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Discussing the Comprehensive Plan Update, Density, Annexation and Pickleball, with the City Manager [Podcast]



On today’s episode of Prime Lunchtime with The City Manager, we explore the challenges and opportunities facing the vibrant community of Peachtree Corners, where city leadership is open to creative ways to generate economic development and drive activity while avoiding property taxes. From incubators creating new jobs to the feasibility of a pickleball center, discussions around housing types, density, and annexation, there is never a dull moment in Peachtree Corners. Join us as we dive into the city’s comprehensive plan, Future Land Use Map, and discuss visions for the future.

“The Mayor and Council are very open and aggressive on what we can do to drive activity in this city so that we can be vibrant. We have a whole host of quality of life offerings here. And our commerce, our business to business, business to customer interaction is generating enough revenue that we don’t have to have property tax. And we’ve been successful for ten plus years.”

brian johnson

Timestamp (Where to find it in the podcast):

[0:00:00] – Intro
[0:02:43] – Why Development Has Paused
[0:11:12] – Residential Properties
[0:16:02] – Using the Comprehensive Plan
[0:31:06] – Feasibility on the Pickleball Center
[0:36:37] – Trellis Leaving the Incubator
[0:39:38] – Closing


[0:00:00] Rico Figliolini: Hi, everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. And today we have Brian Johnson, as usual, once a month, although it’s been a while. Hey, Brian. How are you?

[0:00:09] Brian Johnson: Good, Rico. How are you?

[0:00:11] Rico Figliolini: Good, thanks. So this is our Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager. We get to talk about different things in this episode. We’re going to be talking about redevelopment, rezoning, things that are going on in the city that has to deal with development and redevelopment. It just to catch up about what’s going on with several different properties. So be a good show to be able to talk about what I think is on everyone’s mind, especially with the economy moving the way it is and interest rates and all that. But before we get there, just want to thank our sponsor, EV Remodeling Inc. And Eli for supporting our journalism, our podcasts, our magazines, for being a good corporate sponsor and good corporate citizen with us. So thank you, EV Remodeling and Eli. Check him out where they do design, build and renovation work. He lives in Peachtree Corners. Great family. We just had a recent article on him as well, talking about what he’s doing, but visit them  at EVRemodelingInc.com and check out. Hopefully you all by the time you get the podcast, listen to it, you’ll be having received this or not. This is the latest issue of Peace Corners magazine.

[0:01:18] Rico Figliolini: Wesleyan Artist Market will be and we’re a sponsor of theirs will be happening April 28 and 29th. So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way and good to see you, Brian. It’s been a while. Been a few weeks, a little over a month actually, I think. And you all have been busy, like always. I’ve been speaking to Lewis, the communications manager, and so much going on in the city, and we could talk about a lot of things, but I think zoning it down to development and redevelopment, I think for this episode makes a lot of sense, especially talking about it before we started rolling, talking about how different properties right now, because of the economy, right? Interest rates are going up, commercial properties. Commercial development is adjusting, I think, to the marketplace a bit more so than the home market. I think it’s being affected. But several properties have put a break, I think, on some of the development work. I know that Charlie Roberts property, what we call that, that hole in the ground, if you will, behind Chase Bank where North American properties was going to possibly develop an apartment complex there, is on hold now because that deal sort of fell through and now it’s being marketed separately. But so there’s a few things going on like that. So can you share with us, Brian, maybe, what’s going on with some of these properties? Why are they being stopped? Why are they stopping the development and all that?

[0:02:43] Brian Johnson: Well, Rico, you’re right. As development goes, typical cycle is a developer or property owner will come to the city if they need a rezoning. And they’ll come to the city and only have gone so far as to come up with is my project feasible, I’ve got to produce enough for the city to know what I want to do. So there’s a lot of conceptual work, a lot of engineering, those kind of things. But they’ll only get to that point because there’s no guarantee that they are going to be successful in their rezoning request. And how that’s affected when the economy changes is that most of these developers, even with favorable zoning decisions by Council The, have not gone to the next step of lining up, locking in their financing for the actual construction because they didn’t know if they were going to even get approval to do it. So we run into and real estate cyclical, but we have run into a number of properties that were rezoned in 2022, maybe even late 2021 that got favorable zoning. And then they would go in and start the actual design documents, the construction documents, the detailed ones that the contractor will build off of. That takes a while, especially the bigger it is. It could easily be a year where the architects, engineers are creating those construction documents. And if the economy changes in that interim period of time when it’s time for the property owner developer to go to the banks and get financing, sometimes there aren’t terms that they like or the banking industry has changed to where they require more collateral or the banks don’t have enough equity to loan out or whatever. And so we have seen that over the last six to twelve months, especially six to nine months where interest rates started climbing and certain developers kind of pumped the brakes and said, we don’t like these terms, let’s maybe hold off a year and see if the improve. Then you’ve got some of the banking issues we’ve had of late with these mid tier banks like Silicon Valley Bank and everything changing now. You’ve got the Feds are more involved in equity requirements that banks have to have and that’s affected. And so yes, we’ve had a number of favorable zonings here that right now are on hold to a degree indefinitely.

