Establishing the “whys” for a District is essential before we run off to create a District and then later decide whether it met our needs or not. Therefore, I would like to focus my questions on trying to understand why we are creating a “District” so that I can better judge whether whatever is proposed meets the needs.
The first why stated by the Mayor is “To focus our commercial development and redevelopment in the District so as to preserve our existing neighborhoods.”
I would agree that we have a history of allowing commercial development at practically every location where two roads meet. This has led to a number of strip malls scattered throughout our city, and to resident concerns whenever they hear about another retail shop being built next to their subdivision.
Question – Does construction of the District mean that the city will stop permitting commercial development or redevelopment elsewhere in the city and that all future commercial development must occur in the District?
I can see the benefit of concentrating commercial development so as to provide a destination and critical mass, but our city consists of four subareas – Newtown, Warsaw, Ocee, and Shakerag - and Newtown and Warsaw already have important shopping districts.
Question – Is it reasonable to require residents of Newtown and Warsaw to drive to the District to shop in order to focus on commercial development?
The District is currently an office park and would add another shopping district to the many that already exist in Johns Creek.
Question – Why not focus retail shopping re-development in already existing commercial areas instead of adding another shopping district where one currently does not exist?
The second why stated by the Mayor is “To re-establish our competitive identity because mixed-use districts surround us and these locations detract from our economic viability as we spend time and money away from our city.”
This sounds like we have a feeling of inadequacy instead of having a sense of self. Residents of Johns Creek will always spend time and money away from our city just as others who live outside the city spend time and money within our city.
Question – Are our business restrictions and taxes unreasonably driving businesses to locate outside the District and which of these policies will be changed as a result of creating the District?
Question - What evidence do we have that Johns Creek lacks mixed-use development space that has driven developers to build elsewhere?
The new motto for Johns Creek is “Be the Exception.” It appears that our branding efforts have yet to deliver results in communicating what we are as a city that makes us exceptional.
Many residents of Johns Creek believe that our competitive identity should be built around the quality of our schools, the quality of our residential neighborhoods, and our recreational opportunities to relax and recreate ourselves from the pressures of a competitive world.
Question – What led to the belief that our competitive identity is dependent on a mixed-use district?
Supposedly our branding effort assessed what Johns Creek already is that makes us unique.
Question – Did our branding effort define our competitive identity as dependent on a future mixed-use district?
The third why stated by the Mayor is “To create a downtown-like sense of place, because we lack a civic heart to anchor our community. Public gathering places provide a sense of place.”
Downtown, uptown, midtown, city center, etc., are any number of terms to describe areas created by transit patterns. Many downtown is no longer viable due to changing conditions. In Johns Creek, we have spent considerable money to enhance Newtown Park and build a Pavilion to provide a community gathering space.
Our civic heart is anchored around our schools and parks. Considerable community gathering already occurs through our country clubs, churches, and neighborhood swim and tennis facilities. Within the District, we already have a gem of park that provides a public gathering place if we just go ahead and use it.
Question - What is the basis for saying that Johns Creek lacks a civic heart and a sense of place?
Many of us who live here like what we already have and want to preserve it.
Question – How does consumerism in a mixed-use district provide a sense of place?
Question – Is it the belief that we need to build and own a City Hall of a unique architecture to provide a civic heart and sense of place?
Question – What structure or facility is envisioned to provide a civic heart and public gathering place given investments already made in Newtown Park?
The fourth why stated by the Mayor is “To improve our economic viability because market analysis shows that we do not have the retail mix desired by our residents, the District is underperforming in terms of value per acre, and the City should be the developer that brings together all the stake holders.”
The fact that Johns Creek residents also shop outside of Johns Creek is not evidenced that we do not have the retail mix desired by our residents.
Question – What is the retail mix desired by the residents and why have market forces not brought that about?
The existence of surface parking lots is not necessarily an inefficient use of land space. Surface parking is more cost-effective than structured parking whenever land is available. Many women also feel unsafe in poor visibility parking garages.
Question – Will forcing the District occupants into structured parking increase rents and drive away customers so as to make Johns Creek non-competitive with adjacent counties and cities where surface parking is allowed?
Developers ultimately sharpen their decisions because they have money at risk, and make wiser choices because of the risks they are taking. Market-based choices have been shown by history to be wiser than choices made by governments with nothing at risk.
Question – Is the city planning to put any of its own money at risk in developing the District that will drive it to make better decisions?
