has swim meets, you know.

[00:26:45] Rico: That’s right.

[00:26:46] Brian: We want stuff like every weekend there’s, you know, it would be great like, oh, you know what have they got going on this weekend? Maybe it’s something they’re interested in, maybe not, but we like the diversity of it. And to council’s credit, I mean, these things also help pull people that spend money in our restaurants, our stores. And that makes them healthy. It keeps them here. And so you can’t just sit back and cross your fingers and just be like, well, I hope the Forum generates activity on its own. No, I mean, the Forum’s management company is artificially pushing activity to, or attracting is probably a better way by programming. They have events and unique things there. You know, the Twilight Run.

[00:27:33] Rico: Yeah. Light Up the Corners.

[00:27:35] Brian: Or Light Up the Corners. Yeah, the Light Up the Corners. That is a cool event, a night run, and it’s done at the Forum. I mean, that’s it’s important stuff. So pickleball could be in that list if it works out and the city can kind of facilitate getting all these players involved and finding the location and everything. A pickleball facility done right, could become a magnet for activity of people who do things before or after their pickleball league play or their pickleball tournament

[00:28:11] Rico: And still, and also serve the citizens here, because there’s lots of people getting more and more into pickleball the same way.

[00:28:18] Brian: Well, that’s why the league play. That’s why the league play in between the weekend tournaments is for the residents, yeah.

[00:28:23] Rico: Right. So there’s that. I mean, we talked about an art center as well at some point, an art culture center at some point. There’s just such a good future here of a variety of things that can happen. So I’m excited by that. Not knowing that was happening.

[00:28:38] Brian: Yeah, I mean, you know, again, devil’s in the details. But we are certainly going to get all the details and make a decision then. But, you know, to council’s credit, mayor and council are very open minded to exploring new things. They’re innovative. There’s outside the box thinking about economic development. When you are the second largest city without city property tax, it is even more imperative that we are constantly doing what we can to ensure that the commerce that generates sales tax is healthy. Because if it isn’t and those revenue streams dried up, the city has, it would have a decision to make. We either have to decrease the level and breadth of our services to cut costs or we would have to levy a milage rate and the city doesn’t want to do either. So mayor and council are very clear to me, and staff is, they do some of it on their own, is being very innovative in thinking about ways that we can keep our commerce at a high level so that we can keep that zero milage rate.

[00:29:51] Rico: And we’ve been fortunate as a city for over 10 years now. Going through even a depressive part of that recession part, I guess, that we’re still able to have enough money to do the things that we feel we need to do. I mean, city marshal system that the city’s looking into.

[00:30:06] Brian: Done within the budget without having to go out and get other revenue streams.

[00:30:12] Rico: Right.

[00:30:13] Brian: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:30:14] Rico: So all good stuff. We’ve spent a lot of time together. We covered a couple of pretty big things. So I guess the last thing I just want to really just touch on is that we did have a comprehensive plan, the first public meeting this past Thursday. And I was meaning to get there. Obviously I didn’t, but I’m sure it went really well. Do you have a couple of quick things you want to mention about that? And when’s the next one that’s coming up? Because I think there’s a second one, isn’t there?

[00:30:41] Brian: Yeah. So let’s see. The next one is at the next planning commission meeting, which is…

[00:30:47] Rico: Oh, okay. Is that the, in March?

[00:30:50] Brian: Is it the 21st?

[00:30:52] Rico: Yeah, that would be the 21st because the 28th is City Council.

[00:30:55] Brian: Yes. So yeah, March 21st, that’ll be the next one. The first one we had, I believe Diana, the Community Development Director told me we had 125 people.

[00:31:07] Rico: Cool. That’s a lot of people.

[00:31:10] Brian: Yes. People should go to the website or who, those who have, accepted push notifications. We have a survey out right now on weighing in on housing. That was the main theme of this last community meeting, or I guess the first official comp plan meeting, it was housing was the main theme. Asking people their thoughts on housing and where certain types should go and things like that. We’ll have some other additional ones, themes like public safety, transportation. These are events that if you care about the city and want to have your input on a document that guides over the next 10 years the decisions that council’s making. Now’s the time to get your input in.

[00:31:58] Rico: Cool, alright. So no excuse. Just go to the city’s website to find out a little bit more. Next public meeting again, March 21st. Planning Commission Meeting at City Hall. Cool. We’ll put out the links in our show notes as well, and you’ll be hearing it from us. Brian, thank you. Hang on with me for another minute. But thank you to our audience. Thank you for EV Remodeling, for being a sponsor of ours. And look for the next issue of Southwest Gwinnett Magazine that’s coming out. And that issue has a cover story about a young lady from Peachtree Corners, a middle schooler who became one of five girls to be part of this inspiration thing with Disney World and diverse dolls that they’ve created. It’s a cool story, so check it out. She’s our cover story. But thanks again for being with us. Thanks, Brian. Take care.

[00:32:44] Brian: Thank you.

Continue Reading

Arts & Literature

Jennifer Keim Loves to Play & Explore the Beauty of Exotic Animals through Art



The Wesleyan Artist Market is back and celebrating its 25th year. On this special episode of Peachtree Corners Life, Rico Figliolini is joined by artist Jennifer Keim, one of the many artists featured at the Wesleyan Artist Market 2023. Jennifer shares her story, her inspiration, and a behind-the-scenes look into her creative process.


Jennifer’s Website: https://www.jkeim.com
Jennifer’s Social Media: @JKeimStudio
Wesleyan Artist Market: artistmarket.wesleyanschool.org

“Already having an intrigue for the animals, wanting to be an exotic vet, and save the lions and tigers. I was already drawn to the massiveness. I just find them so beautiful and just so intriguing… I find that even if I’m in a rut, like what’s my next move? What’s my next series like?  What do I want to do? Do I even want to do art anymore?  In my moments of, oh, woe is me, I find that I just go back to the animals to help me break out of that rut.”

Jennifer Keim


[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:20] – About Jennifer
[00:04:36] – Preferred Mediums
[00:12:53] – Using Wildlife and Travel Experiences
[00:16:55] – Creating Daily
[00:18:15] – Capturing a Moment
[00:20:13] – The Fly Guys Series
[00:24:39] – Textile Art
[00:28:11] – Jennifer’s Art at the Wesleyan Artist Market
[00:30:15] – Closing

The Fly Guys

Podcast Transcript

[00:00:30] Rico: Hi everyone, this is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. I do want to introduce you to our show and our special guest today, all the way from Hawaii. Jennifer Keim. Hey Jennifer. Thanks for joining us.

[00:00:41] Jennifer: Hi. Happy to be here. Thank you for having me.

[00:00:45] Rico: Cool. I heard you were on the waters on the ocean before. Everything okay? Took some Go Pros?

[00:00:49] Jennifer: No, it’s just gorgeous.

[00:00:53] Rico: Sure.

[00:00:53] Jennifer: It is gorgeous. The whales are active. And I had the chance going yesterday to an out rigger where we paddle out and we’re just right there with the whales, so.

[00:01:04] Rico: That’s amazing. Yeah, and we’ll get into some of that. I mean, some of your artwork is animal related. So we’ll talk about that inspiration. But before we get there, let me just introduce our sponsor for the podcast and our corporate sponsor for everything that we do. And that’s EV Remodeling. Eli from EV Remodeling lives here, right here in Peachtree Corners. Great guy. He was just featured in one of our issues recently. He does home renovation, remodeling, from design to build. Just a great guy, great family. Check them out. EVRemodelingInc.com is where he’s at. So check him out and let’s just get right into it. Hey, Jennifer.

[00:01:39] Jennifer: Okay, great.

[00:01:40] Rico: So you’re, we’re gonna call you, I mean, I’ve checked through it, done my research a little bit, so I have some stuff about you. It’s amazing what’s on the net. You’re a fine artist and lifestyle designer.

[00:01:52] Jennifer: Yes.

[00:01:52] Rico: A global design brand. In fact, the reason that we’re interviewing you is because you’re going to be one of 75 artists being showcased at the Wesleyan Artist Market here in Peachtree Corners April 28th and 29th. So I’m glad that you’re gonna be there. And you’re gonna be actually one of the three artists that we’re featuring in our print magazine in the upcoming issue. It’s just fantastic. But I want to know a little bit more about you. What makes the artist Jennifer Keim? So tell us a little bit about yourself.

[00:02:20] Jennifer: A little bit about myself. Well, there’s a lot.

[00:02:24] Rico: I’m sure.

[00:02:24] Jennifer: And lots of layers, but really it all started fourth grade. My parents were really good about having me try new things and see what my niche was. And so they put me in an art camp. And I’m from Columbus, Georgia. And they put me in an art camp at the museum for a week long. And the instructor said she has something, Jill Chancey Phillips. And she from there on, she’s like, keep her in it. She needs to be in the art world and I can give her private lessons. And so I had private lessons with her all the way through until I went off to school. So she was my mentor and I mean she is my special, so.

[00:03:03] Rico: Wow. And interestingly enough, I mean, you’re displayed in the museums and galleries all over the country. You’ve been on, featured on HGTV as well. You were also at Columbus museum, right? How old were you when your art was exhibited there?

[00:03:18] Jennifer: Well, I mean, I was very young, actually. And yeah, very young. And then there was a moment in high school as well, so, for one of the little exhibits. It feels so long ago though, a lot’s happened since then.

[00:03:34] Rico: I’m sure. What about HGTV? How did that come about? How were you featured there?

[00:03:39] Jennifer: Well, I was actually featured twice. Once there was an interior designer in Atlanta and she commissioned me to do a piece to go in her theater room. And I can’t even pull up in my head what year that was. I think it was probably 2007. And then my most recent one, my Protea, which is one contour line paintings. It’s one continuous line without lifting your pen, were featured through a designer for the Bargain Mansion Show with Tamara Day.

[00:04:13] Rico: Cool. It’s great exposure, I’m sure. The artwork that you’ve done, I mean, the mediums that you work in, there’s several different mediums it sounds like that you work in. Watercolor, you work in textiles, you do canvas work, oils, pastels. How do you come about choosing, or what do you feel most comfortable in expressing your inner artist? What type of medium do you like best?

[00:04:36] Jennifer: That’s a really good question because I feel like every medium has their own personality. So you’ve got your drawing technique that’s, you know, you can do quick gestural, And then you have your painting where you can just layer, layer, layer. So there’s just so many different personalities that happen when you’ve got the different mediums. And a lot of times it’s just the subject kind of craves a certain medium. So, you’ve got your line drawing and certain subjects, like the contour line paintings that I do, like just to have the simple shapes of the subject versus really getting into the layered paint of like a floral, like a mountain view. They each all have different personalities that you kind of play off of. But one of my main reasons too where I jump around, like I’ll play in oils for a while. And I mean, I’m a messy one, so like it’s all, it’s in my ear. It’s all over. And I try to keep it as clean as possible, but it just kind of happens. With the oils, you know, I love to use the pallet knife and work with the coastal scenes and see the layer of the marsh. And just kind of play off of that. But the oils and pastels after a while, and I didn’t realize this until it just kind of happened, it was a buildup of episodes that were happening with my body that I became, I realized I was, my body was toxic from playing and being in all the oils and pastels for a long while.

[00:05:57] Rico: Oh, wow.

[00:05:57] Jennifer: So I would work then I, it took a year to kind of clean up and not have any more of my episodes. Where then it just connected, what was the issue that I, there was just a common ground of the toxins. And I had to then be more aware of my surroundings and how I actually use these materials safely. So the awareness of using these subjects, or these mediums. I’m better now about keeping it safe.

[00:06:25] Rico: That’s a bit horrible if it’s like someone that loves cats, but is allergic.