[0:05:49] Brian Johnson: So the only ones that I can say are for sure moving forward that have had favorable rezonings recently, mostly because they already had the money locked in and ready to go. Would be waterside continues to move forward. They’re in phase two. They are basically done with the first third of the property. Now they’re moving into the constructing the middle third and the clubhouse and shared facilities. And then phase three would be the institutional use the memory care type of thing. But their money has already been locked in, so they’re continuing to go. Intuitive is definitely moving forward on their first really two phases. But they had a third phase that wasn’t going to slate at a start for another two years anyway. But they have kind of, I think, stopped a little bit of the work on that that was really demoing some existing buildings and building even bigger ones to house some of their HR. There’s a welcome center. They were going to have some things that maybe weren’t or aren’t considered critical, what they want to ultimately do. But there’s been a little bit of what you.

[0:07:18] Rico Figliolini: Noticed. Those sales, intuitive robotic sales have slowed based on some of the reports I read on them. But their work, anyone that passes through Technology Park, they continuously those cranes are up, they’re working, they’re dumping soils coming out and stuff. So they’re definitely working over there every single day. So it’s not like they stop. There is a piece of property, I think that was cleared or some work was done, but then they put the brakes on that development. I don’t recall which property that was that I thought I don’t know if it was cleared, but they started some work on it and then they stopped.

[0:07:54] Brian Johnson: But there’s other which one near Intuitive. You’re talking about near Intuitive location.

[0:08:00] Rico Figliolini: Yeah, it might have been that maybe it was near there.

[0:08:03] Brian Johnson: Someone had to cleared and officially placed, had the brakes put on it. I know the Jewish chabad cleared their property, but I’ve not heard that they’ve officially put.

[0:08:18] Rico Figliolini: No, I think they’re still moving ahead with that, I think.

[0:08:24] Brian Johnson: But Intuitive, their main assembly area, their training, their expanded training, their sales office, all that stuff, they’re moving people from California. They’re actively hiring. Still going forward. The one on Peachtree Parkway is a 57 20 Peachtree Parkway. I think it’s called broadstone. The mixed use the you can see that. That’s another one that had the financing locked in before interest rates to change. So they’re going to finish that and then North American Properties will and is moving forward on the forum, I want to say it’s next week or the following. They’re kind of breaking ground on the first part of their call. It enhancement. And that is they’re going to be removing the middle parking spaces in the north, the northernmost section, Byumi, that section. And then they’re taking the old canoekins space and they’re putting in the food hall. And they are moving forward on getting the parking deck designed. It’s under design. It’s got another step when the design is at a point where it’s worthy of consideration, it’s got to go back in front of council.

[0:09:54] Brian Johnson: That was the only condition that required them to go back to council. And so they’re designing it. There’s going to be some conversation with the residents in Amberfield that reside right along the forum, so there’ll be some dialogue with them on what it looks like. But that parking deck, their hope is to have the design approved and then they start construction on that sometime in the summer.

[0:10:22] Rico Figliolini: Yeah, I think they want to finish by the end of the year or first quarter. 24.

[0:10:26] Brian Johnson: Correct. Because they can’t remove any more of the middle parking stalls beyond that northernmost section. They’re getting ready to do until the parking deck has been completed. But they are moving forward with that. So I just wanted to say bring that up to say they’re still moving forward. But beyond that, pretty much all of the other ones that have come through with favorable zonings have kind of, in some cases, officially informed the city that, hey, we’re not working on this right now, so don’t expect anything from us. Put this on hold until market conditions improve.

[0:11:12] Rico Figliolini: Right. I guess the residential stock in the city will be on hold for a little while other than the broadstone and the water size. Yeah. So interesting, the economy does affect everyone. I did an overview, market overview for recent issue, and I was looking in Peachtree Corners just to see what was listed. Right. Just on zillow, let’s say. And I think I only saw two homes being on, and this was granted, this was back in February, so before spring came. So I’m sure there are more houses on the market now, but there was like, I think only two back in January, february, that was on the market. Yeah. So, I mean, higher rates, what is it, six and a half percent now for a 30 year mortgage?

[0:11:58] Brian Johnson: Residential, unless banks have the equity that they did before, because they’re becoming a little more cautious on how much and how risky the applicant might be. And so it’s definitely affected things. And then you’re right. Housing as it stands right now, housing is a difficult thing. Of course it’s a difficult thing for everybody right now. I mean, nationally, there’s a housing shortage. Problem we have is unless we have some annexations, and even then, not a lot of annexation opportunities of undeveloped parcels. But just with our current corporate limits, we are pretty much tapped out on single family homes. There’s nowhere else for somebody to at least cost effectively build a bunch of single family residence because all that property has been used up. Now there are the one offs where somebody buys, tears down the existing house and builds a new single family on it.

