In quest for cityhood, Peachtree Corners fest a draw

Photo: David McGregor<BR> 
Hundreds of people walk around during the inaugural Peachtree Corners Festival on Saturday.

Photo: David McGregor
Hundreds of people walk around during the inaugural Peachtree Corners Festival on Saturday.

NORCROSS -- A party broke out Saturday in the heart of what could soon be Gwinnett's largest incorporated city.

Attendees numbering an estimated 10,000 doubled expectations for the inaugural "Peachtree Corners Festival," which consumed a tree-lined office park road with vendors, live music, bountiful food offerings and a gigantic peach mascot man.

Leaders with Peachtree Corners, touted as the nation's first live-work-play planned community, hope the festival helped forge an identity for the conglomeration of subdivisions, office parks and business pockets in western Gwinnett that stands to gain some autonomy via November ballots.

"It's been a terrific show of support from the community," said Mike Mason, head of the Peachtree Corners Civic Association, a group of 33 homeowners associations. "There's a Peachtree Corners to have a festival about."

Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill last month granting residents within the proposed city limits the right to vote on city formation on a referendum in November's election, a la Dunwoody and Sandy Springs.

Festival president Michael Kuras hoped patrons left the eight-hour fest with "a fuller appreciation of what Peachtree Corners is" rather than be politically swayed.

Borders for the proposed city would roughly be the Gwinnett County line to the south, Duluth and the Chattahoochee River to the north and west, and incorporated Norcross on the eastern side. If Gwinnett County was a westward-facing man's head, Peachtree Corners would be his leafy chin.

Based on past conversations and his informal gauging at the festival, Mason said area residents fall mostly within three camps: Half strongly favor cityhood, half are uninformed on the issue, and a small contingent disparage additional government and are hellbent against new taxes, he said.

Leaders have settled on a proposed "city lite" version for Peachtree Corners that provides only three services -- solid waste, planning and development and code enforcement -- that limits taxes to 1 mill, or about $120 yearly for a $300,000 home. Residents are satisfied with police and fire services provided by the county and wish to retain those, leaders have said.

Mason said voters will be a population of 38,000 who live in the proposed city boundaries, which would supersede Lawrenceville as Gwinnett's largest municipality.

Festival-goer Ingrid Tillo, who's called the area home for 30 years, said she's sold on cityhood "to keep Peachtree Corners the way it is, not building high towers" and keeping other zoning in check, she said.

Allan Peel, a recent telecommunications industry retiree, isn't so sure.

"I have a concern it might cost us," Peel said. "I'm still studying up on it."

Peel said he moved to Peachtree Corners in 1989 and hasn't noticed much change since. He's always admired the area's social vibe, which he was pleased to see showcased by a festival.

"You see a lot of little towns do it -- I'm glad ours started," he said.