[00:06:29] Jennifer: They’re allergic, yeah.

[00:06:31] Rico: That would be just bad, right? I can’t imagine that.

[00:06:33] Jennifer: Well, I have this really, really nice air purifier now, and I make, I wear gloves when I, and when I’m in the oils just to help one less thing to kind of get into my system.

[00:06:45] Rico: Sure, sure. So when you’re doing a piece, because you do series of pieces. And we’ll show a couple of these things. Has it happened when you started in a medium and then you decided that’s not the right medium and you shift and use it different? Or does it, once you decide watercolor?

[00:07:02] Jennifer: I’m always playing and exploring and I feel like if you’re not, if you’re not doing that and you’re not challenging yourself, then you’re stuck. But I always like to explore. I work with my off to the races too, and then some of my animal series with gouache. So that’s just, that’s basically like an acrylic and a watercolor, if they had a baby, it would be gouache. So you have the opaqueness, but then the transparency that can happen with watercolor, but the opaqueness of an acrylic, that’s gouache. Yeah, that’s gouache for you, yes.

[00:07:33] Rico: So tell us about the lion.

[00:07:35] Jennifer: Yes. Yes. And that’s all about just layering of color. There’s lots of layers.

[00:07:41] Rico: Was this a sketch or was this a final piece?

[00:07:44] Jennifer: This is a final piece.

[00:07:45] Rico: Okay.

[00:07:46] Jennifer: And so I start off with like that neutral color to draw it out. And there’s nothing forgiving about a water gouache piece. I mean, once you put a stroke down, it’s there. There’s no way of lifting or recovering from it. So, I always start with the eyes, because I feel like you’ve got to land the eyes or the piece won’t be as impactful. And then I’ll put down the base coat, walk away, maybe start another piece until the other one’s dry and start playing at the color.

[00:08:17] Rico: So is it the same techniques that you’re using, that you use here as well?

[00:08:22] Jennifer: So that’s the interesting part. The lion was a gouache and now we’re looking at the ostriches, and that’s my pastel on wood panel. And this is a drawing medium versus the lion is a painting medium. And so with this, this is one of my favorite techniques right now because it’s the vulnerability that happens with the whole process, I am dependent on how the resin reacts to the wood and the pastel. And my whole climate’s got to be good, dust-free environment. I draw it on first with the pastel. Also pastel, once it’s touched the wood, like not forgiving, like I’ve tried to lift it up. But because of the really deep blues, those always will, you’ll see like a ghost line if I had to erase. But I’ll do the pastel and then I will pour the resin in. And I don’t know if anyone’s familiar with resin, but you mix these two concoctions, stir, you mix for three minutes. And then you pour it onto the pastel resin or a pastel board. And I have 15 minutes to relieve the bubbles, and then I have to walk away for three days.

[00:09:32] Rico: Wow.

[00:09:32] Jennifer: And then the resin, the chemistry that happens most of the time, like I’ve finished drawing the ostrich’s with my pastel, and most people would be like, that’s a finished piece. And it is for, in that case, but for my process, that’s halfway through. So my next step is the resin which could change the whole game of this piece. It could make or break it basically.

[00:09:58] Rico: It sounds similar to, I interviewed last year, I think it was an artist that works at pottery, right? And glazing and using kilns and stuff to fire up. And it’s similar to that. They could be using a color that looks blue. And then once you’ve done the process and you’re, you have to really be careful when you’re baking, if you will, that you stop it. Completely stop the oxygen from allowing further the work because the colors will shift to completely different colors.

[00:10:25] Jennifer: I know. It’s so, it’s crazy. It is so crazy. And you have to level the board out too, where, I mean this, but I’ve been working with resin for 21 years. So I’ve learned and I’ve learned and I’ve learned. And every, because I used to build my boards, but now I actually have them built for me and do this nice beveled edge, that just kind of shows through once the resin is poured. But you learn these things. Like I have to make sure it’s really level because if it’s shifted somehow, the pastel that basically melts with the resin will then kind of just bleed through and then it’ll just move down in the direction of the gravity. So I’ve got to learn to manipulate that and make sure it stays up to where it’s not spilling off to the bottom of the panel.

[00:11:10] Rico: Wow. I can’t even imagine. You spend the time creating it and then you put the resin on and God forbid something big goes.

[00:11:17] Jennifer: I know. Yeah.

[00:11:18] Rico: You just throw it out and just start again?

[00:11:21] Jennifer: Yes. And there was my most recent pour, I did my largest pour in my whole career. Eight gallons of resin.

[00:11:28] Rico: Oh my God.

[00:11:29] Jennifer: And 13 pieces. And I always like to kind of challenge myself too. But I could have gotten myself in trouble, but.

[00:11:35] Rico: It all turned out okay?

[00:11:36] Jennifer: It did. I poured it and it turned out great. But there was one panel that was giving me a fit. And the bubbles just kind of kept coming up and up and up and up. And it was almost like it was just drink ing. The wood was drinking the resin, the way that it just pushing out all the air and oxygen and everything from it.

[00:11:54] Rico: Wow.

[00:11:54] Jennifer: I finally got it to work, but it gave me a fit. So there’s always, always, it’s something’s gonna happen.

[00:12:02] Rico: Yeah, it almost sounds like you have to heat up the wood or do something to the wood to prep it before you do the water.

[00:12:08] Jennifer: Well, it needs to be like regulated with the temperature.

[00:12:11] Rico: Okay.

[00:12:11] Jennifer: And the humidity’s got to be just right for it to dry and not get tacky.

[00:12:18] Rico: I’m sure.

[00:12:18] Jennifer: And no kids or dogs or cats or husbands could come around after. Like right after the pour, so.

[00:12:25] Rico: Yes. How old are your kids now?

[00:12:27] Jennifer: My daughter, Jane, is 10.

[00:12:29] Rico: Okay.

[00:12:30] Jennifer: And she’s in fifth grade. And then my son, Charlie, is six, in kindergarten.

[00:12:35] Rico: Alright. Old enough to know not to put their hands on the artwork as it’s seemed curing.

[00:12:39] Jennifer: Well, they know mommy’s pouring. Like when the big sign says, do not open.

[00:12:43] Rico: Okay, alright. That’s like my handwritten sign on the door. It says podcast recording.

[00:12:50] Jennifer: Yes, yes.

[00:12:52] Rico: It’s funny. Just to back step just a little bit, when you started wanting to become an artist in fourth grade or four years old. You did do that double major as a vet and art. I guess you wanted to become a veterinarian at some point, but microbiology wasn’t working for you, I guess.

[00:13:09] Jennifer: Yeah.

[00:13:10] Rico: But animals seem to inform a lot of the stuff you do, or at least wildlife does. And I know that at one point, for example, you went to South Africa where the exotic animals are. Did that inform any of the other work that you’ve done? I mean, how do you, how do you use trips like that? Like that or like Hawaii where you see the big whales in the ocean?

[00:13:31] Jennifer: Yes.

[00:13:32] Rico: How do you use that?

[00:13:33] Jennifer: Oh man. Well, so already having an intrigue for the animals, wanting to be an exotic vet, save the lions and tigers. I was already drawn to the, just the massiveness and just the larger, I mean, these guys are just, I just find ’em so beautiful and just so intriguing, being so large. But then going to South Africa and seeing them like right there how their circle of life works. And then seeing how much bigger they really are in person, right on their trek to go kill the water buffalo and all the things. It, I get chills. Like it just, it lights my fire. I mean, it livens me up. And I find that even if I’m in a rut, like what’s my next, what’s my next move? What’s my next series like? What do I want to do? Do I even want to do art anymore? Like when I’m in my, like, my moments of, oh, woe is me. Like, what do I do with myself? I find that I just go back to the animals to help me break out of that rut, if you call it.

[00:14:30] Rico: Okay. cool.

[00:14:31] Jennifer: But they just, they just make my heartbeat differently.

[00:14:34] Rico: I would think that seeing, I’ve been to Cairo some years back and seeing the pyramids, seeing the sphinx, way, way different than seeing pictures. Seeing the sand blow up onto the edge of Cairo, edge of the city. I mean, just so totally different. So I can imagine why you’d get inspired when you’re right there in the midst of seeing a giraffe. It’s different from a zoo I would imagine being out there on a safari or something like that.

[00:15:04] Jennifer: Well, the smells, and the breeze, and the sounds that happen. I mean, I remember one night we were out in the Lapa area. This was like considered the social spot and then all of a sudden the guy said, okay, you hear that? And we’re like, what? They’re like, well, you don’t hear anything. The bullfrogs that stopped croaking, which mean the hippos are on camp. So the way that all of the nature talks to each other, I get chills again. Like, it just really, it’s fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. And then just, we were out there and the lion that you’ve see just recently, his name is Zero. And I met him in South Africa. They had just killed a water buffalo and were chowing down and their bellies were full. And it was just nap time, yes. So that’s right before Zero took a nap. I’ve never seen a line with, dark, dark, dark mane and then a golden red body. I mean, he was just a stunner. And I actually do not use, so one of the things too is I do not use black in my artwork. The only time I use black is if I’m doing a charcoal portrait. Or if I’m using my India ink for my fly guy outline. So all of my other pieces that you see with you know, ostriches, and then the lion, I use either the deep blues or the really deep maroons and purples and things like that. I feel like there’s so many other colors than just black. And if you look at black, like you don’t just see a black, you see like a really deep blue. red.

[00:16:35] Rico: Interesting, interesting. Because life is like that a little bit, right? I mean, the only blacks you see are like in zebras and specific animal stripings and stuff.

[00:16:43] Jennifer: See, I see deep blue in the zebras.

[00:16:46] Rico: Okay.

[00:16:46] Jennifer: And then I see like the light purples in their white. The pink, the light flesh pinks. Well, that’s just where my head goes.

[00:16:55] Rico: So let me ask you this. I know writers that they write every day, right? Most writers like to write every day. Whether it’s two hundred words or a thousand words or four thousand words, or even one sentence. I mean, their feeling is they need to write every day. And sometimes it’s garbage. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it makes it, or a whole chapter goes away from a book. Or a character disappears because it’s not working the right way. Do you find yourself as an artist that you have to sketch all the time, that you have to draw? Or do you find yourself doing that even in the most complacent places like, just somewhere where you might be. Do you do that? Do you, is that something?

[00:17:30] Jennifer: 100%. I mean, there are definitely times that I like, have a break when, and I will go probably two days. When I’m out of town. But when I’m at home, I’m painting every day.

[00:17:41] Rico: Okay.

[00:17:41] Jennifer: Even like, I’ve even brought some of my little sketch, just something I can carry with me. But on our trip here, like I’m going to be whipping this out probably somewhere. Somehow I’ll find a way to maybe sketch the mountains and maybe some greenery. It’s just almost like a creative energy that you have to kind of get out. And then there are times that my husband’s like, you might need to go downstairs. You might need to go to the studio. Like, you get a lot of energy. Like go down and release that.

[00:18:09] Rico: Yes, yes. Before you explode, I guess.

[00:18:12] Jennifer: Yes. While you still have your moment.

[00:18:15] Rico: There you go. It is what you need for that tension to go somewhere else, into your brushes or something. When you are in a place like South Africa and you’re seeing Zero or something, or animals like that, do you also take photos? I mean, do you, how do you keep that memory in there to be able to do the art later?

[00:18:35] Jennifer: Well, right now I can see them and I can see that I can, it’s almost like you can take it back to the smells too. Well, for instance, one of our vehicles broke down in the herd of elephants, and that’s how my elephant charge came about. Because they were coming over and when they flapped their ears like this, it’s just like a threat. Like I’m a big boy. Like you’ve crossed the boundary. You need to move on. So he came over and that’s how my elephant charge came. If you look, you’ll see some of my paintings have the elephant that’s with the, with his ears out.