[0:13:09] Rico Figliolini: Or townhomes. I mean, the metal streets not detached.

[0:13:14] Brian Johnson: Right, but yeah. So to your point is other housing products other than single family detached, it’s.

[0:13:23] Rico Figliolini: Still equity products, still ownership.

[0:13:26] Brian Johnson: Right, yeah.

[0:13:29] Rico Figliolini: The problem with that, though, is that I find is that if all of a sudden there’s 20 townhomes being built, ten of them may be owned by a company that are renting them. And that does happen more often than I think some people think. And then there’s even single family homes being bought. I mean, I was looking at I spent some time on GIS. I think it’s GIS, it’s called, where you could actually click on parcels and see who owns the parcels. Someone had asked me about a parcel that was recently zoned on the west side of Medlock Bridge Road near the Forum Drive, not the Forum Town Center Drive, and it was the west corner of that, and someone had bought it. And obviously they’re going to be developing stuff there. But then you mentioned there are companies, there are landowners, let’s say, that own land with retail on it that have a lot of parking space. And they’ve been talking to the city about possibly doing something a bit different. But they’re stopping too, right. Just because of the way the market is.

[0:14:33] Brian Johnson: Yeah. You can drive through Peachtree Corners and there are a number of locations in which you look at it, they were built back when the core units were built, way off the road and at the back of a sea of parking, both retail and some commercial. And so there’s locations that we all can think of. The Ingls shopping center at east jones bridge and peachtree parkway. You’ve got the Goodwill Shopping Center there. You can go down to PIB and Holcomb Bridge Road where the old La Fitness was another big even where Outback Shopping Center used to be at. What is that? Holcomb Bridge and Spalding. Those are ones where you’ve got underutilized parking. That is a lot of parking. Yes. That is ripe for anything as small as an out parcel is added to the current layout or some cases. Developers have approached us and said developers of even the ones that I mentioned have said, hey, we’re open to what could we do? What happens if we scrape the whole thing and start it all over? What would the city let us do?

[0:16:02] Brian Johnson: And you get back into what do we need? Using housing types are oftentimes a component of it. How much multi use rental and all that kind of stuff. Things that are being discussed right now on the Comp plan, our comprehensive plan, is being rewritten that you have to do every ten years. And housing is a very important component of the conversation being had right now. How much of our housing stock should be ownership versus rental and how much of our housing stock should be either of those two things in specific areas, and how dense should we get? And if we are wanting to grow, do we want to grow out through annexation or do we not want to do that? But do we want to grow, we’ve got to grow up more dense, or do we want to put a sign at our city limits saying, no more growth in Peace Street corners. This is it. I don’t know if there’s right or wrong answer. I’m not here to advocate for one of them. But those are all questions that have to be answered is what do we want the city to look like over the Lat next five to 25 years? We’ve got to create some policy around zoning and a future land use map that shows kind of what Mayor and Council’s goal is for, how the community is developed, and Mayor and Council gets input for them to make that decision based on community input, which is what the comp plan process is all about.

[0:17:43] Rico Figliolini: Right. I think the first public meeting has already happened. There’s another one being set up, I think, with United Peachtree Corners Civic Association. Unless that one passed already.

[0:17:52] Brian Johnson: No, that hasn’t passed. We’ve had to the Planning commission meeting last week, last Tuesday had a portion of it that was reserved for it. But there’s like five or six. And if anybody wants to provide input on any part of the way they think the city should be moving into the future, whether it’s housing, transportation, public safety, what have you, we will take comments about that at any point. There’s a link on our website. You can provide input. You could say, I want all of our roads to be six lanes, or I want our own police department, or I never want a police department, other than whatever, provide comments. This is the time for you to put it on record comments about some of these things or attend the meetings. And there are always times each meeting kind of has a theme, but at the end of it, when it’s time for the public to come and provide comment, you can comment on anything. But these are important decisions.

[0:19:01] Rico Figliolini: Yeah. And I’ll put the links into the show notes so this way people can see it. And we’ve been sharing that on social media anyway, so it’s out there. I mean, there’s no reason that anyone can say, I didn’t know, unless you have your head in the ground.

[0:19:17] Brian Johnson: I was going to say somebody will Rico.

[0:19:21] Rico Figliolini: There’s always people that do that. I just found out about it, even though for the last six months it’s being put out. Yeah. It’s a tough thing. Right. Do you decide that you don’t want more development? No, you can’t decide not to have more development. The thing is, like you said, this plan is really a plan that every ten years has to be redone. Every five years it has to be updated. It’s a guide, not a Bible. It’s not contract set in stone. These are just guidelines. And like you said, really, there is not much land to I don’t foresee any more places where you could put single family homes at a reasonable price. Right. There’d be million dollar homes, I think, because there’s just no place to do that. 100 square hundred foot frontage on single family homes or even 60 foot frontage. I think that’s gone. Right.