Question – Has the city been approached by the existing property owners within the District to act as a Developer for them, and what incentives is the city offering the property owners to go along with its ideas?
Question – What will be the city response be if developers come forward with market viable ideas for the District different from the City’s?
Question – For how long will the city be committed to this plan for the District?
The final why stated by the Mayor is “To address lack of diversity in the city tax base and benefit from more revenues.”
The city collects roughly 1/3 of its revenues through property taxes, 1/3 through business fees and franchise fees, and 1/3 through sales taxes. The city collects money from homeowners, business owners, and vehicle owners. Homeowners benefit from homestead and other exemptions, which business owners and vehicle owners do not receive.
According to latest figures, Johns Creek collects 70% of its revenues through business owners, 27% through homeowners, and 3% through vehicle owners. This distribution of revenue sources has been constant since 2008 indicating it is very stable and therefore will be difficult to change. Increasing the proportion of revenues collected through businesses would appear to reduce diversity instead of increase it.
Question – What is the basis to support the statement that the city lacks diversity in its tax base when the tax base is much more than property taxes?
Question – What is the numerical goal for collection of revenues from businesses and why is 70% insufficient?
It is probably always true that the city can always benefit from more revenues and that the city will never have enough money to fund a wish list of things it could do. The city, however, has been collecting excess revenue and stashing it in the bank instead of spending it for improvements.
Only recently did it authorize spending money on paving neighborhood streets and it borrowed money instead of spending the money it has already accumulated.
Question – What is the city planning to do with the money it already has in the bank?
Question – Will the city consider a millage rate rollback when it approves next year’s budget to return some of this money to the taxpayers, or will it continue spending money on what it decides is better for the taxpayers?
At this time, the city is just starting to work on a financial tool to forecast and budget for known expenditures in future years. We are eagerly looking forward to seeing that tool as part of this year’s budget process.
The city is also considering funding a Strategic Economic Development Plan to begin to understand what businesses are possible in Johns Creek. It is in the midst of a Park study, which will be critical for developing a sense of place and locating civic activities, and it lacks a Master Transportation Plan with which to evaluate how it can accommodate the impact of traffic associated with the District.
The basis for the District is “seat of the pants” judgments and opinions without adequate supporting research and measurement tools. The district basis is not of the caliber expected in Johns Creek from a City Council composed of experienced business leaders.
Royce & Nancy Reinecke
I would like to know why Milton is building a City Hall. Alpharetta is building a new one. Roswell has one. Yet, Johns Creek still is renting space for its City Hall.
Why? Is it because we want to "Be the Exception", again?
Question – What is the retail mix desired by the residents and why have market forces not brought that about?
This is the question that I feel needs to be answered clearly and honestly. We see a reflection of market forces each and every day, and we respond to that by where we choose to spend our dollars. We are the market forces.
We have seen many restaurants come and go in several parts of our community. Are we asking why they have left? I will tell you that answer in one word: Profits.
I am going to suggest that the number one way to change what the market forces bring to Johns Creek is to fix the number one problem IN Johns Creek at this time: Traffic. If you cannot get there with relative ease, you will not spend your money there.
As soon as traffic is addressed, the value of EVERYTHING in Johns Creek rises. And that brings in more revenue through residential and commercial property taxes, as well as the other tax streams from business.
The consumers can choose Johns Creek more easily, and businesses will generate more profits.
Business entrepreneurs will see the opportunities, and some will take the risk and bring business into Johns Creek that have stayed away because when they worked the numbers and they could not generate enough of a profit to take the risk.
People go into business to generate profits. And so the City Council needs to ask itself on EVERY issue that they vote on this very simple question: Will this action reduce the profitability of any businesses in Johns Creek? And if it does, are we sure that is what we want to do?
Businesses with growing profits year over year do not close. Give the market the potential for profits and the retail mix will respond accordingly.
Ernest you are correct. If the council would address the traffic issues and increase the quality of life for its current residents, businesses and corporations would flock to the City.
The gridlock turns many good prospects away.
According to information given by Urban Design Associates, the District will be 82% apartments and 18% commercial. With this amount of high density residential, we are NOT moving the needle in the direction that the Mayor wants.
Who would come to the District? Only the tenants of all the apartments, probably.
I go to Avalon and all the gazillion stores on Northpoint Parkway. There is every store imaginable at these two locations.
What would be so different with the District of only 18% commercial?