[00:19:04] Rico: Yes, I saw those. Yeah.

[00:19:05] Jennifer: And so there were pictures taken there. I think, I personally was wanting to just be there, be present and take it all in. I did bring my sketchbook, but I never touched it because I just wanted to be there, right there in the mix of it.

[00:19:19] Rico: Okay, okay.

[00:19:20] Jennifer: I think my next trip I will definitely want to bring the sketchbook out every day and like maybe do a blind contour with them right then and there. Because I do have books of just blind contours from trips that I’ve gone on. So they end up being like these, this small like sketchbook full of just blind contours. And a blind contour is one continuous line without looking at the paper. And I feel like that, sometimes when I’m also in my rut, I will go and do blind contours. Because it helps you just break that barrier of intimidation too, of putting pen to paper on a blank piece and just get loose.

[00:19:57] Rico: Right. So artists as well as writers get intimidated by the blank page.

[00:20:01] Jennifer: For sure.

[00:20:02] Rico: Or blank canvas. For sure.

[00:20:04] Jennifer: And so I took pictures for all the Africa, for that one, but then I have the memories and the colors in my head. The smells and things.

[00:20:13] Rico: Yes. I would think, yeah, I would think the smells and sounds actually inform a bit about what you do too. Let’s go from wild animals to something a little smaller. Something that takes a little bit more patience, I think. Not my cup of tea, I don’t like doing this type of fishing. But the fly guy, is a series of art that you’ve done. Tell us the medium you use, why you chose to do this and how it came about.

[00:20:37] Jennifer: The fly guys, they came about, and this is so simple, but my husband’s grandfather had this tie box that someone had done these flies fly tie box for him.

[00:20:50] Rico: Oh, okay.

[00:20:51] Jennifer: And it was in my studio. And so when he passed away, Danny got this box and I thought it was so cool just to have a little piece of Grant’s. And so it was in my studio and it was late one night because I am naturally a night owl. I like it when the world is quiet. That’s my special place, is when the world is quiet and I’m in the studio and can just go. And my alarm’s not going off to keep me on track and things like that. But I was in the studio and I was looking at them. Oh God, those are so interesting. And they’re so tiny. And the art of fly tieing is, I started to do more research on it, and it’s incredible. Like there’s so much, there is a specialty and an artwork in those little guys right there. Of the materials used and what they’d catch. I mean, I still have a lot to learn. I still have to go to my buddies who fly fish, and I’m like, who will we catch with this guy? And have I been true to the art? Am I accurate on my colors? I mean, I want to be able to speak to the people, you know that the niche that really loves fly fishing.

[00:21:54] Rico: Right. But these are actually fly bait? Fly, how would you?

[00:21:58] Jennifer: Fly lures.

[00:21:59] Rico: Fly lures, sorry. So these are actual real ones that you’ve created art from?

[00:22:04] Jennifer: Yes. But they are tiny.

[00:22:07] Rico: Yes.

[00:22:08] Jennifer: Those pieces are nine by nine each. So, and I tear the paper down, so you’ll have like the deckled edge. And then I use gouache and acrylic ink, and then I use my India ink pen to have that black outline detail.

[00:22:24] Rico: Wow. That is cool. I know you sell them individually, but have you ever sold them as a group like that?

[00:22:32] Jennifer: Yes. So this is what I love about these guys, all the personalities that happen with the fly guys. I have sold them unframed and then the client has gone to do their own framing. Or I actually, one of my favorites is I sew them onto a linen, a 12 by 12 by three linens. So it, to me, it’s feeling a little closer to the art of the fly tie. So I’ll sew them onto the linen and put them in an acrylic shadow box. And so they can either sit tabletop or hang. And I’ve loved to see people, how they have fun with either just one solo, or do a group of nine, or a group of twelve, or a group of three or two. Like they just have fun with the colors and the characters and creating a gallery wall of them.

[00:23:20] Rico: You know, I guess the sad part is with art like this, is that when you sell it, you don’t always see, you almost never see, I guess, where it actually ends up. What room, what wall that it lives in. Does that sound kind of sad when you sell? Because all your work is original work. It’s all custom one-offs. Do you ever think about, wow, I wonder where that is. Does that ever like come into your mind?

[00:23:45] Jennifer: For sure. No, definitely. There’s some shows that you don’t know who ended up buying the piece and then you just wonder where it is.

[00:23:51] Rico: Okay.

[00:23:51] Jennifer: And so you do have that question. But then there are some that I actually have a chance to see them hanging and it’s really rewarding to be able to see them kind of shine in their new home. So I do have some pictures of, that clients have sent over that it, it is really rewarding to see that.

[00:24:08] Rico: That’s cool. Or if you end up doing an exhibition or a gallery, I guess. It’s kind of neat to see when you walk around to hear what people might be saying about the art piece on that wall or being home.

[00:24:19] Jennifer: That makes me nervous.

[00:24:22] Rico: Does that make you nervous? Yes. I know, no artist likes to hear the reviews.

[00:24:27] Jennifer: Well listen, I have been in the critique world for, you have to have a certain thickness that happens with being in the art world. I mean, just take it for what it is. Great. And then move on. If you don’t like what you hear.

[00:24:39] Rico: Yeah, that’s true, I’m sure. Some people don’t like fantasy, but they like YA novels. It’s like that, right? So artwork is like that. Some people like sculptures versus paintings. It just depends. We’ve touched upon a little bit about textile work that you’ve done. Textile high art. There’s two thoughts of it, right? You could do textile painting or textile work that’s high art, or at the point that that particular textile has a function, then it becomes a craft, right? An interesting way of looking at something like that. But, you’ve done textile work, maybe pillows and fabrics and different things, right?

[00:25:16] Jennifer: Well, I’m actually wearing one of my, now my eyelash scarves.

[00:25:19] Rico: Eyelash scarf, okay.

[00:25:20] Jennifer: And one thing that’s fun about this one here, is I’m at, right today, I’m wearing it as a kind of a scarf to just actually add flare and color, but then to also cover my shoulders. It was kind of chilly in the lobby earlier. But I’ve been wearing this as a beach coverup too. So you have it nice with the air dry and then it just, the flow. But, so the textiles all started when I was pregnant with my daughter Jane, and she’s 10 now. But I couldn’t get in the oils and the pastels and I needed to have an outlet. I needed to figure out, what was I going to do? I had to create. But I started to play around with this material, the paint, the textile paint. And then it just started off, I started giving them as gifts as like little tea towels or whatnot. And then I think I did like some onesies and painted her some cute onesies. And it just evolved and it just led to sarongs, pillows, cocktail napkins, scarves.

[00:26:13] Rico: Are those also one of a kind or do you design it and then have it produced?

[00:26:18] Jennifer: No, I hand paint every single one of them.

[00:26:21] Rico: So cocktail napkins, if there’s 24 of them, you have to, you’re hand painting 24?

[00:26:26] Jennifer: Every single one of them, yes. But what I’ve found, because I do this leopard pattern, some people doodle or whatnot. It ends up being my think space. Like that’s my thinking time.

[00:26:37] Rico: Okay.

[00:26:37] Jennifer: There’s something about that repetitive motion.

[00:26:40] Rico: Yes.

[00:26:41] Jennifer: I have some of my best ideas when I’m doing those.

[00:26:44] Rico: That’s funny. You probably see different shapes on them as you’re creating those shapes. Or patterns and stuff.

[00:26:49] Jennifer: Well, they could come across as a leopard or they could come across as a horseshoe. So depending on which, what region you’re in.

[00:26:56] Rico: Right, right, right. As you’re doing it, that’s interesting. It’s like I hear writers say that, yeah, my character took me there. I didn’t even know I was going there. Or it’s like that.

[00:27:07] Jennifer: This material is very loyal to me and I’ve learned to, I have to iron every one to set it. However, if you look at my studio clothes, you might see that it probably doesn’t have to be ironed all the time, but they’re a certain color because it’s just very colorful studio clothes. But I have to iron every piece to set the ink, the paint into the textile. And not every textile reacts the same. So I have to learn how to either manipulate it. Or to where, if you put down the paint and it will expand. And if it does expand, like I have to make sure that my strokes are really smaller, so where it doesn’t end up overtaking the fabric. So you kind of learn the fabric and you then you just kind of get in sync with each other.

[00:27:50] Rico: It’s just amazing. Every form of art has its own little details that people don’t even think about, that aren’t familiar with the process of the art and what you have to think about and what goes into it. If they knew, then they could see the hard work and the inspiration that you got out of it.

[00:28:05] Jennifer: And I think that’s why I’ve, right now I’m in the middle of trying to tell that story for the pastel and wood panel. Because when you first see the piece, you probably don’t even understand what’s happening. Like what the process was prior. And there’s about 20 steps before the final piece. And so I’m trying to, I have a videographer helping me tell the story of that.

[00:28:26] Rico: Excellent, excellent.

[00:28:27] Jennifer: And we’re working on that together.

[00:28:28] Rico: I was going to say, you have to do video on that. They have to be able to see the drama and the tension of like, you did this beautiful piece, now I’m going to pour this resin on it. It better turn out right.

[00:28:40] Jennifer: Yeah. Right, right. And every time still, like with, I use the same pastels. I use the same resin, but every batch is different. Every wood’s different. Every like environment, temperature, all of it’s so different that I’m still surprised with this technique to the day. And certain colors just disappear. Certain colors blend. And that’s the thing with pastels, it’s all about a layering technique. So you can’t blend pastels. It’s a layering. And so with the resin it just melts.

[00:29:11] Rico: Geez. Well, we could go on and on about this. Art is a tough, tough world. It’s tough to be creative and it’s actually tough to produce it apparently. But you’re going to be showing your work at the Wesleyan’s Artist Market. That’s going to be end of April. Around April 28th and 29th, Friday and Saturday. 75 other professionals from around the Southeast will be there. Here in Peachtree Corners. Do you wanna share with us in brief what type of art? I mean some of the stuff that we’ve seen already during this podcast. What other stuff are you bringing? What can people expect?

[00:29:47] Jennifer: Well, first off, I love this. This is such a great show. I mean, really last year was my first year joining and I was blown away. They’re a great collection of artists. A lot of creativity under one roof. Fantastic people all around. I’ve been, the campus, just the vibe there is just all very happy and just a good heart. Big, big, good, big hearts. And I have a collections of the animals and then I’ll have the fly guys. And then I’ll have the off to the races, which are like my three go-tos.

[00:30:22] Rico: Right.

[00:30:23] Jennifer: And so I’ll have a variety of those, all new works. And I’ll have some of my newest pastel and wood panel off to the races, which I’ve just did for the first time about three weeks ago. So that was a fun experience. Because I’m used to painting those and that, so I used the drawing pastel and then the resin. So I’ll have a variety. All new works though. All hand painted, all original. But I will probably have my wallpaper, which is, this is my only thing I’ve ever printed. I have my fly guy wallpaper and my animal wallpaper. I’ve just finished. Now I just am trying to figure out how to talk about it and promote it, so.

[00:31:03] Rico: Right, right, right. Wow.

[00:31:05] Jennifer: Maybe I’ll send you a picture of it. Maybe you can add it in. It’s so, it’s so neat.

[00:31:09] Rico: Yes. I’m waiting for some high-res photography from you.

[00:31:13] Jennifer: And I’ve got that coming for you.

[00:31:14] Rico: Excellent. So if people want to follow you, where can they find out more information about Jennifer Keim?

[00:31:20] Jennifer: Okay. They can find more information on my website, which is www.JKeim.com, and that’s J-K-E-I-M.

