Johns Creek Chamber
appen dec 2010

Down to the wire: Candidates make last pitch


May 14, 2014
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The Johns Creek City Council Post 4 and Post 6 elections are Tuesday, March 20. The nine candidates

– four for Post 4 and five for Post 6 – answer questions for the Johns Creek Herald.

ARUN MISRA, POST 4

Johns Creek needs to fix its roads. Johns Creek residents want more parkland and green space. Johns Creek residents are the safest in Georgia and want no cuts in public safety. How will the city meet those needs and not raise taxes?

Johns Creek spends more funds on sidewalks than on roads, but that makes the city beautiful. It encourages walking and bicycling. This should be followed by paving roads, and making more roads, in German, “strassen asphaltiert.”

Invite businesses to move into the city. Develop the downtown, high-rise office buildings with plenty of vertical parking, a city hall and post office. The city needs a college, art and music center, museum, bus/MARTA stops and botanical garden.

There is still plenty of space for these within the city limits. Let businesses pay more of property taxes to reduce taxes for homeowners.

Land for development in the city is shrinking.  Almost every new development proposal meets with opposition from residents who say there is too much traffic, schools are overcrowded and home values would be affected if the project goes through. How do you propose to balance the wants and desires of the public with the property rights of the individual?

More parks: at [Highway] 141 and Parsons, Morton and State Bridge, Old Alabama and 141, 141 and Bell Road, inside Technology Park, extend Shakerag Park, develop all Chattahoochee points like State Bridge at Ammersee, 141 at Wynfield on the River, 120 at St. Ives and Parsons.

If we explain well to residents on the planned developments, resistance will go down. Dean Gardens can be downtown, city hall and botanical garden.

Perimeter Church can accommodate a college, post office, etc. Work on creating Milton County, and complete the bridge over the Chattahoochee Rogers Bridge with help from Gwinnett.

Autrey Nature Center can have a museum and botanical garden. Across from Atlanta Athletic Club, we should have commercial development, not residences. This will generate taxes to help lower residential property taxes.

Put all this on a ballot and let citizens comment and vote.

 

What are your top three priorities as a new councilperson May 21?

My first priority is to welcome minorities in city government; there are numerous affluent ones that can underwrite big projects through foundations.

Second, we need to create parks and commercial spaces, and become a business-friendly city by cooperating with neighboring cities in all aspects.

Third, we need to develop senior centers with facilities for badminton, yoga and meditation. We want to encourage retirees and senior citizens to move into the city.

Bob Gray Post 4

Johns Creek needs to fix its roads. Johns Creek residents want more parkland and green space. Johns Creek residents are the safest in Georgia and want no cuts in public safety. How will the city meet those needs and not raise taxes?

We must live within our means. I translate this into a key governing principle – low taxes and small government.

Through fiscal discipline, the city has reserves of $15 million. With continued surpluses and new state revenue of approximately $1.8 million per year, the city can set aside $38 million by 2024. This is the amount we can spend on key operational priorities.

These include maintaining public safety, improving traffic and enhancing recreational programs. Public safety comes first and is fully funded.

While Ga. DOT is obligated to maintain arterial roads, the city must maintain all others. The city will continue to invest in these roads and traffic management systems throughout the city.

A recent study projects an unfunded liability of $38 million to resurface neighborhood roads. With projected reserves, we can and must commit to a 10-year road resurfacing program.

I will propose a Johns Creek Parks Foundation much like our national parks that were created through private funding by the Rockefellers. A similar model can work to build parks in Johns Creek.

Land for development in the city is shrinking. Almost every new development proposal meets with opposition from residents who say there is too much traffic, schools are overcrowded and home values would be affected if the project goes through. How do you propose to balance the wants and desires of the public with the property rights of the individual?

We must understand and balance the expectations of our residents and developers. To protect property values, we must protect our neighborhoods and schools, which means allowing development that is consistent with the character of Johns Creek. Developers will rightly want to maximize the value of their property, leading them to maximize the units per acre.

It is through a Comprehensive Land Use Plan and rigorous enforcement of it that we achieve the proper balance. Residents and developers can and must be expected to abide by the plan.

What are your top three priorities as a new councilperson May 21?

