Answers from Shelby Barker, candidate for Post 1, Peachtree City

Tue, 10/27/2009 - 5:42pm
By: Shelby Barker

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 Shelby Barker, candidate for Post 1

1. Annexations have to be looked at on a situational basis. I do not believe that we should expand our boarders simply to create new “virgin residential-zoned space.” However, as a city councilman one of my jobs is to ensure that each annexation request is properly studied and carefully considered. I do not like to discuss hypothetical situations, so let me tell you my stance on all current annexation requests.

Peachtree East Shopping Center — I support this annexation request because many people already consider the shopping center a part of our community. If the annexation passes, the store fronts will eventually have to meet our sign ordinances, and our tax base will increase.

Hyde Park Phase II — After studying this proposal very carefully, I am against their request for annexation. The major problem facing this request is the peninsula design it creates. The land will only be connected to Peachtree City on one corner, therefore opening the doors for a future domino/sprawl effect in which we begin annexing land on all sides of the property.

Southern Pines Plantation — Although this proposal is in its very early stages, I am already hesitant. It seems as though the developer is simply trying to access our sewer lines to avoid the one-acre minimum set by the state for a septic field. In short, if we pass this annexation as proposed, it will open the door for future retail, and possible big box development that our city will have no control over. I would consider approving the annexation if the entire lot was attached to the request.

The second part of your question asks what type of new development I think the city needs. I believe any new development should be determined by the free market. If a developer comes to the council with a plan, it is our job to compare that plan to the comprehensive land use plan and the standards of the community. If it passes the smell test, then our job is to move out of the way and let the free market take over.

Again, when discussing new development, we must be hesitant to talk about hypothetical developments. Know this though: preserving the plan is our job. This means that I will compare all developmental proposals to the land use plan. If it is in the plan I will support the development, if it is not in the plan, then it will take a lot more persuasion to convince me. If you look at my Contract with Peachtree City, I take a strong stance in support of our land use plan because I firmly believe it is one aspect of our community that allows us to stand apart from other cities.

2. I do not support the Callula Hill project. This project is a great example of how easy it is for our community to move away from both the land use plan and the village concept. With the topic of Callula Hill on the mind, I promise the citizens that I will promote our village concept in every developmental decision I make. This proposal is a great example of “spot zoning” in which we have in essence a “spot” of a residential zone surrounded by a massive industrial area. The location is not only against our land use plan but many pilots are opposed to the proposal due to safety concerns.

3. I think that our council has done a relatively good job of handling the budget shortfall. I like the idea of creating private/public relationships to help run the tennis center and manage our lawn service. I think that in the future we will need to look at creating more of these types of relationships. However, we must be absolutely sure that the private company maintains the high level of service that our citizens are used to. I am glad that the council denied the recent request to raise the millage rate. I will address the last part of the question under question number 4.

4. First, I will not raise taxes. Some may say that this is a naive approach. However, I argue that not raising taxes is the best way to ensure our long-term sustainability. With the current federal administration our residents are going to be seeing their federal and state tax bills increase dramatically. For example, if the cap and trade bill is passed, some estimates claim that the average electric bill will increase by upwards of 80 percent. Considering those facts, is it really the best time for the local government to raise taxes?

I believe governments in general should stop exploring new ways to raise revenue and start exploring new ways to cut costs. Many people ask, “In what areas do you specifically want to become more efficient?” My answer to them is simple, “In every area, in every department.”

Our government should begin exploring new private/public relationships such as Cannongate and the Tennis Center. These types of relationships are being created across the nation in virtually every municipality. They help relieve budget shortages, invest dollars into the local economy, and also ensure that residents continually see a high level of service.

We should begin exploring new fee structures across the board. I am an avid believer in the user fee system. For example, when swimmers want to swim at Kedron, they have to pay a fee. Wouldn’t it make sense for people playing basketball at the same venue to pay a fee?

There are many areas across the board in which our government can become more efficient. To be honest, there are some areas in our government that may take a hit, services may be reduced; but our government is not what makes our community great.

Our community is great because of the people and I will do everything in my power to ensure that our resident’s tax burden is not greater than it needs to be. The proponents of raising taxes will argue that residents are willing to pay just a little more in taxes for an increase in service.

For all those citizens jumping at the opportunity to pay “just a little more” in taxes, I am sure the government would be more than ecstatic to accept your donations.