[00:31:28] Rico: Okay.

[00:31:29] Jennifer: Or you could find me on my Instagram, which is @JKeimStudio.

[00:31:33] Rico: Cool. And Facebook, I think?

[00:31:35] Jennifer: Yes. On Facebook too.

[00:31:37] Rico: Cool. Great. Check her out. Lots of stuff on there. I was just on there. I saw her dive with her GoPro, not dive herself, but into the waters, the blue waters of Hawaii. But you can follow Jennifer on social media and see what’s up with her and what she does and stuff. It’s kind of interesting to see the behind the scenes of what an artist has to do to create the stuff they bring to these shows. So check that out. Check her out. To find out a little bit more about the Wesleyan Artist Market go to, just search Wesleyan Artist Market. Google that and you’ll find the place. And it’s being held at the Wesleyan School, which is a private prep school here in Peachtree Corners. Great school and a great supporter of ours as well. And we’re a sponsor of the Wesleyan Artist Market. So, great stuff. Great artist. Jennifer, this was a pleasure talking with you about art.

[00:32:24] Jennifer: I really enjoyed having this time with you.

[00:32:27] Rico: Yeah, no, same here. I appreciate you spending the time, especially from Hawaii. So, and the wifi seemed to work out just fine. So we’re all good.

[00:32:35] Jennifer: And no kids barged in wanting to go to the pool.

[00:32:39] Rico: And my cats didn’t show up on my desk either this time.

[00:32:42] Jennifer: Yes.

[00:32:44] Rico: So hang in there for a minute while I just sign off. Thanks again for being with us. This is Peachtree Corners Life. My name is Rico Figliolini. You can find out more about our publications at LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com. These podcasts, and we’ll be sharing three artists profiles and then upcoming issue of the, I think it’s our April/May issue of Peachtree Corners Magazine. And Jennifer will be one of them. So, check that out and have a great week.

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City Government

Registering Security Cameras, Medlock Bridge Road, City Marshall and More with the City Manager [Podcast]



Here’s why you should register your Ring doorbell with Connect Peachtree Corners. Plus, we discussed the Medlock Bridge and Bush Road intersection, the City Marshall system, the Town Center Parking Deck maintenance and the upcoming Economic Development Master Plan.


[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:06] – Home Camera Registering with Fūsus
[00:09:29] – Parking Deck Partially Closed for Repairs
[00:12:52] – Medlock Bridge Road Repair Progress
[00:17:26] – Tree Removal Along 141
[00:22:29] – City Marshal Program Update
[00:32:37] – Writing a New Comprehensive Plan
[00:38:07] – Closing

“The mayor and council agree with me that really making our community safe is about the most important responsibility we have. Because it will affect all other things. There’s a lot of other important things too, but for us to be a great community to live, work, learn, and play, it’s got to be safe.”


Podcast Transcript

[00:00:30] Rico: Hi everyone, this is Rico from Peachtree Corners Magazine and Peachtree Corners Life. We have our special guest as we do almost every month, Brian Johnson, the city manager. Hey, Brian.

[00:00:40] Brian: Rico, how are you?

[00:00:42] Rico: Good, good. When we’re taping today, it’s actually a cold day, but it’s a beautiful sunny day, so it’s all good. Before we get into our discussion, updates about what’s going on in the city, I just want to say thank you to our corporate sponsor, EV Remodeling Inc. And Eli, who’s been a great sponsor of these podcasts and of the magazine. So I want to put a shout out to him and let you all know that if you’re looking to do anything from design to build, in home improvement from extensions to whole house improvement, Eli’s the one. So EV Remodeling, they live in Peachtree Corners, they’re based in Peachtree Corners. It’s a good local company. A lot of people like them. Check them out. EVRemodelingInc.com is where you can find out more information. So now let’s get into the show. There’s a few things we want to go through. Lots of things have been going on. We’re going to be hitting on some of these. So then we can even clear up some stuff that I didn’t even understand on some things happening. So it’s all good to be doing this with you, Brian, and I always appreciate you straight shooting and giving us the information we all need to know. Why don’t we start off with the first thing with Fūsus Technologies company here based in Peachtree Corners, that has been instrumental in helping Atlanta police, helping Gwinnett police, find criminals through technology and crime center in the cloud. So there’s something going on now about registering home base cameras. So tell us a little bit about that and what that is.

[00:02:06] Brian: Yeah. And Rico, Fūsus, which is a Peachtree Corners based company here created a platform that can link all cameras of different makes, models, into a mesh network. That can both talk to each other and be used by law enforcement. And it doesn’t have to be owned by one entity. Like it’s not just city cameras, it just allows private cameras to voluntarily enroll their cameras into this program. So we create this net of surveillance for use by law enforcement, and in the two unfortunate fatalities we’ve had in the city within the last six months. The Norcross High School student shooting, and then the failed carjacking or car slider. Both of those shooters in both of those cases were identified because of the city’s cameras and the Fūsus platform. And so it does work. Now, of course, the best crime is the one that’s not committed. So, we would much prefer to prevent versus use it to solve, but it does help. What we’re doing now is on residential cameras, these are cameras that are not owned by businesses, these are private residents. A lot of people have video surveillance of some sort. Ring video doorbell, Amazon’s got products, and Google’s got products, Simply Safe, I mean all that kind of stuff. Well, all those cameras are important to law enforcement in that, law enforcement wants to know that they exist. And that if a crime is committed in the area, the police department would know how to contact the owner to request a segment of their video they’re recording for the use in investigating the crime. And so what we’re asking is for people to take their cameras and enroll them. That’s all this is. This is merely telling Gwinnett County PD through the city’s program that, I have a camera. You can describe it and you can do more than one, but you can say, I have, five cameras. I have a doorbell camera, and I’ve got four cameras on the exterior looking around my house. If you want any of the video that I’m taping, here’s my contact information, and then that’s it. What we’re doing, what Fūsus does then, is it creates a map. And it’ll allow Gwinnett PD to see all the places that they know that there are cameras. And if a crime is committed there, then they also know how to quickly get ahold of the owner and quickly ask for some video that might be important because of a crime. And without this, if there’s a crime committed somewhere, the only way the police can know if there’s video footage in the area is to canvas, the area by knocking on doors. And that’s time and labor intensive. And people aren’t always home versus you provided your contact information and you know, somebody can call me or email me and I can help very quickly provide Gwinnett PD with the information they want. And again, it’s a case by case basis, so you can enroll your camera. And for some reason, you could decide in that particular case, you didn’t want to share your data. All this done, allows Gwinnett to know where there are cameras and where to request video from that on a case by case basis. So we really encourage everybody to do it because it’s not, none of this is, all of a sudden anybody has access to your camera. Nobody can use it, you know?

[00:05:50] Rico: Right. That’s important to say, right? There’s no physical access through wifi or networking to the camera. The person would have to physically download that video and then send it off to the police, so.

[00:06:01] Brian: That’s correct. And the Fūsus platform also provides a really easy way for you to, like drag and drop the particular date, time of video that the police might be asking for. And that’s it. I mean, nobody’s getting access to it. You’re just providing what they request so that they can do it quickly. So nobody should feel like they shouldn’t register their camera. I get it, if they don’t want, which is why it’s not part of it. On the commercial side, there will be a second level where some commercial establishments will give the police department access to their video feed. But that’s only on commercial establishments and that’s a different program. On the residential side, you have nothing to lose. All you’re doing is telling the police that I have a camera and if you ever might need it, here’s how to contact me and I will consider your request.

[00:07:01] Rico: And that makes sense because you don’t want, you want the police to have available as immediate as possible video, if God forbid there’s a child abduction. Kids waiting at the bus line and something happens, or there’s something violent happens or burglary happens in the neighborhood, they can trace the street path of possibly where the cameras are and time of the incident. So there’s all sorts of reasons why the homeowners should register their video camera.

[00:07:32] Brian: That’s right. It’s not just their own property, Rico, you make a good point. This isn’t just, if there’s a crime on your property, it could be there’s a crime elsewhere in your neighborhood.

[00:07:42] Rico: That’s right.

[00:07:42] Brian: Say you have a doorbell camera, the car has got to go across the front of your house and your camera might give the police, while that car, or a person walking or whatever, it could give valuable information to solve other crimes. So we encourage everybody to enroll.

[00:08:01] Rico: And certainly if it’s a serial crime where you have car break-ins in a neighborhood, I’ve seen friends that have shown me videos of their driveway, well, all of a sudden you see a guy walking up the driveway, checking door handles to see if any of them are open. I mean, eventually, that type of stuff. And not even covering their faces is the strangest part.

[00:08:20] Brian: Right. Porch pirates, I mean, but you know, this is just an easy way for you to share the data. And it doesn’t even have to be requested. You can actually reach out to Gwinnett PD through it by saying, Hey, I’m getting ready to send you, on my own, video of a porch pirate. And there’s his face, I’d like to file a police report. Here’s why. And it’s just an easy way to communicate and share information for us to make this community a safer place.

[00:08:49] Rico: Yeah. We should all participate. Go to ConnectPeachtreeCorners.org. That’s the website. So anyone listening to this should go to ConnectPeachtreeCorners.org and that’ll give you all sorts of information. Right now I’m looking at 95 registered cameras, 255 integrated cameras. I guess there’s a, a live member account on here.

[00:09:11] Brian: That would be commercial establishments.

[00:09:14] Rico: Okay.

[00:09:15] Brian: Acme Widget Company has a, lay down yard in the back of their property, a warehouse. They want the shipping doors to be under surveillance and they just tell Gwinnett, Hey, you can tie into our camera anytime you want. Those are the integrated ones.

[00:09:29] Rico: Okay, gotcha. Alright, cool. So check that out. If you’re looking to help out and you’re using a ring or Alexa or whatever you are using. Next on my list is, so the parking deck at Town Center, Peachtree Corners Town Center, portions of it will be closed, I think beginning February 1st. If I have that right. For repairs. Give us a little background on that.

[00:09:50] Brian: Much like any new construction, whether it’s your home or elsewhere, when you build something brand new, you need to give it time for everything to settle. And the kinks to get worked out. You’ve flexed all the parts and you’ve been to all the corners and everything. And so we’re kind of finishing up the parking decks, had some time for, everything to settle. And there’s some areas that we think there needs to be a little bit of repair work. Now that it’s kind of at the point where it’s going to stop moving and settling like it does when it was brand new. And so unfortunately most of this work has got to be on the outside edge along where most people will know where the EV chargers are. Because just on the outside of that is the retaining wall for the creek. And so, that’s the most sensitive part of the parking deck. And so that’s why we’re, kind of finishing punch list items from the parking deck. And it requires equipment to get and close off that ramp. So there will be a period of time in which those electric vehicle charging stations will not be accessible because equipment will be in there. So, it looks like it actually won’t start until the middle of February.

[00:11:09] Rico: Okay.

[00:11:09] Brian: So we’ll keep it open until the bitter end, but when it does, they have too much equipment. On the backside there’s nowhere outside of the parking deck in that location for them to stage. Because it just falls right off.

[00:11:21] Rico: So actually just a portion of the deck, I said the whole deck, but just a portion. So the portion with the EV charges all the way up that part. And the entrance to that EV charging area, which is on the CineBistro side is going to be closed. And the entry from Lazy Dog Restaurant’s side is going to be closed.

[00:11:40] Brian: That’s right. Both sides of that ramp all the way down. Because again, the work being done on that side of the parking deck, there’s nowhere on the outside of the parking deck for the equipment to stage because it’s a drop off to the creek. So we’ve got to do it on the inside, and so it closes it.

[00:11:58] Rico: But the rest of the deck is opened.

