Answers from Vanessa Fleisch, candidate for Post 4, Peachtree City

Tue, 10/27/2009 - 5:33pm
By: Vanessa Fleisch

Questions for Peachtree City candidates

1. Based on current zoning, there are roughly 1,400 more homes to be built before running out of virgin residential-zoned space. Do you see any need for the city to expand its borders through annexation for any zoning category? Why or why not? Please explain what type of development — if any — the city needs more of, how it will be paid for and where you think such annexation makes the most sense.

2. Do you support the rezoning of industrial-zoned property to any residential use? Also tell us specifically whether you support or oppose the Callula Hill project that would convert land in the city’s industrial park into an upscale “lake view” subdivision, and if so, tell us why or why not. Also, spell out whether this proposal does or does not represent spot zoning.

3. This has been one of the most painful budget years in the city’s history. Grade the City Council on personnel cutbacks and how it handled the funding shortfall. Explain exactly what you would have done differently.

4. If the city had to cut another $1 million out of the coming year’s budget, what specific actions would you take to balance the budget?

5. Under what conditions — if any — would you support an increase in the city property tax?

6. What is your opinion about Peachtree City selling city streets to a developer so as to enable a much larger shopping center to be built on Ga. Highway 54 West?

7. What will you vote to do to insure that the city’s existing village centers remain economically viable?

8. Will you vote for or against the countywide SPLOST renewal? Why or why not?

9. Describe your general political philosophy, particularly regarding local government.

Answers from Vanessa Fleisch, candidate for Post 4

1. After the approximately 1,400 homes are built, I do not see any reason to expand the city limits through annexation. Adding more homes would cost the city a great deal in infrastructure and services that would always be a part of our budget. Continually planning for expanding fire, police, and cart paths while annexing in more land will wreak havoc on the budgeting process.

One annexation request that does makes sense is the Publix shopping center on Hwy. 54 East. If this is annexed in, Peachtree City will reap the tax revenue of an already established retail complex where we are currently paying to provide police and fire services.

We need to be focusing on the redevelopment of some of our older existing homes and structures. For example, homes built during the early 1990s, if they do not have an active homeowners association, the covenants and restrictions(CCRs) will be voided in the very near future. By old statute (in effect at the time Peachtree City started) covenants that don’t specify an expiration date will expire after 20 years, unless they are stated as self-renewing.

In order to help maintain property values we need to revisit our CCRs. Most subdivisions without active homeowners associations have no control over some basic guidelines that preserve the integrity and look of their neighborhood.

What I would like to see is subdivisions getting together to form their own HOAs to keep up the look of each neighborhood and to prevent city resources being used unnecessarily.

Peachtree City’s land use plan is currently being reviewed before it is submitted to the Atlanta Regional Commission in 2012. During this ongoing process, citizens have the opportunity to make their wishes known as far as the growth of Peachtree City’s boundaries.

My belief is that most citizens feel as I do, that we do not need to annex any more property and lose our sense of community.

2. It is foolhardy for a “planned community” to go so far outside its land use plan to rezone industrial land into residential. If Callula Hill is approved it will set a very bad precedent for future land use in Peachtree City. The developer of that property also owns two tracts on either side of the potential Callula Hill site. If Callula Hill is approved, then what is to stop the rezoning of the adjacent tracts to residential as well?

Yes, this is spot zoning, and again, once this precedent is set there will be no turning back. The proximity of Falcon Field to the proposed Callula Hill development is reason enough to leave the industrial area industrial.

The FAA has within the past year awarded Falcon Field grants to expand its hangar, apron and installed instrument landing capability (ILC). Falcon Field is the only airport on the southside of Atlanta to have ILC. My hope is that the airport will become a magnet for businesses and thus help our tax revenue. The current airport authority is doing a tremendous job and we need to be supporting them, not throwing obstacles in their way.

3. Unfortunately, the City Council has continually “kicked the can down the road” when it comes to dealing with the budget. A prime example of this was the council voted against the millage rate increase for the 2010 budget.

No one likes taxes to be raised, but the .24 mill increase, (approximately $25 more for a $250,000 home value) would have put us on the road to a balanced budget and left us in better fiscal shape for 2011.

My concern is that, with sales tax revenue down, hotel/motel tax down, and no millage increase for 2010, we are looking at an even larger millage increase in 2011 just to keep up with our expenses.