It’s clear that Johns Creek wants three critical issues addressed: traffic congestion, uncontrolled development and the rapidly diminishing opportunity to acquire parkland.

Once we’ve established the proper programs to address these needs, we can then turn our attention to other strategic goals: developing a robust local economy and creating a unique city identity, including some form of a city center.

From my business experience, I’ve learned to focus. Too many companies lose their way when they fail to focus and stretch resources too thin. Let’s get the basics done first.

ERIC FRAGOSO – POST 4

Johns Creek needs to fix its roads. Johns Creek residents want more parkland and green space. Johns Creek residents are the safest in Georgia and want no cuts in public safety. How will the city meet those needs and not raise taxes?

I will focus on expanding our commercial tax base and ensuring the new revenue is reserved for essential infrastructure needs, like road maintenance.

With more businesses and employers, we will generate the revenue needed to meet our obligations while also providing new opportunities for employment within our community.

As a consultant, I have worked with numerous government departments to allocate limited resources among several critical priorities. I have worked to implement tight fiscal controls, innovate solutions that save money and establish efficient tax allocation strategies.

I support a public-private partnership for adding additional green space. Parks should be located throughout our city for all residents to enjoy.

Land for development in the city is shrinking. Almost every new development proposal meets with opposition from residents who say there is too much traffic, schools are overcrowded and home values would be affected if the project goes through. How do you propose to balance the wants and desires of the public with the property rights of the individual?

The Comprehensive Plan is an excellent guide for how Johns Creek should develop. I will focus on expanding our commercial tax base and ensuring the new revenue is reserved for essential infrastructure needs, like road maintenance.

With more businesses and employers, we will generate the revenue needed to meet our obligations while also providing new opportunities for employment within our community.

As a consultant, I have worked with numerous government departments to allocate limited resources among several critical priorities. I have worked to implement tight fiscal controls, innovate solutions that save money and establish efficient tax allocation strategies.

I support a public-private partnership for adding additional green space. Parks should be located throughout our city for all residents to enjoy. By bringing together property owners and residents, we can preserve existing green spaces and facilitate smart growth.

Johns Creek being named the second safest city in Georgia is a tremendous accomplishment. I’m thankful for the men and women who protect our neighborhoods and earned this achievement. We should continue to give Chief Densmore and his department the resources necessary to provide this outstanding level of service.

I have broad experience meeting expectations with limited resources. My experience well prepares me for the responsibilities of being a member of the City Council and to develop solutions tailored to meet current and future needs of Johns Creek.

Our city needs smart growth guided by a clearly defined Comprehensive Plan that incorporates the long-term goals of the city.

I propose the city prepare guides for property owners to help them engage the community and promote dialogue about their proposal and its impacts on the community.

What are your top three priorities as a new councilperson May 21?

Three principles will guide the decisions I make: smart growth, fiscal restraint and local prosperity.

Smart growth: Approaching development in a way that is consistent with the long-term objectives of the city by having a framework that evaluates development opportunities according to their alignment with city objectives, with principles of fiscal restraint and the encouragement of local prosperity.

Fiscal restraint: Making government better, not bigger. Carefully considering all expenditures, taking into account not only the presented opportunity but the opportunity cost.

Local prosperity: Providing vital resources to support our valuable businesses; building a strong business environment to grow our local economy, provide employment opportunities and maintain low taxes.

TOM RADFORD – POST 4

Johns Creek needs to fix its roads. Johns Creek residents want more parkland and green space. Johns Creek residents are the safest in Georgia and want no cuts in public safety. How will the city meet those needs and not raise taxes?

We can meet these needs by reviewing our property tax and state income tax allocations (see my article in last week’s Johns Creek Herald), explaining solutions to our infrastructure needs while maintaining green areas by re-igniting efforts to reconstitute Milton County.

Johns Creek citizens’ property taxes are being syphoned by Fulton County. It absorbs $181 million, while only $32 million (15 percent) returns to our city. This is not right.

The citizens of Johns Creek are stewards, and I intend to address this imbalance of city, county and state revenues. I have been negotiating on a global scale in more complex arenas for over 25 years.

The solution is having a representative with the courage to address the real issues, with no political agenda, equipped with real-world experience while maintaining a spirit of cooperation.  