[00:12:00] Brian: Yeah, the rest of the deck is open and, you know, we hate it. Trust me. I mean, the EV charging stations are, just the Tesla ones are the most heavily used Tesla Chargers in the US off interstate system.

[00:12:19] Rico: Really?

[00:12:20] Brian: So, yes.

[00:12:21] Rico: Told a little trivial pursuit of EV charging facts.

[00:12:28] Brian: Right. I mean, it gets a lot of use and there’s places off the interstate system where they obviously more. But you know, that’s business right now, so pretty cool. But, unfortunately we’ve got to do this work at some point. So now’s the time to rip the bandaid off. It was right after the holidays, which we didn’t want to effect. So we’re going to get on it and we’ll get it fixed and get it back open.

[00:12:52] Rico: Alright. Talking about repairs, continuing down that road, if you excuse the pun, Medlock Bridge Road, 141, Peachtree Parkway. That intersection, that area has been a burden to the city, to its residents. It’s taken three years to get to where we are. But finally it seems like everything’s finally getting together and gelling between, I guess, the state, the county, and everyone involved, utilities. So tell us, what progress, where we are with that.

[00:13:19] Brian: And, you know, as a reminder, this intersection project is a joint project between us and the county and Medlock and Bush Road, our county maintained Road. So the county’s actually paying like 80% of this project. So, you know when you pay 80% into something, you have the most say in what’s going on. And so there have certainly been some decisions that were made after the project started that have prolonged it, including like burying certain lines for the new traffic signal that originally were not slated to be buried. They were going to go above ground, but they made a decision, no, let’s go ahead and bury it. And while then that means more material and, orders take longer and just, things like that, push it out. Of course, COVID had something to do with it, supply chain. But at the end of the day, that’s probably a decision, if we had been asked, we would’ve probably said, yes, go ahead and do it. Because that means that power to this intersection is going to be less at risk of a power outage if we have a storm, if all the lines are buried. And so that was the decision making calculus here is, look, while we’re doing this project, let’s just bury all the power and fiber so that this intersection should, if electricity goes out, it should continue to work because the lines are buried. So anyway, we are getting close to having the final parts we need for this traffic signal cabinet to run the software. And that was a chip, a micro chip that we’ve been waiting on. And if anybody’s read those kind of things, you know, the automotive industry has got massive car lots full of cars that are missing one chip because there’s a shortage. Well, this traffic cabinet, which runs the cycle of signals, we’re waiting on that. We’re waiting on a, when we bury the utilities, there’s got to be an underground utility cabinet there. So we should be getting close to being able to move the last traffic pole that was in there. And at a minimum get all the resurfacing finished. So all of that starts. Although, to remind everybody project, even though it’s been a long time, it actually hasn’t closed any lanes. All of this is about adding lanes. So you know, traffic, if we never did this project, traffic would still the way it is right now.

[00:16:08] Rico: Yeah, I mean, I drive that almost every day. And quite frankly, I know people are complaining about it, but there’s no difference, I think. Once it’s complete, it’s really no difference from what’s going on now to some degree. Right?

[00:16:20] Brian: Correct. But the main one would be the pedestrian crossing coming off of Bush Road, going to the Town Center will be better. That is one. So people who walk to the Town Center along Bush Road, that will be improved. It’s probably the biggest improvement. You know, you’ve got a deceleration lane we added for those coming off of Medlock, turning onto Bush Road. Coming from say the Spalding Drive area.

[00:16:45] Rico: Right, right.

[00:16:46] Brian: But the main, will probably, improvement would be the slip lane for those coming up Bush Road towards the Town Center, and they want to head north up Peachtree Parkway. They won’t even have to worry about the traffic signal because they will have a dedicated, call it on-ramp, a slip lane that’ll pull them right around to the current on-ramp that you use to get on there. So that’ll flush traffic wanting to head north on 141 in a way that they don’t even have to wait for the signal, they just have automatic slip lane going. So that’s probably gonna be the biggest advantage. But we’re hoping that, February is when we’re scheduled to get the chip, so we’re hoping that that’ll be it.

[00:17:26] Rico: So, we’re close. A couple of months, I guess, to be fair. Cool. So this again, this is another part of where a lot of us drive, and that’s coming off Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, where that split is, of 141 and Peachtree Parkway. Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, and Peachtree Parkway. So there’s been a lot of clearance of trees there and stuff. And variety of reasons, different reasons have come up. None of which apparently is true at this point. Because I thought it was being cleared because of the new monument that’s eventually would get put there. Someone else had thought the state had come in because there were a lot of, I don’t know how many homeless tents in the back of that area. But apparently it wasn’t because of that. Apparently it’s because line of sight. Well, tell us why is that? Why are trees being cut away along the state route?

[00:18:14] Brian: So, and in fact, all up and down 141, there was tree clearing recently by actually two entities, Georgia DOT, and Georgia Power. Two separate initiatives that we did the best we could to coordinate them to kind of do it at the same time so that you didn’t have lane closures and all that stuff at different times. Their purpose of both of them coming in was to remove trees that they deemed to be posing a more significant risk to, in Georgia Power’s case, the power lines along the road. In Georgia DOT’s case falling into the road during a storm event and posing a hazard to the public or sight lines. So, you know, as trees fill out and branches, sometimes they can start getting into sight lines. And so when Georgia Power and DOT come in, and mind you, we have nothing to do with this, this is the state’s road. State Route 141. And Georgia Power certainly has a utility easement that gives them the right to remove trees that they deem, or branches of trees that they deem to pose a risk. But when either of these entities come in and do this, and not just in Peachtree Corners, they will overdo it. And by overdo it, I mean, they don’t have the resources to come in on a consistent basis. They want to come in and do this and not have to come back for, 10, 15, 20 years.

[00:19:47] Rico: Right, right.

[00:19:48] Brian: So they overdo it. And so they will overcut, they will over clear, they will really kind of scalp the area because they’re like, we don’t want to come back. And in the case of the split, GDOT, and if anybody who’s driven, you know, up PIB at the split and they’ve stayed left to go to Peachtree, you know, go on Peachtree Parkway.

[00:20:12] Rico: Sure.

[00:20:12] Brian: And the light at Holcomb Bridge is red, and the cars would back up. You could come smoking around that corner if traffic was good, there wasn’t slow traffic. You’d come around the corner and you could be doing, 55, 60, or more depending on the driver. And then all of a sudden you come around and there’s cars stopped. And GDOT was like, you know what, we are going to remove any of that sight line risk. We were surprised at how much they removed as well. I don’t feel like all of that was necessary. But it’s almost like, well, it’s almost like I went into a barber with a full head of hair and I said, just take a little off of the top and this is what I came out looking. It’s just like, the first time I saw him do it, I’m like, whoa, easy there, boss. I mean, you know. Their mindset is we don’t want to come back and this thing, trees and plant material grows. And so we had nothing to do with that. We were surprised. There is, probably late spring, we do have a project that will enhance the Paul Duke Gateway sign.

[00:21:21] Rico: Okay.

[00:21:21] Brian: But we haven’t started on it yet, and that would’ve not affected any of the trees. I mean, all of that wouldn’t have removed any of the trees. So I, for those who knew that pop-up project’s happening, I can see why somebody would think it was the city. But I promise you, we’ve been guilty about cutting trees or too many trees, but that was surprising. But again, GDOT’s mandate is to safely move cars from point A to point B and site line is the consideration. So between them and Georgia Power, that’s why all that work was done. And so kind of finishing up, there was a homeless camp down at the bottom. Not a big one, I would say there might have been, looked like, four or five individual. We’re not even sure if they were always there. Could have been, you know, they were coming back. But when they removed those trees, there was a period of time before they cleaned it out that you could see the tents and little areas. So, yeah, it’s almost done. They’ll put in mulch where they removed all the trees. And sometime in the spring, we’ll upgrade that sign and that’ll be the way that intersection looks.

[00:22:29] Rico: Yeah. If anyone wants to see what that looks like, they should go to LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com and just search State of the City 2022. The video is there. In fact, they show in the video, it’s shown what the signs will look like. So check that out. Cool. So I guess the next, probably the last thing here, is I just want to get back onto a little bit about what’s going on with the City Marshal. The mechanics now, of a little bit of what the process might be over several months and stuff. So, because the City Marshal system is coming in, right? There’s no doubt at this point that will not come in. So what is the process and give us some timeline idea of where you think this is going, Brian?

[00:23:09] Brian: Yeah, so, the program itself of having City Marshals here is going to happen. Based on our conversations with other communities who have this program outside of the city, or excuse me, outside of Gwinnett or even in Gwinnett. Like in the case of Sugar Hill, they have the very program we are looking to create, and because they use Gwinnett PD for their law enforcement or the enforcement of state law. And they created a City Marshall program so that they have post certified officers to enforce city code. And why that’s unique is, most cities have code enforcement officers, they’re called. But unless they’re post certified, they can’t enforce certain things because they don’t have the right to, take away somebody’s civil liberties if you will. Like arrest somebody, or detain somebody, or things like that. And so they can only go so far. And if there’s a, you know, and in our case, there’s some gaps between what Gwinnett PD can do. Because the legal department at Gwinnett County has taken the stance that they cannot enforce city code inside our city. And they’re post certified, so that would’ve helped. And our code enforcement can enforce city code, but they’re not post certified. So there’s a little bit of a gap that needs to be filled. And so, we’re going to fill it with City Marshals, which are going to fill that gap. We’re still going to be using Gwinnett PD to enforce state law. But we’ll be able to have some resources at our disposal to target specific things that are important to us at the time. Like here, just in Peachtree Corners. And sometimes that isn’t quite as important to the leadership of Gwinnett Police Department, headquartered up in Lawrenceville, providing police protection for a very, you know, second most populist county in the state. So sometimes we need the ability to take assets that don’t have limitations and direct them at things that are important to Peachtree Corners. So that’s why we’re doing it. What we’re doing now is if you imagine, we’re going to have these three new positions. We’ve got to start building, you know that we call it table of organization and equipment. Alright, who’s answering to whom? How much are we going to pay? What are their uniforms going to look like? What type of vehicles are we going to have them drive? What type of weapon are they going to carry? Are they going to have body cams? If so, what kind? I mean, you can start getting into a lot of things that you have to, and that’s what we’re doing right now is building the framework. And we have a pretty good estimate on cost, which was presented to council when I presented them my proposal on creating this program. And I did it just to ensure that we can do this without there having to be any property tax. We can absorb this within our budget, which is important for everybody to know.

[00:26:23] Rico: So this is within the existing budget.

[00:26:25] Brian: Correct, yeah. So there’s not like some new fee coming or property tax that’s going to already start to be levied. No, we can do it within our existing budget. We do have to get the exact numbers. Some of this stuff has long lead times. But all of this is being put into the budget. What would be the FY 24 budget, which starts July 1st, 2023, this year. And so really this program will go live July One. At that point, and maybe I would’ve already started advertising the positions by then. You know, it could be August, September before we get some people in. And at that point they’re in here, and then we have a few more things that you’ve got to do. We’ve got certain policies and procedures we’re going to need to write. Creating their left and right limit because they’re going to come in and they’re going to have all of the very same authority that Gwinnett Police Officers have. They’ll have that. Where they’re gonna be limited is by our policy. We’re going to say. Yeah, yeah, you can do all that, but you’re not going to. This is where you’re going to concentrate on. You’re going to fill gaps and focus on areas that are really important to us in Peachtree Corners that are very unique to Peachtree Corners. And so that, you know, I’ve already started writing some of those. So there’s a lot of work to this, even though it’s just City Marshals and it’s just going be three people.