5. None.

6. I see both sides of the issue, but the bottom line is that if the developer decided to build a commercial center on his or her land, we typically would not manage the roads running through the development. This question is truly not about the road, but rather about the development. The land is not ours to hold onto. It is currently zoned commercial/retail. If I claim to want to promote the land use plan in all aspects, that means I have to promote it here also. However, I am against bringing in further unnecessary big box development into that center. It seems that the shopping center is going to happen, so now we must fight for the right type of shopping center.

7. Our government needs to continually work with the Development Authority, Airport Authority, and state and local officials to bring in businesses. If we can set the “stage” for a business to be successful then new businesses will come. We can set the “stage” by shifting our focus to attracting new technology driven industries into our industrial park. Falcon Field gives our community a huge advantage over others and if used properly it can become gateway to new businesses. When the market creates new jobs, demand for retail in the area will increase, thus increasing retail business in our village centers.

8. I am adamantly against the SPLOST. I believe that the SPLOST is a perfect example of how government at all levels can be both misleading and greedy. The politicians have attached things like golf cart path maintenance to the SPLOST to make it more enticing. A SPLOST should be for a special purpose, thus the name Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, not common infrastructure items such as golf cart path maintenance etc. I am also against the SPLOST because I believe that in this type of economic climate we should be lowering taxes, not “raising” them.

9. It is not enough to say that I am merely a Republican, nor is it enough to say that I am a conservative republican. The proper term to describe my passion for the cause is a Tea-Party Republican. A Tea-Party Republican is a conservative Republican who is actively dedicated to conservative values. This dedication has led me to become the only candidate endorsed by the county Republican Party. I define conservatism on our local level as standing up for five things (no particular order).

• Fiscally responsible and accountable for your tax dollars.

• Promotion of the things that make our city unique, i.e. village concept, cart paths.

• Promotion of family values.

• Ensuring safety continues to be a top priority.

• Continually fighting to keep Peachtree City Beautiful.

I have also attached my contract with Peachtree City For further reading.

First, I want to create a new legislative rule regarding re-zoning initiatives. This rule will require a four out of five majority in favor of re-zoning in order to pass the initiative. The new rule would limit voting blocks on council and make it harder for the council members to deviate from the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

**UPDATE ***

It seems that this rule may be easier said than done. However, that does not change my absolute dedication to the promotion of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan. If this rule cannot be enacted I will still do everything in my power to continue to promote Peachtree City’s uniqueness found in the Land Use Plan.

Second, I stand strongly against the selling off of city assets in order to balance the budget. These facilities are jewels of our community.

Third, I will promote government efficiency by consistently asking staff to provide areas in which our government can be more resourceful. I will guide them to continually look at instances where creating a private partnership may better benefit the general public, i.e., landscaping crew. We must also continue to examine areas that are low priority that can be cut from the budget.

Fourth, I will call for a restructuring of fees across the board. We should encourage innovative fee ideas such as a yearly recreational pass that provides year round access to recreational facilities an increased usage fee structure for out of city residents.

Fifth, I stand firmly against further big box development, unnecessary annexations, or higher density rezoning.

Sixth, I will make cart path maintenance a top priority. The upkeep of our cart path system has been pushed to the back burner for too long. We must begin to actively improve our system today in order to save ourselves from more costly repairs tomorrow.

Seventh, I support the most open government possible. We should greatly reduce “consent agenda” items and executive session meetings. I will also call for the city to utilize more venues in distributing information to the public.

Eighth, I will work closely with our county commissioners, state representatives and members of Congress to ensure that Peachtree City’s opportunity for investment and quality growth is maximized.

Ninth, I am unapologetically against any proposal that move the city away from the village concept. Thus, I am opposed to proposals like Callula Hills, which will ultimately abandon our village concept.

Tenth, I commit to supporting the needs and requirements of an efficient, effective, and well trained police and fire department.

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Submitted by Doug on Tue, 10/27/2009 - 10:47pm.

You've got my vote dude.

sdg's picture
Submitted by sdg on Wed, 10/28/2009 - 5:24pm.

Shelby Barker's picture
Submitted by Shelby Barker on Wed, 10/28/2009 - 5:43pm.

Thanks for the kind words!

Shelby Barker
Candidate for City Council Post1

DanTennant's picture
Submitted by DanTennant on Wed, 10/28/2009 - 7:18pm.

I like the contract, good job Shelby.

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