 

Land for development in the city is shrinking. Almost every new development proposal meets with opposition from residents who say there is too much traffic, schools are overcrowded and home values would be affected if the project goes through. How do you propose to balance the wants and desires of the public with the property rights of the individual?

We must revisit the 2030 plan, specifically its vague language. For example, what is the definition of a “transitional zone?” We need to define our path so we can navigate into the future.

The answer is engaging the community, zoning staff, city staff, land owners and developers so that we are all on the same path.

I recommend all zoning requests go through a unification process that includes solid representatives from the community, property owners, citizens and city staff to work out dynamic solutions protecting property owners and the grass roots of our community.

What are your top three priorities as a new councilperson May 21?

I believe we need to re-ignite efforts to reconstitute Milton County and put the property tax revenues in hands of the responsible citizens of Johns Creek and surrounding cities. We need to assertively visit GDOT to address traffic issues. We are paying disproportionate property taxes, together with state income tax, and we deserve better.  

Our gateways need to be preserved with care. Before considering higher density, we need to have a plan and consider if our infrastructure can handle it.

Increasing density without addressing traffic simply makes no sense. One simple solution to traffic is to narrow medians and biking lanes on the arterial roads, which potentially adds lanes going north/south and east/west. These additional lanes need to be Johns Creek residence lanes. 

We also need to revisit ordinances placed on small business. We want good restaurants and shops and will support them. The illegitimate businesses have to go, specifically the illegal massage parlors. 

ESTHER WEATHERS – POST 6

Johns Creek needs to fix its roads. Johns Creek residents want more parkland and green space. Johns Creek residents are the safest in Georgia and want no cuts in public safety. How will the city meet those needs and not raise taxes?

I believe a city center like they have in Roswell and Suwanee would be beneficial to all generations and would give our young and older citizens a place to congregate, much like the small towns where many of us were raised. A city center should only be funded through private investors using no tax dollars.

I bring this up in response to your question in regards to maintaining city needs without an increase in taxes because this will help even out our residential/commercial tax base. If the number of businesses (commercial) paying into our city taxes increases in number, the city revenue will increase without a tax hike.

Land for development in the city is shrinking. Almost every new development proposal meets with opposition from residents who say there is too much traffic, schools are overcrowded and home values would be affected if the project goes through. How do you propose to balance the wants and desires of the public with the property rights of the individual?

We have retail centers sitting vacant throughout our city that can be redeveloped to fit the needs of a business rather than clearing more land for new developments. The next generation should have access to the same beautiful green space that we live in today.

Getting rid of vacant commercial properties in the city will help to beautify our city while also improving the property values for residents.

What are your top three priorities as a new councilperson May 21?

In no particular order:

A) Ensuring that no new taxes or fees are placed on the residents of Johns Creek. As a councilwoman, I will do everything in my power to fight any attempts in this direction.

B) Creating a business-friendly environment (removing government red tape) that will encourage private investors to create a city center (downtown) as referenced above. I believe this is key to creating a long-term community that will stand the test of time.

C) Sticking to the 2030 Comprehensive Plan. To maintain our beautiful city, we must stick to the plan that was developed unless the community voices strong support for another direction – which I currently do not hear from our residents. If we are diligent in this effort, we can prevent Johns Creek from going down the road of unsightly billboards and tacky developments that so many other communities face.

LEA TAYLOR – POST 6

Johns Creek needs to fix its roads. Johns Creek residents want more parkland and green space. Johns Creek residents are the safest in Georgia and want no cuts in public safety. How will the city meet those needs and not raise taxes?

We can expand the ways we utilize our existing parks while we look for possible future sites and potential funding opportunities that do not include raising the millage rate.

Before I agree to put the city into debt, I will encourage our Public Works Department to continue to seek state and federal grants for road enhancements on our major roads while seeking other possibilities for local streets.

Supporting, maintaining and furthering our Police Department’s mission of making Johns Creek the safest community in Georgia is a priority.





Land for development in the city is shrinking. Almost every new development proposal meets with opposition from residents who say there is too much traffic, schools are overcrowded and home values would be affected if the project goes through. How do you propose to balance the wants and desires of the public with the property rights of the individual?

By making reasonable decisions. Through years of working in the community on proposed rezonings, I have learned that it is important to obtain a thorough understanding of what is being proposed.