[00:27:55] Rico: Oh, but you have to, yeah. I mean, we’re fortunate I guess, because like you said before, Sugar Hill, City of Sugar Hill has a similar thing. Are you actually looking at that to see how they interact with Gwinnett Police? And not just how they interact, but policies, technology to use to interact. We’re not taking 911 calls, obviously. You know, how do you interact when you detain someone and then Gwinnett Police has to come and actually do the arrest, to collar, if you will. And then all, like you said, the details of body cameras. Well, it’s not just we need body cameras, but which brand, what type, how do you?

[00:28:32] Brian: Correct. How long are we going to score the video? I mean, things like that. And so, yeah. I mean, you know, Sugar Hill has been helpful in that. Their City Manager, Paul Radford and I know he is a really good guy, really smart manager. Their program has been run pretty well, so we’ve been talking to them. That’s always helpful. There are other City Marshal programs in the US and we borrow from those programs and we find good examples and templates for us to make our own. And so that’s being done right now. But yeah, I mean, it is going to happen. It’ll be in the FY 24 budget. Technically speaking, July One, it’ll all be funded fully and I’ll start writing checks against that budget. But you know, by the end of this year, we will have three Marshals and a program and policies guiding their actions to make Peachtree Corners the safest community we can possibly make it.

[00:29:29] Rico: And one last thing was this, I forget now. We did discuss this on our last podcast, but was this a 24/7 type of deal as well, or is this?

[00:29:39] Brian: No, I mean, again, you start getting a 24/7 and you would need more people than that. No.

[00:29:45] Rico: Okay. That’s what I thought.

[00:29:46] Brian: They would, generally speaking, they would probably be your normal business hours.

[00:29:52] Rico: Okay.

[00:29:52] Brian: But much like code does right now, there will be a consistent, call it exception to that. Where like maybe once a week, one of the officers is not going to come in until 6:00 PM and they’re going to work till, 2:00 AM. Just looking, you know, maybe targeting certain things. And then if we have something that really becomes a problem, I may end up having all three of them focus on something on odd hours or over a weekend. Things like that. But normally they’re not going to need to be 24/7. Again, 911 and the enforcement of state law, which are all felonious crime, that’s still going to be Gwinnett PD. They’re still 24/7.

[00:30:36] Rico: Will they provide any security or any policing, if you will, during big events like, Friday Night Concerts or the Peachtree Corners Festival or things like that?

[00:30:45] Brian: Oh, sure. And I don’t foresee us stopping our off-duty police program either. Where we pay off duty Gwinnett officers to work the Town Center. From like, was it like 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM, I think, is what we have an off-duty shift. I don’t foresee us stopping that because again, I want that to be a safe place and we’ve certainly grown a lot of toys and stuff out at the Town Green to encourage people to go there. So the more people who go there, the more you know you need. So this is an ad. There are volunteer, call it reserve programs, where you can end up having other people help with certain things as part of volunteers from the community. So it opens up some doors for us that we didn’t have without exercising the city’s authority to create these type of things. So again, mayor and council rightly so, agree with me that really making our community safe is about the most important responsibility we have. Because it will affect all other things. There’s a lot of other important things too. But, for us to be a great community to live, work, learn, and play, it’s got to be safe.

[00:32:02] Rico: I totally agree, totally agree. I’m glad the city’s moving that way. Because if you don’t feel safe, you don’t feel like going out. We covered my list. And I’m glad that we were able to get through and talk about some of these things and touchpoints on a bunch of these things. I know over the next few months there’ll be more things coming and happening. I know that there were a couple of boards appointed or reappointed this past week or so. It’s going to be stuff coming out from the redevelopment authority and some of the other government entities. So there’s going to be a lot to talk about. Not as much development maybe at this point.

[00:32:37] Brian: Well, one other thing, the one thing I do want to add at the end of this. Our comprehensive plan, all cities in Georgia have to have what’s called a comprehensive plan. And it is a master plan to guide how the community is going to tackle your general components of being a city. Public safety, transportation, housing, things like that. Well, every 10 years you have to write a complete new one. And then, after that, five years later you have to update it. So every 10 years you have to rewrite it. And we’re in the 10 year. It expired, our first one expired last year, so we’re rewriting ours. There’s going to be a series of public meetings, community meetings that we’re going to be holding over the next four-ish months. And which we’re inviting the community to come out and provide us some input on what they want to see the direction of this city in some of those areas I just mentioned. Rico, you’ll be getting something to help with this, but on February 23, it’s gonna be our first full on community meeting. And its purpose, its main topic is housing.

[00:33:52] Rico: Okay.

[00:33:53] Brian: And so, you’ve been covering the city for a long time. If you could pick one thing, one matter that over the 10 years we’ve existed, tends to get the most criticism on an ongoing basis, it tends to be housing. Specifically, rental.

[00:34:13] Rico: For sure, for sure.

[00:34:14] Brian: And so for those who want to have a say, to learn, to help guide how the city is going to handle that stuff. Going into the next five to ten years. That meeting is going to be a very important meeting to show up. We will have a lot of experts there, including ones who represent like developers, and developers to give us a perspective on what they look for. We can talk about legal constraints the city has on zoning decisions and all that kind of stuff. So very important. All these are important. But we tended to get, from an ongoing, consistent basis, criticism of decisions the city’s made, tended to be mostly around housing decisions, zoning decisions around, you know, in that housing component. So if you are one of those people who don’t think that it was going the right direction, that is the meeting to show up.

[00:35:10] Rico: So the housing, if I remember correctly from my planning commission days, the comprehensive development plan actually includes a map that will show areas where we might restrict certain types of housing, restrict businesses.

[00:35:24] Brian: That’s correct. You’re referring to what’s called a future land use map. And that’s right Rico. It is a map in which it is, in somewhat broad brush, it doesn’t go parcel by parcel, but it basically paints a broad brush of character areas. And it’ll be like, we want this corridor to be a commercial corridor. We want this area over here to be multi-family to serve this. We want this one to be single family. That map is the map that both planning commission and city council refer to when people come in for zoning decisions. And if they’re requesting a rezoning and they look at the future land use map and it is not rezoning in the direction that future land use map says it should go, generally speaking, that’s when Planning Commission and City Council are like, nope.

[00:36:15] Rico: I think that map also can be looked at two ways because it’s a map that we all know over a period of time, certainly over a decade. The character changes even, because exceptions are made and once one exception is made, then other exceptions will have to follow, no doubt. Right? So it’s both how some people look almost like at the Bible in some ways, if you will. It’s should be strict, strictly followed. And others believe it should be aspirational because over a decade of time that plan changes a bit, you have aspirations of Technology Park should stay just the way it is where there’s some housing now because it’s already been adjusted and the rest of it should remain that way.

[00:36:58] Brian: Spoken by somebody who has been involved in land use decisions and planning commissioner. But you are right, Rico, a hundred percent. It is very much like the Bible or even like the Constitution. You have people who feel like it should be strictly adhered to and others are like, look, it provides guiding principles that can be. And you’re a hundred percent right. But regardless how you feel about it, it has to be produced. It is referenced all the time. And if you want to either know what it’s going to look like or be able to provide input and potentially influence the way it looks. That’s the meeting, you know, that’s the comp plan meeting that you’re going to want to go to. Follow on ones will be around, like transportation and again, public safety, and things like that. But this housing one, February 23, it’s going to be a big one. So, more information and invitation to follow. But while you and I are on here, we should talk before that in February because our council meeting is before that.

[00:38:07] Rico: That’s right. Yeah, okay.

[00:38:09] Brian: Anyway, that’s all I’ve got. So, thanks for your time.

[00:38:12] Rico: Thank you Brian. I appreciate it. Thank you everyone for listening in. Certainly go to LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com you’ll always find more information. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. February 23rd, Thursday, that’s a Thursday, is that first meeting on housing, on the comprehensive development plan, the input of that. So check that out and we’ll have more information as we get to it. Thank you again for listening in. Thanks Brian for being with me.

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City Government

Is a City Marshal System in the City’s Future and Updates on the DDA and RDA [Podcast]



Is a City Marshal system in our future and what would it look like?

After a short hiatus, Rico Figliolini and Brian Johnson are back with a new episode of Prime Lunchtime with The City Manager. There’s a lot of new and exciting information about what’s happening in the City of Peachtree Corners. Today’s topics include; a possible future City Marshal System, The Redevelopment Authority and Downtown Development Authority plans, honorary road names, and much more.


[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:44] – City Marshal Office System
[00:13:19] – The Authority of Future City Marshals
[00:18:58] – How the City Will Fund the City Marshals System
[00:23:37] – Honorary Roads Vs. Renaming a Road
[00:27:30] – Downtown Development Authority
[00:30:40] – Redevelopment Authority’s New Ideas
[00:36:57] – Closing

“One of our most sacred services as a city that we provide is to do everything we can to make sure this community is safe. A place to live, do commerce, recreate, and (City Council) felt like this will better provide that service.”



Podcast Transcript

[00:00:30] Rico: Hi everyone, this is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life, and today Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager. Hey Brian, how are you?

[00:00:38] Brian: Rico. Good, how are you?

[00:00:40] Rico: Good, good. Much better. I finally got Covid. I’m on the other side of it, so everything’s all good. Before we get into the show, let me just introduce our sponsor, EV Remodeling Inc. They’ve been a corporate sponsor of ours for over a year now, both for the publication and these family podcasts that I do. So I want to thank them. Based in Peachtree Corners. Eli is a Peachtree Corners resident. Great guy, does great work. You can visit them at EVRemodelingInc.com and find out a little bit more about how he does design, build, and can renovate your entire home. So check him out. I want to thank him for being our corporate sponsor. We have a lot to discuss. I mean, within the scheme of things, we haven’t done this. We skipped a month. It was kind of quiet and stuff but there’s always new stuff. And certainly this podcast, we’re gonna be discussing the city’s look at activating a City Marshall system as well as discussing honorary road names and looking at the RDA and DDA, that’s the Downtown Development authority and the Redevelopment Authority and what they’re going to be doing. Let’s lead off with the City Marshall, the activation of that. I know this is in response to the concerns that citizens have had maybe not directly with the carjacking that happened at the QT and the death of a young man there. And of a young student at Norcross High School. Granted that was, he had left Norcross High School, and that was, I believe off campus that happened. But two violent crimes that occurred. Listen, the city of Atlanta all over the city, there’s, you can get notifications from 11 Alive at least five, six times a day of things happening. We’re thankful that the City of Peachtree Corners is not facing that type of crime wave or activity. But I find that this is somewhat of an innovative way of doing this. Instead of a full on police force doing something that could be a little different and still have the authority of the police. So Brian, tell us a little bit about how this came about and how you’d be looking at this and what you were tasked to do.