[0:20:20] Brian Johnson: I would agree. You want to do that, you got to go up into North Forsyth County, and that’s where those things are happening. We are at a point where we’re transitioning into what Brookhaven is, what Dunwoody is. They don’t have any more undeveloped land. So really they’re in redevelopment mode. And in their case, as opposed to us, we actually have the ability to annex. We can grow our boundaries.

[0:20:45] Rico Figliolini: Right.

[0:20:47] Brian Johnson: Brookhaven and Dunwoody are completely hemmed in. There is nowhere else. So what they are, what their city limits are, what it is forever. And so now they’ve got to, how are we going to redevelop? Are we going to make it facilitate growth in a dense way, which means you got to go up. Are we going to not do that? And just keep these aren’t easy questions. And again, it’s important and it’s good.

[0:21:18] Rico Figliolini: To have input because you don’t live in a silo, right? I mean, the city doesn’t know everything. And there are citizens here, the citizens here that don’t want further development, for example, citizens that don’t want more apartments, and then citizens that feel it wouldn’t be bad to be like Brookhaven. They moved here. They’ve moved here in less than a decade, let’s say, and some of them have moved out from a Brookhaven or a Buckhead, and they wouldn’t mind having more development similar to that and yet still have some space, if you will. Right. So like you said before, you have some of these areas where you have a sea of parking spaces that certainly can become mixed use. Maybe they can become equity property, like condos where they’re going up seven, eight stories, because some of those places you can do that because they don’t have single family residential behind them. Some of them can do it differently. But you’re right, we can either annex or we’re going to have to go up. There’s really no other or stop. And if you stop development, that’s really bad, I think, for a community. You can’t be in a thriving community and there’s no development.

[0:22:38] Brian Johnson: You’re right. While it’s an option within reason, if somebody has a parcel, they have a legal right to develop it. So there’s no such a thing as a literal freeze button, but you can’t have the zoning such that you really aren’t letting any more density happen. And so as a result, it to a degree does freeze it. But historically speaking, communities that have kind of taken that stance, what they find is they may have, for a period of time, kind of stopped development, which some people want. What they find is the communities around them that haven’t, all of a sudden, they leave the community that did want to kind of stop. They leave the behind. So a community that says, oh, we like it just the way it is, well, the world moves on, and just the way it is may end up being to where your community isn’t looked at as an appealing community anymore because you’re not doing anything. You’re not getting young blood, you’re not getting different demographics, different age groups. And all of a sudden, people start pointing to that community to say, it’s a dead community.

[0:23:54] Rico Figliolini: Yeah. I think of Matt Carmel in California when they wanted to stop development there. And Matt Carmel is on the West Coast. California. It’s essentially a tourist city. I think I forgot who is that.

[0:24:07] Brian Johnson: Right near Monterey Bay. Monterey, California.

[0:24:09] Rico Figliolini: Yeah. And the idea was to stop development essentially with the city proper because it still had like this nice old feel and ocean feel to it and stuff. I can understand that because it’s a tourist spot. It’s a whole different thing. We are not a tourist spot. No one comes here necessarily for anything specific. I can say that I’ve lived here for a while. Yes. When we have concerts, people will come for the concerts, but we are not a tourist location. We’re not a place that has ten festivals going on through the year, at least not yet. We have an iconic Peachtree Corners festival that goes on. But other cities have five or six different festivals going on through. The big ones, too. Not little ones. Bear and wine fests and stuff like that.

[0:24:59] Brian Johnson: Think of when you’re a community that has just under 50,000 people and just under 50,000 jobs. We are a very vibrant community. Meaning there is a lot of activity here. Berkeley Lake might be able to get away with saying, we’re freezing it right here. Because they have that one little sliver of retail there at, what is it? South Peach Tree and PIV. And then the rest is residential, really, around the lake. You could potentially get away with it there to say, look, no more density, no more we are what we are. And their redevelopment would be parcel by parcel if somebody wanted to demo one of the houses and build a new one, specific purpose, they’re not going to sit here and say, oh, we’re, you know, tried to be this really big they are a very hidden gem of a bedroom community around this lake. And so they could maybe get away with it, but it would be hard for us to and stay vibrant in the way that we are now.

[0:26:10] Rico Figliolini: Right. And Burke Lake is a whole different animal. Right. One of the richest per capita places in the city or the richest city in the state or something like that.

[0:26:19] Brian Johnson: They got the highest median income and median home value of any city. And for a while it was like the Southeast. I know it’s still in Georgia. So yeah, I mean, it’s a unique type of thing. It’s almost like large HOA and that’s great. But yeah, for you to be an actual community that’s really got a lot of jobs or whatever, it’s awful hard. So if you get to the point where you’re like, well, you don’t want to go that route, then it’s either do we grow out or do we grow up? And then whichever way you decide, what mix of growth does that encompass?