When our city was incorporated, one of the first opportunities we had to shape our future development was forming our Comprehensive Land Use Plan. It was a lengthy process that included many public input sessions.

That plan is the outline we should follow when considering future development. It is the best way we have to balance to rights of property owners and the concerns of area residents.





What are your top three priorities as a new councilperson May 21?

I will continue to reach out to our business organizations to better understand what we can do on a large scale to encourage businesses to locate or expand in Johns Creek, preferably in buildings that already exist. Our tax base today is roughly 80 percent residential, 20 percent business.

This is out of proportion with our neighboring cities and burdensome on our homeowners. Business growth would expand our tax base to help even that ratio and allow us to address the needed repairs on our infrastructure.

Traffic is a concern for all Johns Creek residents, and implementing ways to alleviate commute times is critical. Community involvement is crucial to the success of growing our city. I encourage Johns Creek citizens to become frequent participants in council meetings.

A member of City Council cannot be effective unless they are able to work with other members and staff. A meeting with the new city manager will be my starting point.

All of these concerns are not new to the city. City staff has been looking for ways to resolve these issues for some time. My goals are to understand the progress that has been made and to help facilitate solutions.

NANCY REINECKE POST 6

Johns Creek needs to fix its roads. Johns Creek residents want more parkland and green space. Johns Creek residents are the safest in Georgia and want no cuts in public safety. How will the city meet those needs and not raise taxes?

Johns Creek is not lacking for money, and not everything needs to be done in a day. It will receive a sizeable increase in sales tax revenues (about $1.9 million) that we should put toward street repaving and parks.

Clearly, fat in the budget needs to be scrubbed. Our past city manager was paid over a quarter-million dollars annually. Our councilmembers are paid even if they do not attend council meetings.

Paving our streets and expanding our parks begins with defining the goals, developing a workable plan within our fiscal constraints and explaining that plan to the community.

We need to encourage office/institutional and commercial growth in our city to expand our tax base. But we must make sure that we do not chase businesses out of our community by overtaxing and over-regulating them.

Land for development in the city is shrinking. Almost every new development proposal meets with opposition from residents who say there is too much traffic, schools are overcrowded and home values would be affected if the project goes through. How do you propose to balance the wants and desires of the public with the property rights of the individual?

Johns Creek’s zoning ordinance means a property owner cannot do whatever he wants with his property. The Comprehensive Land Use Plan allows for planned growth of city services.  Developers and property owners are fully aware of this plan.

If the city deviates from this Comprehensive Land Use Plan without careful thought, plans for managing traffic infrastructure fall apart. Johns Creek must follow its Comprehensive Land Use Plan, otherwise a court of law could determine that our zoning process is “arbitrary and capricious,” and our rights as a city to have a zoning ordinance could be revoked.

We need to revise the zoning process to ensure that developers engage with the community before submitting plans to the city. We need to be faithful to adhering to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

What are your top three priorities as a new councilperson May 21?

First, I want to scrub through the budget to eliminate any waste and to ensure that the budget is aligned with the community’s priorities.

We need to implement better budget management practices to define our infrastructure maintenance needs such as street repaving and bridge maintenance.

The city has funded a number of design studies for road improvements and sidewalks that will be in construction in future years. We need to be planning for those costs through the use of multi-year budgets.

Another priority is to improve the zoning process. We need a process that does not exhaust the community and is more streamlined for the property owners. We also need to have a process that considers parks and green space as an integral part of the character of Johns Creek.

Finally, we need to revisit our transportation plan. Many of the zoning debates are about traffic impacts. We need to integrate the transportation plan into the zoning process to better support our planned growth.

STEVE BROADBENT – POST 6

 

Johns Creek needs to fix its roads. Johns Creek residents want more parkland and green space. Johns Creek residents are the safest in Georgia and want no cuts in public safety. How will the city meet those needs and not raise taxes?

The answer to our competing needs for more parks, the city’s rating as one of the safest in America and fixing our roads lies in growing the non-residential tax base. That includes office space, retail and restaurants.

We need to look at how we best utilize our commercial centers. Greater diversity in our tax base will allow us to maintain residential property taxes at their current level, yet provide increased revenue to fund public safety, roads and land for parks.

