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Gwinnett may get planning district
Peachtree Corners up for consideration

PEACHTREE CORNERS - In an effort to maintain a high quality of life and keep local control over land-use decisions, State Rep. Tom Rice announced Monday night he'd introduce legislation in January that could set the stage for residents of Peachtree Corners to become Georgia's very first planning district.

If the bill makes it out of the General Assembly, residents would vote on the proposal in a November 2011 referendum.

Unlike a city, a planning district allows specific but limited governmental services to be provided. But by forming a planning district, it would prevent neighboring municipalities from annexing any property in the planning district unless 100 percent of property owners in the proposed annexation area agree to it.

Rice said he's introducing the legislation because of Norcross' past attempt at annexing Technology Park and because Peachtree Corners is "surrounded by cities on every side." He also said voters in the past voted against cityhood because becoming one is an expensive duplication of services that Gwinnett County already provides.

"It's not cost effective to become a city and our services in Peachtree Corners have been pretty good," Rice said. "But we want control to plan and zone and some capability to take care of medians and things."

According to Rice and the United Peachtree Corners Civic Association, the benefits of a planning district are that it would allow it to conduct hearings on zoning and land use issues, which would include enforcement and participation in long range planning. It would also limit the county commission's ability to overrule the planning district.

The proposal would allow for an ad valorem tax on real property not to exceed 0.5 mills.

UPCCA President Mike Mason said the annual dollar impact on property taxes would be $20 per year for each $100,000 of a home's value. Rice said the county would collect that tax and then distribute it to the planning district which would in turn use it for landscaping and beautification of roadways.

The UPCCA takes care of 17 medians along Peachtree Parkway with an annual budget of $28,380.

Rice said if a planning district was formed, it would mean the county commission would appoint a five-member board.

In answering a question about the proposal, Rice said there were two potential negatives. One was the additional taxes residents would pay. The other was that the county commission wouldn't appoint the right people to the planning district board.