[0:27:07] Rico Figliolini: And the comprehensive plan allows for it to be segmented. So it’s not like we have to make that decision as a citywide thing. We can say, well, you know what, technology park or certain areas, industrial areas can be a certain way because there’s more density there. It’s a different not more density, but it’s a different layout of land. So segmenting the density in certain parts of the city is not a bad thing. Right.

[0:27:34] Brian Johnson: And the most important document that comes out of the Comp plan is something called the Future Land Use Map, and that is a zoning map that shows what character areas mayor and Council want the city to look like over the next five to 25 years. And it doesn’t go parcel by parcel. It does more like areas almost be like example would be like we want Peace Street Parkway to be a retail corridor along the parkway. Like the parcels that are right, basically up against Peace Parkway want it to be retail all the way up that corridor. It’s kind of broad brush stuff. But it does allow, like you said, the ability to segment certain parts of the city and say, here’s an area of the city that we think should be mixed use or should be single family residential or could be a rental specific product or could be a dense ownership product like condos. It’s a way for them to kind of more broadly say that’s a good area for this or that. And so that’s the most important product that comes out of it because it’s a visual depiction of what Council hopes that the zoning over the next X amount of years results in. Is that’s the Future Land use map that we aspire to have in the future? And it is a map that Council refers to, planning Commission refers to when they are considering zoning. It’s not a binding document, but it certainly carries weight both in the decision or even if there’s any litigation over a zoning decision.

[0:29:20] Rico Figliolini: Right, I was just going to say because you can then either deny or prime based on that and no one can say, well, you’re making an arbitrary decision on that. No, we’re working with the Comp plan. Does that comp plan also includes the overlays, like the Entertainment Overlay District? It includes all that. So any of that and those things can be expanded as well, probably and adjusted depending on what you want to include in it.

[0:29:48] Brian Johnson: So it’s a part of it. Now, I will say that the due date for the Comp plan to be submitted to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs is probably going to prevent there’s some overlays that are being considered right now that may not make it as part of the Comp plan. The Comp plan conversation includes all of our existing overlays.

[0:30:12] Rico Figliolini: Okay.

[0:30:12] Brian Johnson: But there are some other ones. Like the Downtown Development Authority going to be considering looking at the overlay for Tech Park, Atlanta just Tech Park and seeing if there’s some parts of it we want to tweak because we’ve really put a premium on us making sure Tech Park Atlanta is healthy because it is the driver of a lot of activity, including its boundaries being shared by Curiosity Labs. Boundaries. It’s very much an economic development engine for us. We want to make sure it’s firing on as many cylinders as we can get it to fire on. So there could be some additional overlay tweaks or districts that follow because you can create the at any time.

[0:31:06] Rico Figliolini: Right. And the can be added. Okay. All right, I just want to one more thing I think I want to just cover because I’m inherently interested in it, and that was that pickleball idea that we talked about last time. And the city is going to move ahead, I guess, with the feasibility study on the pickleball center is what we were discussing 40 or 50 courts?

[0:31:30] Brian Johnson: Yeah. So the pickleball’s growing popularity, there is certainly evidence, at least to our naked eyes, not being necessarily experts per se, and that just one thing, but there is some evidence that we’re seeing that it might, in and of itself be a driver of unique. Call it ancillary and tertiary activity, meaning you could maybe have a pickleball facility at a certain location, and its construction would then create an energy around it where others would want to get close to it. And it could be the driver of economic development at a certain location in the city. But that could be if we’re talking about a facility that has 30 to 50 pickleball courts, and its purpose is to pull activity to it during the week for league play and on weekends for tournaments. It could be an investment by somebody. Whether it’s the city private sector or combination thereof, it’s a significant investment. And so you want to make sure that you’re doing it at a good time. The need is there like you think it might be, like there is, in fact, enough demand. You’re not inadvertently going to be cannibalizing somebody’s activity that already exists. You’d hate to build 50 court pickleball facility for tournaments only to find out later on that 15 miles down the road another city is ahead of you or already built one, and now you trying to compete for the same tournaments. You got to make sure you don’t do anything that might hurt existing business, things like that. So a feasibility study by an expert to come in and look at the entire landscape and come back and tell us, is the demand there? Are we filling a niche that hasn’t been met, or can we do it without hurting any existing things? Do you have the interest in the area that you’ll pull in?

[0:33:46] Brian Johnson: Are there enough pickleball tournaments that it makes sense to do it, and would it fill hotel rooms, all that kind of stuff. And I think if it comes back favorably, I think Council Mayor. And council here. Our community doesn’t realize how lucky they are either, and I do because I work for them as a board. But they are very open to creative ways to generate economic development in the city as a way to make sure the community is vibrant. We have a mix of things and two, for us to go as long as we possibly can into the future without having to have city property tax and result. Mayor and council are very supportive of efforts that might do this. Hence why we have some of these unique events. We got this bike race, the criterion coming that might be a unique event that drives activity that in the future. Maybe it’s something we do along or maybe it’s a one time thing. We do it and we look back and we’re like, yeah, didn’t move the needle. But they’re very open and aggressive on what can we do to drive activity in this city so that we can be vibrant. We can have a whole host of quality of life offerings here. And our commerce, our business to business, business to customer interaction is generating enough revenue that we don’t have to have property tax. And we’ve been successful for ten plus years and we’re going to, we can.