Expansion of the business tax base requires careful strategic planning to ensure we maintain our residential character and attract the businesses that will add vibrancy to our city. If done correctly, an increase in the non-residential tax base will not burden or overcrowd our schools. 

I have had conversations exploring the creation of a private land trust to acquire land for public parks. The creation of this trust would be separate and distinct from the city, but could provide a valuable alternative for the acquisition of parkland. It is a concept that must be explored to support the expansion of parks in Johns Creek.

Land for development in the city is shrinking. Almost every new development proposal meets with opposition from residents who say there is too much traffic, schools are overcrowded and home values would be affected if the project goes through. How do you propose to balance the wants and desires of the public with the property rights of the individual?

We must adhere to the 2030 Comprehensive Land Use Plan which governs how land can be developed throughout Johns Creek. We need to maintain consistency in density among adjoining neighborhoods and carefully plan the transitions from low-density to high-density neighborhoods.

Without proper transitions from lower- to higher-density neighborhoods, the traffic burdens and increases to our public school student population will significantly degrade the unique residential characteristics of Johns Creek. I will ensure we adhere to appropriate land use within each of the established character areas throughout Johns Creek.

What are your top three priorities as a new councilperson May 21?

I will not support any tax increases for the residents of Johns Creek. I will work to balance the budget by implementing the conservative business principles that I have successfully used as a small business owner.

We need to empower local businesses to grow and attract new jobs to Johns Creek. The best way to ease the tax burden on families is to grow our business community.

Together with our economic development partner, Johns Creek Advantage, I will use my business experience to help Johns Creek compete for new economic development and to allow existing businesses to thrive.

My third priority is to ensure Johns Creek retains its reputation and rating as one of the safest cities in America.

TOM MAZZUCKELLI POST 6

Johns Creek needs to fix its roads. Johns Creek residents want more parkland and green space. Johns Creek residents are the safest in Georgia and want no cuts in public safety. How will the city meet those needs and not raise taxes?

Tax increases are not necessary to effectively handle issues involving roads, green spaces and public safety.

Johns Creek maintains a capital budget for road resurfacing. Its problem is not necessarily a lack of funds but the absence of an executable plan that prioritizes repaving and repair projects.

Options include total repaving of a subdivision or repair of only the streets which require it.

We can jump start road repair through low-interest state loans. This would allow the city to work on projects quickly and efficiently in the near term.

This is not a tax increase but simply a way to increase cash flow to accelerate more repaving in a shorter time while paying essentially the same rate.

Problems with green space are not as clearly defined. Council needs to be proactive in challenging developers to incorporate more public green space into large scale projects.

Shakerag Park and the Rogers Bridge Trail have been seriously neglected. Newtown is becoming overburdened.

The river remains a top priority to develop a link with our neighbors to the east and take advantage of existing green spaces. This will not necessarily require city dollars.

Land for development in the city is shrinking. Almost every new development proposal meets with opposition from residents who say there is too much traffic, schools are overcrowded and home values would be affected if the project goes through. How do you propose to balance the wants and desires of the public with the property rights of the individual?

 

Planning staff and elected officials should work in conjunction with citizen groups to develop policy suggestions for the remaining undeveloped properties in our city. Due to a shortage of manpower on the council, city government is reactive instead of proactive on zoning issues.

The Planning Commission and City Council often have a tendency to get into the weeds instead of focusing on strategic zoning issues. A newly formed task force should look closely to find the right balance between property owners’ rights and those of the citizens.

What are your top three priorities as a new councilperson May 21?

My first priority will be to push for administrative solutions for the gridlock at Old Alabama and Medlock Bridge roads and at State Bridge and Medlock Bridge intersections.

These areas represent an extreme inconvenience to our citizens and solutions are needed. The impending development of the property at Old Alabama and Medlock Bridge will only exacerbate this problem.

My second priority would be to develop an effective plan/policy to address the remaining undeveloped tracts of land. That will influence the attractiveness and curb appeal of our city – especially the southern 141 corridor.

Third, I would challenge the city to establish a usable area along the northern portion of the Chattahoochee River to walk, bike and enjoy our city’s greatest natural resource.

JC 05-15-14

Executive Editor, Appen Media.
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