[00:02:44] Brian: So, you’re right, you hit on some of the origins of getting to this point. We have had some unfortunate incidents of late with deaths. There’s been some other crime and it’s not uncommon as we densify. As Metro Atlanta grows Peachtree Corners is growing. And the more people you have in an area, there’s just more opportunities for bad actors. So this unfortunate rise in these kind of things. And, you know, property crime is still our main criminal activity type here, but we are just becoming more and more of a target for bad actors. We’ve had intersection takeovers not too long ago, where you’ve got these car clubs that are seizing control of an intersection and doing all sorts of dangerous things with automobiles. You’ve had instances like that, even the failed carjacking that resulted in that death was a group of teens who specifically were targeting communities that had more affluence and better automobiles that they could do that slider crime where, you know, somebody’s pumping gas, or in this case filling air in their tires not near the driver’s side, and they slide into the seat. Because oftentimes the cars are left running, or at a minimum the keys are left in the ignition. So as a community, these instances and incidents rightly get the community, you know, like, hey, what’s going on? It seems like there’s more of it in a compressed period of time. And so we’ve started to notice this ourselves. And you’ve started to see within the last year or so more services and capital assets the city has brought into or brought to bear to help fight or prevent crime. Probably the best example of that would be of late the LPR camera system that we put throughout the city. Which our partnership with fūsus, a local Peachtree Corners Tech Park Atlanta based business that’s created a software platform that allows cameras of any type and owned by private entities. That if they give permission can be tied together to create a video surveillance net, if you will, for use by the police. But those efforts were ways for us to start saying, hey, are we doing as much as we can? And we deployed technology and we’ll continue to. That technology does work. We would prefer it to prevent crime. That’s the best crime is the one prevented. But even in the case of these two murders, our LPR cameras, the fūsus network, tying those and other privately owned cameras that voluntarily became part of the network. They ended up being the method in which the police were able to identify the gunman and find the gunman. So they work. Unfortunately, they were used after a crime was committed. We’d like to do things to prevent it, but that’s examples of what we’ve done so far. But then of recent times, council tasked me with presenting back to them in my opinion, based on all the experts I brought to bear, are we doing absolutely everything we can to make sure Peachtree Corners is a safe community to prevent or call it deflect crime away from our community? Are we doing everything and there were or is, since this hasn’t gone live yet, there is some areas in which there’s a gap. And some of those areas get into, everything from as good of a job as Gwinnett County Police Department’s West Precinct is doing. And they’re gonna remain our official police department, no doubt. But they’re handcuffed with everything from staffing shortages to even policy constraints that a countywide police department has. That if we had something that was solely focused on the city doesn’t have. And so there are sometimes gaps in the ability to direct resources based on Peachtree Corners specific needs. The enforcement of local ordinances and not countywide ordinances. And so I had to honestly, based on the assessment that my team came up with, honestly say that we weren’t doing quite everything and there was this gap that we needed to fill. And so there’s two ways to fill it. One is to stand up our own police department, which we do not want to do. And when Gwinnett PD does have the resources, they are providing a great service for us. But the other way to fill this gap, and this gap is a gap kind of between code enforcement officers, which are specifically oriented to enforcing local code and local code only and law enforcement, that’s enforcing state law. There is a gap. The gap can be filled if we stood up what we’re calling City Marshal office, very similar to what Sugar Hill has. Beauford has both Gwinnett municipalities that have an arrangement with Gwinnett PD, but they identified a gap between their code enforcement and law enforcement that they wanted to fill. So very similar to that, and that is to stand up this program. And the positions would be filled by POST certified officers. POST standing for police officers standard and training. Which is to the, you know, average viewer here is police academy. Having gone through police academy and all the training and to maintain all the certifications that you need to have certain authorities that a code enforcement officer who’s not POST certified will not be able to have. And so the intent here is to have some people who are able to fill this gap by the authority vested in their position. And be able to be controlled by the city so that they can be directed in areas that might be really important to Peachtree Corners, but it’s not, Gwinnett PD does not have the resources to specifically address. A good example of late would be, you mentioned the shooting of the Norcross High School student. That was partly driven by Norcross High School students leaving school during school hours. Truancy, if you will. And there is a truancy problem, of students cutting class and cutting through the woods into the back of businesses that border Norcross High School. Those businesses are being adversely affected. The shooting was an unfortunate result of it. But the truancy continues on students that are trespassing and then doing things like destroying property, dealing drugs, doing drugs.

[00:10:32] Rico: Right. And we were talking a little bit about that before too. About how school security are really not able to stop a kid from leaving the school short of tackling them, if you will.

[00:10:44] Brian: Well they can’t even do that. I mean, Rico, you’re right.

[00:10:47] Rico: I know I’m being facetious.

[00:10:48] Brian: Yeah, yeah. Yes.

[00:10:49] Rico: They can’t touch a kid. I understand. So some of these kids are not respectful of rules maybe, and they’ll leave the school anyway.

[00:10:55] Brian: That’s right. And when they don’t have a support network at home the school is limited to what it can do in the hours that it has the student. And so the discipline within there is certainly been newsworthy recently. But beyond that, when there are instances where they know and have evidence that the kid skipped school, they weren’t in class or whatever. You know, they’re limited in what they can do. And so it’s going to continue to be a problem. Not to say that every school doesn’t have it, but these, some of these students who potentially are bused there so they don’t have transportation or whatever. They’re just going and they’re cutting into the woods and they’re creating problems for local businesses. Now I bring that up to say there’s going to be a lot of little things brought together to help deal with this. But what we don’t currently have is, Gwinnett County PD does not currently have enough staff to run a presence patrol for certain hours of the day where it’s more problematic. And so if we had an internal City Marshal, and it’s important to us because it’s important to these businesses. I can tell City Marshall I want you to go out to the school and I want you to do a presence patrol say during the hours where there’s gaps in these kids’ schedules, they have a free period, and that’s where they tend to cut class and I want you to be driving around the back of those businesses. I want you to be a deterrent to those students. And I want you to be a resource for those. This will allow us to do those kind of things. This will allow us to detain somebody until a Gwinnett Police Officer gets there to arrest them. If they were a witness to the commission of a crime, it allows local code to be enforced at a level that a non post certified code enforcement officer cannot do. And it allows code to continue to make sure that the city is looking in the way it does that buildings are built safe, that properties maintain properly, all that stuff. They continue to do this and now we have, right now it looks like it’ll probably be three City Marshals.

[00:13:16] Rico: Is that to cover a 24 hour period, by the way?

[00:13:19] Brian: No, we’re not needing to run 24 hour at all. That’s again what Gwinnett PD is tasked with. 911 still operates the same. But another example would be the enforcement of the city’s alcohol licensing process. Those who serve alcohol have to get an alcohol license and oftentimes alcohol can be the problem of why certain businesses are not operating properly. Enforcing of that, maybe even pulling license of establishments that are not being good actors. That is a function that unfortunately without City Marshals, we have to coordinate with Gwinnett PD. Because they’re the ones that have to have the authority to enforce certain parts of that. So we depend on that. Massage parlors and licensing of those and trafficking is something that we currently have to use Gwinnett PD. Even when law enforcement gets it to a certain point, we have to stop there because we don’t have POST certified officers that would have that. This will allow us to address those. So it’s filling that gap that right now exists. We don’t have to stand up a police department. We have a good police department. They’re strained by some policy and staffing. But we can, in addition to the technology we’re using, we can have our own individuals who have the same authorities. They’re going to exercise them in a very narrow area.

[00:14:48] Rico: Right.

[00:14:49] Brian: They don’t have the same authorities as Gwinnett PD. And it’ll allow us to fill that gap. And that is what I presented to council and that is what council said, we like it. Go back and give us the exact details, the table of organization and equipment of how it’ll look. And that’s what I’m doing. But the concept of standing this up, council said one of our most sacred services as a city that we provide is to do everything we can to make sure this community is safe. Place to live, do commerce recreate, and they felt like this will better provide that service.

[00:15:27] Rico: Right. So just on a couple of little details, detail things, just clarification for some people. POST certified means they’ve gone through the police academy, the same police academy every other police officer has to go through. Same type of training. How to interact with individuals and all that stuff.

[00:15:46] Brian: Use of force.

[00:15:48] Rico: Correct.

[00:15:48] Brian: The steps of escalation. All the same stuff. Now, mind you again. By policy, we’re going to end up restricting them to a very narrow left and right limit. And that’s the gap that we currently have. So they’re not gonna be going out. The only time I see them working off hours would be if we’re having problems with certain things and they need to be out then. But code enforcement does that by, just so that you know already, is they sometimes code infractions are done after business hours. And so we have a cycle of, there’s a code enforcement officer that works a weekend day every month. They rotate through, but generally speaking, they’re still the normal eight to five type of code enforcement. This will be the same.

[00:16:37] Rico: Same on this. Three officers probably working at the same time through the week.

[00:16:42] Brian: Mostly. Yep.

[00:16:43] Rico: Individual cars for each one of them. Working closely with, or when they need to, with Gwinnett Police.

[00:16:49] Brian: Oh, absolutely.

[00:16:50] Rico: And if they end up arresting someone, they’re not really arresting someone. They’re going to detain them, most likely in the back of the Sheriff’s car

[00:16:58] Brian: Rico. A very important point is, we’re not wanting to get into starting to arrest under our authority. Even though the city has that authority and these officers would have been properly certified to do it. Gwinnett PD is going to still be our police. So these will have the authority, but they, at most would detain temporarily until a Gwinnett PD officer showed up to actually arrest. So, we’re not wanting to get into where you start having unnecessary use of force and all that stuff. No.

[00:17:33] Rico: Okay. And as far as fūsus goes, or the eye in the sky real cloud crime center.

[00:17:39] Brian: Real cloud crime center, right. And just so that you know also that program, the official Connect Peachtree Corners program. First week of January is going to be the big push where we’re going to start encouraging, because it’ll be set up and ready to receive, encouraging everybody that has video camera to at a minimum, register their camera to let Gwinnett PD know you have one. So that if there is a crime in the area of that camera, Gwinnett will know exactly who has cameras in the area, how to contact them to request the video feed of a particular time period. That will be the connect PTC through fūsus, that program will be opened up first week of January. So yes, that is a critical part of the City Marshals because now they also would end up being able to monitor video feeds. Including the city’s, we’ve got what, 82 cameras out at the Town Center now. They will be able to use that. It’s going to be a resource for them to use. And, we can charge people and run them through municipal court. So yeah, these are all assets that we want to better utilize or more utilize than what Gwinnett PD has the resources to do.

[00:18:58] Rico: And I know that some people may ask this, so this will be an important question. How will this be funded? This additional police force, if you will, or sherriff force. It’s within the same budget, right? I mean, there’s no, someone’s gonna say, does that mean that the mil l age rate will start existing or something? So tell us.

[00:19:16] Brian: Thank you for teeing that very, very important question up for me. It’s very important to know that this is all being done within the current and anticipated revenue streams that the city gets on an annual basis. Meaning we can afford it within our own budget. Which is a very important point. I mean, we’re very proud that we’re the second largest municipality in Georgia with no city property tax. And Council does not want to be the first council to levy that. So that was an important part of my proposal to them. Their first question was, alright, great. Sounds good. We see the gap. We see why you’re recommending this to fill the gap. Can we afford it? And, you know, I needed to know that before. And the great answer was yes, we can. We were generating enough fun balance year after year that the run rate for three positions, we can afford. We’ll have a one time large capital, we’re going to have to purchase three police cars, uniforms, some equipment. But once you purchase it, you’re just building in our every, however long, we’re gonna have the life cycle of a police car. Especially one that’s not doing high speed chases or whatever. It’s a pretty long one. But yeah, we’ll have that and then it’ll just be the annual run rate. But it is not going to at all, result in any, none of our services are going to result in us having to levy a city millage rate.

[00:20:46] Rico: Cool. Alright. So if anyone has questions on this, they should put comments in the comments, depending where you’re watching this or listening to it. Or reach out to us and we’ll be doing a further in-depth article on this.

[00:20:58] Brian: And Rico. It’s important to note that while council, considering public safety to be a sacred responsibility that council has. So they will not leave any stone unturned, which is why they’re supportive of this. But the exact details, the exact table of organization and equipment is being done right now. So there are a few details that I may not know yet. This is anticipated to be part of the FY 2024 budget, which starts July one of 2023. So July one of, this coming July one would be, the first time that it would end up becoming a live program because I’m building it into next year’s budget. Which is what starts July one of next year. So this isn’t something that’s going to happen in a couple weeks or even a couple months. We’re looking at six months from now.

[00:21:54] Rico: Okay. Alright. Planning. Everything needs a plan and it takes time to do these things.