[0:35:26] Rico Figliolini: The leadership on down has done a great job. I think there may be people that would argue that, but I see things like companies like Smart Mile joining Curiosity Labs, ecosystem, if you will. They’re continuing to bring in startups into that organization. I see businesses like Henry’s Bakery opening, like Julia’s Bakery opening up in the Forum. We just published some renderings on that. That looks great. As someone with Italian heritage, I can’t wait to see how that’s going to be because it’s supposed to be all authentic ingredients from Italy. So that’ll be interesting because otherwise I’d have to go downtown or something into Atlanta to get stuff like that. There’s a lot of lot going on here and I think you’re right. The city leadership is always looking at a variety of different things. I mean, from even thinking about an art center and still talking about that possibly possible other types of programs or things that the city can come up with.

[0:36:37] Brian Johnson: Rico, this one may be also something to do an article on as well. But we created an incubator in the city to help create jobs. Because in economic development, your goal is to, when it comes to jobs, to help companies expand. You want to retain or recruit or create. Those are the four legs of the economic development stool, if you will, and incubators help create jobs. It allows a very low cost way for a company to create from scratch a new thing. Well, we are getting ready to have another example, probably the largest example to date of a company that was incubated at Curiosity Lab, which started out as prototype prime. And they are going to leave and expand into commercial space elsewhere in Peach Street Corners. And that’s trellis.

[0:37:34] Rico Figliolini: Okay.

[0:37:35] Brian Johnson: And so Trellis is leaving the incubator. They’ve outgrown it, but they’re staying here in Peach Street Corners. So this is a company that didn’t exist before it was incubated here. They created a company in the agricultural space with sensors, and they’ve grown outgrown our incubator, and now they’re becoming a full fledged company in commercial space. And they’ve stayed here, which means that we have new jobs, or I guess you could consider it retained jobs that were created here. And that’s the whole purpose of having incubators here, is create new jobs or a new company. And then your hope is that they stay here when they outgrow your incubator. Because they’ve all made housing decisions based on where they were initially and now they want to stay here. So it’s a good news story of a company that made it or is making it, and they’re going to be a corporate tenant of the city and stay here.

[0:38:34] Rico Figliolini: It’ll be fun to see these companies come out like that. I mean, I remember Trellis, I think we did a small piece on it a couple of years ago. They’ve been there for, I think since prototype prime almost, if I remember.

[0:38:46] Brian Johnson: Yeah, it was they’ve been there a little bit longer with COVID We let them stay there a little bit longer than the three years. We generally want companies to leave, but COVID kind of wrench in in the mix. But yeah, it’s just great. But if mayor and council hadn’t supported having an incubator, you know, continuing to provide resources to us would have happened. And so they’re going to end up paying business license or occupational tax to be a business out in the community generating revenue for us. And they’ve got some of their employees that live in Peachtree Corners. So this is the little things add up. But we’re all about making sure that we are a vibrant economic, vibrant local economy, and that’s what drives revenue and keeps us from having to have city property tax.

[0:39:38] Rico Figliolini: Like always, Brian, we do a lot of get to learn a lot from you about what’s going on in the city. So I do appreciate you giving us the time to be able to talk about these things, especially something like this, where we were able to talk about quite a few things and some of it in general, but certainly to be able to find out a little bit more about the development work that’s going on commercially in the city, housing wise and all that. There’s going to be a lot more to talk about the next few months just because of the nature of what’s going on with the comp plan and all that. And I’m sure there will be even more development going on that we don’t even know about you.

[0:40:14] Brian Johnson: Yeah, people haven’t stopped kicking tires and looking. It might be argue it’s a little bit harder to do right now than it was a year ago, but there are still companies that are wanting to do it. In fact, some companies feel like this is a great time to do it because everybody else has stopped and so they might be able to get into a market it would have been harder to get into. But Rico, things change quickly. And I appreciate the city, appreciate you giving us a vehicle in which we can communicate some of this stuff to those of our residents who care and listen to this. It’s an invaluable resource that we’re lucky to have. So thanks for letting us have this opportunity every month.

[0:40:59] Rico Figliolini: Well, thank you, Brian. Appreciate it. Appreciate your comments. And it’s worth doing. I mean, I have lived here since 95. My kids have grown up here gone to school here, just a great community. So I’m always having fun finding out new things that are happening here and learning about new people that have moved here and are doing things. So it’s always great. Thank you, Brian, for being with us. Everyone else, thanks again for joining us. Check out the latest issue of Peachtree Corners magazine and we’re working currently on Southwest Cornette magazine, which will be profiling some of the businesses that we’ve just mentioned. We’re going to be doing a feature story about entrepreneurs and enterprises here in Peachtree Corners. So check that out. That’ll be out in another probably a month or so. But thanks again for joining us and go visit LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com for what you need to know about the city, what’s going on here. Thank you much.

