JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Johns Creek’s newest addition to city staff leadership, Ben Song, says he’s excited to build up his team and tackle the development challenges the city faces.
Song was hired as Community Development director late summer, previously serving as the director for Real Estate and Records Management with Gwinnett County.
The new position is something of a homecoming for Song. He started his planning career in Johns Creek in 2008. He left the city in 2013 to work for the City of Brookhaven, where he quickly rose the ranks to become Community Development director.
He also considers himself a resident of “Greater Johns Creek,” living just across the McGinnis Ferry border in Forsyth County.
“It always feels good to come back to a place that you do care about,” Song said. “A lot of the time that I spend with family, if we go out, it’s within the city of Johns Creek.”
Song said one of his first goals is to build his team into the “well-oiled machine” he worked with at the city’s inception.
“It’s good to know that a lot of the people who were here have succeeded and moved on to better positions,” Song said. “I believe that is a testament to the type of employees we had at the time. Right now, I believe we have the opportunity to rekindle that.”
It starts with providing better customer-oriented service, he said. That means doing a better job meeting deadlines and creating more consistency in how rules are interpreted, he explained.
“Working in community development for many, many years now, I know there’s no way that I can satisfy everyone’s needs or expectations, but we are going to try our best to provide customer service that’s dependable and consistent,” Song said.
Looking more to the long-term, Song said he is excited to find creative ways to rejuvenate the business hubs within the city in a way residents can get on board with.
“I think the exciting challenge is truly trying to balance out the desires of the residents and the competing factors that may be coming from the business development end of it,” he said. “There’s a clear understanding through what was adopted in the most recent comprehensive plan which is essentially to preserve residential uses and highlight commercial developments within certain areas of the city.”
The Comprehensive Plan was passed in 2018 and will serve as a development guide for 10 years. The plan emphasizes maintaining low-density residential use for the majority of the city while limiting commercial development to existing shopping centers and Tech Park.
“A long-term project that I’m excited about is to create a design standard and understanding of what we want to see in those commercial nodes that we’ve identified,” Song said. “There are some places that have commercial uses that have been pretty stagnant over the years. How do we make those into more vibrant areas?”
The Comprehensive Plan also lays out a rough sketch for transforming some of the commercial hubs into a walkable-village-style development.
“Looking forward, as we gain more trust in terms of our ability to review developments and show we have the residents’ concerns in mind, we may be able to get to the point where we can come up with more unique, more creative designs.”
Song also noted a large concern that falls under the Community Development Department is addressing stormwater.
“The first thing we need to do is understand our system: understand what we have, what issues we may be facing in the near future and the distant future,” he said. “That assessment will also play a role for council to make better informed decisions of how we’re going to proceed in terms of the overall operations and maintenance of the system.”
For more information about the Community Development Department, visit johnscreekga.gov/residents/community-development.