[00:22:00] Brian: I mean, think about simple things like we’ve got to get in and lay out all of the policy stuff so that our insurance provider, the general liability insurance provider for the city can include this type of activity in our insurance plan. I mean, you know, people are, you don’t think about that until you get into it. And you know, are we going to have, require body cams so when they’re interacting with somebody that camera’s on. And how do we write the policy so that when they, even though they have the same authority as a police officer, we’re saying, no, this is your lane you’re going to operate in. We’ve gotta write got to policy. And so, there’s a lot of work involved. But you know, what I just told you is essentially the program. And again, we’re not the first to do this. Sugar Hill would be a great example of a decent sized city, not quite our size, but I think their last census was 25, 30,000 people. But they, Gwinnett PD is their police department provider through an intergovernmental agreement like we have. But they also have City Marshals to fill this gap. And so our program would be very similar to those, but it allows the city to be able to control assets, to fill gaps that right now we can’t really fill either very easily. Or in some cases can’t fill really at all.

[00:23:25] Rico: Alright. So more information to come on this. Like you said, there’s logistical issues that you have to deal with. And even interviewing officer candidates for the position.

[00:23:37] Brian: Exactly.

[00:23:37] Rico: Yeah, so there’s a whole bunch of stuff. It all takes time. Let’s move on a little bit towards something a little different about new policy that’s going to be put in place or being looked at to put in place about honorary roads versus renaming a road. So tell us a little bit about where that might be going and how that’s come about.

[00:23:54] Brian: So we had some requests of late of having certain people that have a prominent place in this city’s existence or the population of the area. An example of that would be, you know, Paul Duke. Very prominent name in the creation of, or the population of the area, creation of Tech Park and in the city. We’ve had some other instances where there’s an individual that played a prominent role and their family or friends or others are like, we should rename a street. And while that is done and it’s all fine, renaming streets are not always a popular thing to do and certainly can be complicated. And can cost people money. You rename a street of a business is on and they can have stationary with their address, business cards. You rename a street that a person is getting their prescriptions mailed to them, and they’re worried that it won’t get mailed to them in the right place when it changes. So to be careful, and as a result of me laying out to council when they said, hey, City Manager, what about these requests? Should we? I was like, you know, you can. It’s your right. But I laid it out. They were like, yeah, what other options are there? And there’s one, and there’s an honorary street name. And that is, you could have Main Street be the street name. Then even on the street sign underneath it, it could be the honorary Rico Figliolini Way. You know, or whatever. And so they liked that idea because it doesn’t change any of the addresses or anything, but it does recognize somebody. My community development director, Diana Wheeler, created a great policy on who would qualify. Like, I believe in the policy, you can’t be alive. You’ve got to have certain things. So the certain criteria for it, and that’s what the policy is going to be. So when somebody comes to the city and says this, we can say, no, we don’t entertain formal street renaming. But we do have an honorary street name program or policy, here’s what it is. And if the individual that you’re considering it being renamed qualifies, then well council can consider it and they vote on it, yes or no. And a different colored sign that would go, I guess above the main street name.

[00:26:14] Rico: Right. It sounds like that’s where it would be. I’ve seen them done before like that, where they’re above the main road name. Like a little smaller. So it’s less confusing, I guess. Alright. So, and that’s probably, that’s a policy that might be put in place in, I’m sure in the next City Council meeting.

[00:26:30] Brian: Well, it’ll get voted on this Tuesday, just to remind you.

[00:26:32] Rico: This Tuesday.

[00:26:33] Brian: Our December Tuesday Council meeting is moved earlier because of Christmas. So this coming Tuesday, that’s when they’re entertaining it. And based on their feedback at the work session when the policy is presented to them, I anticipate it’ll unanimously be approved. And so then we will, in fact on the same agenda, we have the very first official request for a street to be named. And it was to commemorate Perry P. Nesbit. The Nesbit family were one of the earliest settlers of Peachtree Corners. And so, that’ll actually be on the agenda after council considers the street renaming policy. So, I guess in theory, they could deny the street naming policy and then the Perry P. Nesbit request that would, obviously can’t happen. But I don’t anticipate that happening. Because, you know, council’s seen all the details so that could happen as early as Tuesday.

[00:27:30] Rico: Alright, cool. Two other things that are going on, or organizations. One’s the Redevelopment Authority, and the other one’s the Downtown Development Authority. So let’s take the DDA first, because you all are also filling some slots on those authorities currently. But part of the DDA right now exists. The mapping exists as an overlay. And the city council wants to be able to expand that it sounds like, to further go south on Peachtree Parkway towards Target and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Why expand it? And what does that mean, as far as, how that would affect the underlying area?

[00:28:10] Brian: So cities and counties, in probably all 50 states, they utilize authorities. Pseudo-governmental entities with boards of director appointed by the local governing authority, City Council, County Commission to oftentimes their goal is to facilitate economic development under certain column policy focus. So a Downtown Development Authority would be focused on facilitating economic development activity in an area defined as the downtown. And then a Redevelopment Authority would be doing the same thing, but they would have a redevelopment area of operation. And they’re really looking at areas that were developed once, but maybe it’s ran its lifecycle and their job is to facilitate activity in areas that have had initial activity. It’s not undeveloped wooded lots. These are, could be parcels or areas of a city that are seeing a decline in activity in that area. Or there’s a new better development they can consider. These authorities are created because they have certain flexibilities that the government itself does not have. And so they’re tools that cities and counties use because they’re more flexible. They can do things with developers that the city cannot do directly. A good example of that would be, Rico you could be a developer with one really innovative, awesome idea. You want to partner with the city to do something. The city is interested in doing it, and the city’s got to put money, or say it’s going to construct some aspect of it. Say we’re going to build a parking deck for your development as part of a public-private partnership. If the city does it, by law we have to bid it out. Or if we were doing a public-private partnership bid. We have to bid it out and we have to give it to the lowest qualified bidder. If you aren’t the lowest qualified bidder, we lose the right to work with you. Even if we thought your idea was the best. Authorities, like an RDA or DDA, can sole source. They don’t have to do that.

[00:30:37] Rico: They can move faster, also. There’s less red tape on that.

[00:30:40] Brian: Absolutely. And you know, sometimes the board members of these things that they have one focus. Whereas council is asked to do stuff all over the map and you know, they don’t sometimes have the time, energy, and focus to do some of this. And so they essentially delegate certain objectives to these authorities. And then these authorities run with it based on the, kind of objective constraints council gives them. And so these two boards they both exist. Of course at the end of the year we’re having to reappoint board members to other stuff too, like the planning commission, the zoning board appeals. But these two, why they’re probably unique is the DDA had three member and three slots open that council needed to fill. There were two people moved away, one passed away. And the DDA which played an integral role in the city initially, the Town Center was done through our DDA. The DDA was the one who brokered all of the public-private partnership stuff. But when it was done, we kind of shifted focus to the redevelopment authority and the south side of the city. Which is the zone, kind of the area of the city that the RDA was told, go forth and come up with a plan to enhance economic development there. And the DDA to finish up with them, the initial downtown area was drawn relatively small. Kind of around the Town Center, Forum area and that’s about it. We needed to expand probably down to the Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Publix area. Probably the most important part of that is by expanding it down there, it will encapsulate Tech Park. And Tech Park needs to be in the DDA’s area of concentration because they are going to be tasked with really rolling up their sleeves and seeing what we can do to continue to help Tech Park get reimagined. How can we utilize Curiosity Lab to fill vacant office space or to redevelop certain lots. They’re going to be a force multiplier and they’re going to be tasked with going and meeting with property owners and asking questions like, is the city doing everything it can to help you grow and be healthy? Meeting with developers to come up with creative ways to maybe develop their lots or fill vacant office space. And so that’s going to be their mandate. And we needed the board to be filled. And so they’re going to be filled, and that’s their mandate. And then the RDAs mandate, which is going into year two, they finished up a year in which they took their area of concentration, they did a big year long assessment of opportunities within it, and they presented those opportunities to council last month. And there were a couple of really good ideas and the lowest hanging fruit was taking inspiration from how the BeltLine has been used to revitalize areas of Atlanta. To do the same with our multi-use trail, which is our version of it. And they identified some areas along the Peachtree Corner Circle, kind of in between Holcomb Bridge Road and PIB for there to be some trailheads created for the trail system, but also for vehicles to be able to park at these trail heads. Then to become a community recreational amenity connected to our trail. And that will help spurn some of the redevelopment in the area. Maybe some enhancements or upgrades to some of the apartment complexes in the area. Maybe they’re getting better tenant. It becomes more enticing for people to live in the area because there are recreational amenities right there. Just like the BeltLine did in Atlanta. We want to do it right here. And so that’s the first, they have a number of ideas. But that one council has appropriated about 2 million for them to go ahead and acquire and construct some trail heads. Do the final design and construct these trail heads and start moving the trail off of these trail heads to ultimately connect to what’ll be, I think with all said and done, what we have identified, if it all goes well, it’ll be about a 20-ish mile trail system throughout all of the city.

[00:35:25] Rico: Wow. That’s very big. Is the 2 million from SPLOST or general funds, or how is that?

[00:35:30] Brian: It’s a mix of a number of them. There’s certainly some SPLOST, there’s certainly some storm water money because you’ve got some of the improvements are it’s gonna be done along Crooked Creek, that area. So some of the construction is storm water. So it’s a mix of revenue streams so that they have real money to do a real project. And it’s exciting. They took a year and they really came back to council with some really good ideas. Some are big and would be a very large, potentially larger mountain than the city’s prepared to do right this second. Which we didn’t want them to, you know, sky was the limit. Some of them are intermediate that they’re within reach, but there’s a few more things that we need to do. And this one was pretty simple. I mean, it’s a go out and acquire property. These are properties that are generally not developable because they’re in the floodplain stream buffer areas. Acquire it, design these trail heads, construct the trail heads, and let’s start. Let’s create this community amenity and let’s start capitalizing on it and use it to lift the entire area up and make it better.

[00:36:39] Rico: Cool. Sounds great. The RDAs, are those other suggestions, are the plans, were they presented at City Council?

[00:36:46] Brian: Yes sir.

[00:36:46] Rico: At some point? So they’re available somewhere for other people if they want to see what other ideas the RDA has in mind for the coming few years. Okay, cool.

[00:36:55] Brian: They’re on our website.

[00:36:57] Rico: Excellent. Great. So we’ve covered quite a bit. The biggest thing to me is the City Marshal system. And as you’ve explained that before, I mean, this wouldn’t start until likely July 1st, which is the budget year for the city. And out of the existing funds, no extra funds are necessary. So it’s working out of the surplus of money the city has already on an ongoing basis. And city leadership has done a great job in keeping that surplus, to me it seems. And be able to have a good, strong budget to be able to do some of these things without having to raise any taxes or anything. So all good stuff, good leadership. Brian, it’s a pleasure to always talk to you about these things and finding out more about what the city’s doing.

[00:37:38] Brian: Thanks for the opportunity to keep our stakeholders as educated as we possibly can. And hey, have a great holiday. I hope everybody has a great, safe, enjoyable holiday, and we’ll be ready to hit the ground running beginning of next year.

[00:37:53] Rico: Yeah. Let’s not forget the end of the year is coming. And by the way, anyone that’s checking their mailbox, hopefully you’ll see a new copy of Peachtree Corners Magazine. Faces of Peachtree Corners. It’s about 20 people that help make this city a better place to live in. So check it out. Good talking to you Brian. Everyone enjoy the holidays. Be safe out there because God knows, even if you’re looking around, sometimes things can happen. So stay safe. Hug your family, you know, make sure you’re around, because you never know what might happen. Thanks guys.

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