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City Government

Candidates for Peachtree Corners Council Square Off at UPCCA Forum



Peachtree Corners Council Post 5 candidates discuss city issues, community service and more. Election details for Nov 7, 2023, included.

The city of Peachtree Corners Council Post 5/At Large is the only citywide race with at least two candidates, and it was imperative to let residents learn more about them.

United Peachtree Corners Civic Association hosted a forum on Thursday, Oct. 19, at Christ the King Lutheran Church to hear these candidates’ voices.

Moderated by local attorney Jim Blum, candidates Ora Douglass and Brent Johnson appeared to have more viewpoints in common than in opposition.

Both candidates conveyed their love for the community and their passion to see it remain a great place to live and raise a family.

Community concerns about crime, growth and development
The first question asked the candidates what they thought were the top three issues facing the city that they would address if elected.

Douglass: “The citizens that have really been vocal as I’ve knocked on doors—they don’t like the apartments. They want their property values to remain at a reasonable level. They don’t like the traffic. They don’t like the bridge. It’s been there for a long time. Still, they don’t like that bridge.

So, I think the top priorities for me would be communication between the council and the city because there’s clearly a disconnect between what the residents feel and think and what’s going on in the city council.”

Johnson: “The top three things I want to accomplish if I get elected is to make the government smaller and more efficient. Right now, we’re operating at a much higher efficiency than we were ever set out to be. We were supposed to be a small city—three services—we’ve kind of morphed into a full city now. We’ve lost more efficiencies that we need to have in place.

Second, the rapid development of high-density housing has got to stop. It’s going to kill traffic. It’s going to kill the schools and the crime rate is going to increase. We’ve got to stop that.

The last thing is public safety because of a lot of the high-density housing we’re putting in place. We’ve got to curb the crime that’s in Peachtree Corners like robberies at The Forum and shootings at Quik Trip. We’ve got to stem the tide on that and get out ahead of it before it gets really bad.”

Doing good in the neighborhood
The candidates were then asked to describe the community service activities they each have led in Peachtree Corners and how they would continue those efforts if elected.

Johnson: “The community service I’ve done in Peachtree Corners has been more on the sports organization side from coaching sports with my kids—baseball and soccer. I help fundraise for food drives.

The biggest community service activity we need to implement, as I’ve stated before, is getting the community involved in what’s going on.

A lot of people like to complain about things, but nobody wants to get involved with things. So, we’ve got to do something to bring the city together, to voice their concerns, and get with the government to actually listen to the concerns—not that they aren’t.

If you like to complain and people over here are doing things, someone’s got to get them together and bring them together. That’s my biggest community service for the city that will make the city better—everybody on one page so we can make this a great place to live—continue to make this a great place to live.”

Douglass: “My motto is service first because I believe in serving you first over self. I am the person who charted a chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha [Sorority] right here in Peachtree Corners.

We clean up 1.6 miles of road of Peachtree Corners Circle, quarterly picking up trash from the south side. The other thing that I have done is, just a few months ago, I coordinated a clothing drive and a sanitary napkin drive for children and teenage girls over at Landmark Church. We had over 250 residents there.

We gave out food and we gave out clothing. Coming up here on November 11, mark your calendars, I am coordinating a veteran’s event out at Town Center where we have all of our veterans and their families out there.

The thing that I would do when I’m elected is to bring more community service within Peachtree Corners—not just at The Forum, not just at Town Center, but on south side as well. I would like to bring activities that bring us together. Maybe we can have one and cross that bridge.”

Taking a different approach
The candidates were then prompted to recall a city council decision that they disagreed with.

Johnson: “What I’m talking about, and brought up, is the $10 million bridge that we built, that probably didn’t need to be built. We couldn’t use it for heifers all said and done. It was a substantial amount of money that we spent on that bridge. That’s one of the big things we’ve done.

Also, maybe not have done the condo for rent places right next to the liquor store. Those are the two big things that I will say most recently that we have done that I was not very pleased with because we started all this based on fear of apartments at the Town Center.

That’s the reason for forming this city—was to protect property values and protect housing density.”

Douglass: The first one is the intersection that’s near my house off Bush Road. I go the wrong way there all the time. I understand from the people that I’ve knocked on their doors that there have been quite a few accidents there. That’s one of the decisions that I just do not like.

I wish that they could hurry up and get it completed so that I can know which way I’m supposed to go. … I think I agree with Brett that those apartments behind the liquor store are hideous.”

Closing statements
Both candidates remarked that they want Peachtree Corners to continue to be a place for families.