Current economic circumstances dictate that even more cuts are going to be necessary, but the genesis for the current budget situation was laid over the past few years.

My grade for this issue as handled by the current council would be a “C.” It is difficult to go to council meetings and watch people lose their jobs. Again, by not making difficult decisions years ago, we are left in the position of having to trim the budget even more and possibly raising the millage rate.

4. Watching the whole budgeting process has been very insightful. Unfortunately, there have been a number of lost revenue opportunities in past years. For instance, impact fees have never been charged on commercial construction in Peachtree City. This was a missed opportunity by City Council to enhance revenues. Fortunately, that policy was recently changed, and we will begin charging impact fees on new commercial building.

Also, the fees at our recreation areas have been very low while the costs to maintain these facilities have grown. Recently, the aquatic center raised its fees. We need to look across the board to all recreational activities and re-evaluate the cost structure.

It is my belief that we have great recreational facilities, and we maintain them very well. However, there is an approximate $3 million difference between the revenue from recreation and what the city pays for these facilities.

Recreation is an amenity, not a profit maker, but the $3 million gap needs to be closed. Recently the employees of the aquatic center worked together to find a way to save $100,000 from their budget. Brainstorming within each department like recreation would be a way of reducing costs.

Another way we can reduce costs is to refinance our debt. Our bond rating improved this year, and it is time to look at taking advantage of that through refinancing at a lower rate.

Another cost savings could be more public/private partnerships with different organizations throughout the city. There are so many people who volunteer their time and talent throughout this city and we need to encourage these organizations that provide services.

I was encouraged to see that all of the city departments (tourism, recreation, etc.) and authorities (Airport and Development) are now meeting regularly. At their meetings it should be a top priority to consolidate and streamline their costs.

For example, marketing costs can be significantly reduced by sharing resources. If we can consolidate our efforts in other areas as well we will become more efficient. This enhanced communication needs to happen so that we can make cuts that make sense instead of arbitrarily cutting solely from specific departments.

5. If there isn’t a major turnaround in the economy, we are looking at a millage rate increase next year. According to a city survey sent out last year, a majority of citizens support a combination of cuts in the budget and a tax increase. We have made cuts, and there will most likely be more. I believe without an increase in the millage rate, we will not be able to maintain the level and quality of services that the residents demand and deserve.

6. Selling the city’s streets to a developer as happened with Highway 54 West was a huge mistake. The council was shortsighted in going after sales tax dollars at the expense of the citizens. This issue and the subsequent approval of a new traffic light expressly for this big box development is what prompted me to announce my candidacy for City Council Post 4.

I watched incredulously as the council totally disregarded the views of the citizens in Planterra Ridge who opposed this traffic light on Dec. 18, 2008. At that meeting, numerous residents and the Peachtree City Civic Association representative expressed their opposition to the traffic light.

Incidentally, the state DOT had turned down this request two times previously, as it is located within 500 feet of the next traffic light, which is against Ga. DOT rules.

As if this wasn’t bad enough already, the developer has returned to ask for even more square footage to be built on this property. All of this could have and should have been avoided by sticking to the land use plan.

7. My votes will be to encourage the continued use and redevelopment of our existing areas, not encourage building of big boxes that will destroy our village concept. The renewal of Braelinn Shopping Center is an example of the type of re-investment I want to see in Peachtree City. The Peachtree City Development Authority has been wonderful in working with the different village centers to retain and attract new merchants.

8. SPLOST is a countywide tax that targets specific projects, and the money collected can only be used for those specific projects. I think that Peachtree City does have very specific uses for this money in the area of: golf cart path resurfacing, road maintenance, and debt reduction. I believe we need not rely upon elusive sales tax revenue in these economic times. I cannot in good conscience vote for the renewal of the SPLOST because of what has transpired with previous SPLOST monies.

9. My general political philosophy is very simple, I am a CONSERVATIVE. The older I get, the more conservative I become. As a conservative and a small business owner, I have to live within my means, and I expect the same from local government. It is vital, particularly on the local level, to have people who are willing to make difficult decisions about budgeting, personnel, and future growth. The great thing about local government is that is where we can all make a difference.

I entered this race for Post 4 because I realized that the current council was grossly out of step with the wants and needs of the residents of Peachtree City. Our city government should be on the same page as the citizens and work towards the common goal of maintaining our quality of life.

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