November 6, 2011
Planning and Zoning
The most important service the city will provide is Planning & Zoning. Almost everyone is familiar with the concept of zoning. The zoning categories determine the permissible uses for a parcel of land. In general, the categories are residential, commercial (retail and restaurants), office and manufacturing/industrial. Even within these categories, properties can be restricted as to the specific type of use. The restriction is generally because of the nature of the surrounding properties. For example, a commercial property’s general zoning classification allows a gas station. But the specific zoning for that property could exclude the gas station while allowing other retail because the area around or close to the property is residential. Gwinnett County has a zoning FAQ with more information about zoning.
Zoning changes are usually requested when a property owner wants to use the land for something that is currently not permissible under the current zoning requirements for that property. We generally become aware of zoning when someone requests a change to the current zoning of a property nearby. We either see the yellow sign on the property or receive a letter in the mail. Currently, zoning changes in our community are approved by the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners. We only have one representative on the Board. The remaining decision makers have no stake in Peachtree Corners and decisions may be made that negatively impact our community.
Planning is somewhat less familiar to most citizens but critically important in assuring a community has balance between areas where people “work, live, and play.” Planning also involves determining the best direction for economic development to assure our balanced community has a diversified tax base. As rezoning requests are made, the decision on whether to approve a change is based on how the request fits into the direction for the overall area. Gwinnett County has the 2030 Unified Plan. Once Peachtree Corners becomes a city, we will also have a “Master Plan” tailored to our vision of the future of our community.
One important concept in planning and zoning is an “Overlay District”. The goal of an overlay district is “to provide enhanced aesthetic design for non-residential projects through the use of architectural design standards, increased landscaping, signage controls and streetscape design…” This description is from the resolution creating the Peachtree Corners Overlay District approved by the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners in March, 2007. The district requires the implementation of a higher, consistent standard for exterior appearance that more closely meets our needs. This does not guarantee that a variance from these standards would not be granted by the county.
By controlling Planning & Zoning, we will be able to develop our own Master Plan and determine the appropriate uses for land within our borders. As changes in zoning are requested, we will have a mayor and 6 council members who have the same stake in the decisions as the citizens of Peachtree Corners.
Solid Waste Disposal
The good news is that we can design the new trash plan after we become a City. Now we must do what the County requires. With a City we have choice. That means the City Council, with input from the community, will design the trash plan we want. Here is what we know for sure.
1) The state adopted a Solid Waste Plan in 2006 requiring municipalities to develop and document solid plans. The goal is to reduce waste deposited in landfills and encourage recycling. There is a reporting requirement as well. We are all aware of Gwinnett County’s draconian response to that requirement.
2) How the service will be implemented will be determined by the City Council once they are elected. They will have to develop a plan for Solid Waste Disposal, hopefully with input from the community.
3) It will take some time to transition from the county plan to the city plan. If the transition occurs prior to when the next payment is due on our property tax bills, there will be a mechanism in place to ensure there is no double billing.
We also know that many people in Peachtree Corners experienced an increase in their bill for trash collection once the county trash plan was implemented. Why did this increase occur? Our cost went up because the county averaged the costs over the entire county pick up area. We live in a densely populated area. The cost for collection in this area is less than in an area where homes are spaced more widely apart, like many other areas in the county. It is simple economics. It takes more gas and time to collect fewer homes in those areas. That being said, it is likely our costs will decrease once we have trash pickup exclusively for this area.
That being said, what are the options for trash pickup? Here are a few.
A local hauler that currently contracts with the county was contacted for a quote. Given our demographics, the quote was $15-$16 per month, including yard waste. For those who choose the solid waste option currently, that could be a savings of $10 per month. For those who do not, the savings would not be as dramatic, but we would have an additional service added for a little less than we pay now. This price is predicated on continuing billing through the property tax bill. If we were billed directly, the price would be somewhat higher, but that would offer an option for some to provide proof of alternate disposal capabilities and be able to opt out.
While we could open the service to all haulers and allow everyone to contract with the service of their choice, there is an advantage to limiting the service to a single hauler. That reduces traffic in neighborhoods and wear and tear on roads.
Some have mentioned the “infamous” Duluth blue bags. The truth is, you pay for what you use. The bags are either $22.26 for 15 – 15 gallon bags or $33.92 for 20 – 32 gallon bags. All you pay is for the bags. Plus you still have recycling. If a family of 4 uses one 32 gallon bag a week that works out to just $7.35 a month. The smaller bags, perfect for smaller families, even less.
So there are real options on the table. The likelihood is there will be at least some savings. The only remaining question is what will the final plan be?
As always, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about incorporation or suggestions for future blogs. You can also Follow Us On Facebook and Follow Us On Twitter. For more information about the city initiative, you can go to the Peachtree Corners website. We also have two blog sites. One presents the facts about the city initiative. The other rebuts the myths and misstatements made about incorporation.