Douglass has raised children in the area and Johnson is currently raising children. Johnson pointed out that he works full-time and isn’t retired, but still wants to devote a significant portion of his time to the betterment of the city where he was born and raised.

On the other hand, Douglass doesn’t punch a clock but is heavily involved in many activities. She said she brings a vision and diversity that the city needs.

Watch the complete candidate forum here.

The next municipal election is scheduled for November 7, 2023.

Advanced voting will close at 5:00 p.m. Friday, November 3, 2023. 

All municipal elections take place at Peachtree Corners City Hall, 310 Technology Parkway, Peachtree Corners, Georgia, 30092, regardless of polling places for county, state or federal elections.

For information on where to vote and general elections visit the Georgia Secretary of State My Voter Page (MVP).

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City Government

Peachtree Corners Councilmember Sadd Schedules Town Hall Meeting for November 2



The Town Hall Meeting will be held in Peachtree Corners District 1 and is a non-partisan event open to all citizens.

Post 1 Councilmember Phil Sadd is hosting a Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, November 2, at 7:00 p.m. at Winters Chapel United Methodist Church, which is located at 5105 Winters Chapel Road.

The issues that will be discussed include:

  • The new Marshal Program and Crime Prevention,
  • The Forum and Town Center initiatives,
  • Key transportation improvement projects,
  • Curiosity Lab Innovation initiatives and
  • Candidates for the City Council open seat.

“Meeting with constituents and residents to provide them with information regarding the city is vitally important for transparent communication,” said Sadd. 

“The upcoming Town Hall will not only provide our residents with information and an opportunity to ask questions, but also it will allow me to hear directly from them about their concerns and desires of our city for the future,” he added.

The Town Hall Meeting will be held in Peachtree Corners District 1 and is a non-partisan event open to all citizens.

To get in touch with Councilmember Sadd, send him an email at  psadd@peachtreecornersga.gov.

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City Government

Gwinnett County DA Shows Compassionate Side of Law



Although crime shows like “Law & Order” may have many of us thinking we know how the legal system works, we probably aren’t as accurate as we think we are. To inform the business community about the resources available and the responsibilities of the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s office, the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce (SWGC) invited Gwinnett DA Patsy Austin-Gatson as the speaker at its September Coffee Connections.

Austin-Gatson started off by talking about a special initiative to bring local high school students to work in her office to get a first-hand look at how the wheels of justice turn. She started it last year with 12 students and it has already grown to a cohort of 49 this fall that spent 10 days with the DA’s office.

“I love our community. It’s diverse, it’s beautiful. And these students when they came in, they didn’t know really what to expect,” said Austin-Gatson. “But we expose them to what the DA’s office does, and how we work, and also to other agencies like the police department and medical examiners. …We just took them around and really showed them a lot.”

Besides putting education first, Austin-Gatson said the program is fiscally responsible in that it didn’t cost taxpayers anything. “Restaurants and businesses donate their lunches every single day. So it was just a beautiful experience, and demonstrated how cohesive our community is,” she said.

Law and order Gwinnett style

A few things Austin-Gatson wanted to key in on was that her office works directly with local police and courts. The mission of the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office is to seek and pursue justice on behalf of victims of crime through the fair and ethical prosecution of those who commit offenses in the community.

The DA’s office strives to impact the community through education, engagement and reduction in recidivism while working vigorously to keep the community safe so that all Gwinnett County citizens and residents can thrive.

With that in mind, she explained that her office is an advocate for victims of crime. 

“They have a right to know everything that’s going on with a case that they are involved in. And that’s a constitutional requirement …that we walk them through the system,” she said.

Anyone who’s tried to read through a legal document can attest to how complicated the law can be, but the DA’s office strives to make sure victims are aware of their rights and completely understand the process.

On the flip side, those accused of a crime have rights as well.

“There’s a plea of guilty / not guilty. …If there’s a trial, we go through that, and sometimes there are appeals,” she said. “Basically, the legal case is still centered on protecting the defendant’s rights, just like victims’ rights.”

Austin-Gatson pointed out that often friends and family want to see a conviction overturned.

“I’m getting some groups of people that go out and send 20 million texts, emails and things like that to [get the convicted person] freed, but unless they have additional evidence, we can’t let them walk,” she said. “We have to support the jury system when somebody was convicted of a crime; they went through appeals, they got that handled, then I’m not going to be one to set that aside.”

Ways to improve things

But a high conviction rate isn’t the goal for Austin-Gatson.

The DA’s office has initiatives such as rehabilitation and maintenance programs to turn former criminals into productive citizens.

“That’s where 17- to 28-year-olds were having their first brush with the law,” said Austin-Gatson. “We try a program …to deflect people from getting deeper into the criminal justice system.”

The first cohort graduated in December, she said. 

“We all have a responsibility to do something. We sit back and say things are so horrible, things are awful,” she said. “I’m all about getting people [changing] their future.”

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