Answers from Beth Pullias, candidate for Post 1, Peachtree City

Tue, 10/27/2009 - 5:47pm
By: Beth Pullias

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 Beth Pullias, candidate for Post 1

1. Do we have a need? No. But will I take a look at possible annexations that make sense, that will provide a benefit to the city? Yes. The only areas that makes sense to annex are areas that would give us borders that are defined by a contiguous or natural boundary or a road. There are few parcels that meet this criteria. The bottom line is that I am not against the idea of annexation if the property is annexed in to be a benefit to the entire city. That means it needs to benefit everyone, not just the developer who wants to come into our city, and not just the village nearby. It needs to provide something that all citizens can utilize.

This was one of my problems with the West Village annexation. It does not provide anything unique and to the betterment of the entire city. It makes Wieland and Scarbrough lots of money, but it does nothing for those living in Kedron, for example. Whereby Wilksmoor residents would frequent Kedron for their Aquatic Center, there is no reason for anyone to go to Wilksmoor unless you live there.

I cannot say that I am against annexation in any particular category as long as it is never done to the detriment of those currently living here. Any annexation should be master-planned, just as the rest of our city was planned. Annexations should not be done piece-meal.

This was tried on the south side when a property owner wanted to annex a parcel off of Redwine Road into the city, but the parcels to either side of the property were still part of unincorporated Fayette. This would never be a wise parcel to annex since even if you planned those few acres well, there was no plan for the surrounding parcels should they want to come in next. The basis for turning down this annexation at the time was due to the lack of a plan for the adjoining properties, and a lack of an overall plan for the area. I vocalized this at the time and it was in turn denied.

It would be up to the landowner that wants to annex into the city to justify why the city should take on his request. What is in it for PTC? It better be something significant, and well-planned, or do not bother. Financing an annexation project would be the responsibility of the landowner, and any maintenance costs should be their responsibility as well. The only cost to the city should be in the form of providing services to the newly annexed portion, and if providing these services strains the city and its infrastructure in any way, it would be sufficient grounds for me to deny the annexation.

BTW, I remember sitting in council chambers when the West Village annexation was presented early on in the process. Harold Logsdon thanked Dan Fields (the representative for Wieland homes at the time) for being so “gracious” with his proposal to build his 475-home subdivision north of Centennial, and work with Levitt and Sons (senior developer at the time) to build us MacDuff Parkway.

I was floored. “Gracious”? The honor of building in Peachtree City should be his, not the other way around. That attitude prevailed in what we now have to face as the overdeveloped plan for the West Village. So much more could have been done with that project, but the attitude of our council that the developer was doing us a favor by building here appalled me. Any developer that has that attitude needs to kindly be reminded that they are amongst the privileged to build in PTC. Not the other way around.

2. I do not support rezoning of industrial-zoned property to residential for three reasons: Land Use plan — takes away land that was intended for business; accessibility — there is no way to connect the parcel to a village by golf cart path; no big benefit — rezoning to make a developer money with no significant benefit to the city goes against the comprehensive plan and opens us up to further requests of this kind that will become harder and harder to defend against. For these reasons I do not support Callula Hill.

I believe that rezoning for Callula Hill is the definition of spot zoning and compromises our village concept and our land use plan so a developer can make a buck. The most appropriate use of this parcel with its proximity to Lake MacIntosh is a corporate headquarters. We should exercise patience while finding such a use and not deviate from the zoning just to help a developer develop his property. I helped to write the position paper that the Peachtree City Civic Association presented to council recommending against Callula Hill and believe that was a big part of why it has not been pursued to date.

3. It was a tough year. I believe the city did a good job handling the funding shortfall. I would give them a “B”. They cut 23 jobs, outsourced mowing, eliminated all pay increases and some other cuts as well, most of which impacted the city’s employees. I was there when the staffing decisions were made and it was not easy. I commend the City Council for taking the budget shortfall head-on and reducing it. We still did not pass a balanced budget for 2010, since we are dipping into the reserves. My regret is that the city staff bore the majority of the shortage burden, and the council could not see fit to pass some of that burden onto the taxpayers in the form of a small tax increase of what amounted to $25 for the average home.

4. Good question. This is not an outrageous possibility in our current recession. If we do have a situation where we have to cut another $1 million from the budget I see few more cuts we can make that will not see a significant impact on our services. Attending the budget meetings and the public hearings on the budget I believe that Paul Salvatore, Bernie and staff did an excellent job with our budget so as to minimally impact the effect of the cuts on our services.

I will not cut fire and police, the next would be special events or rec, then public works. If we do cut back further on the former, the citizens of the city will see, feel and live with the impact.

Our recent citizen survey on the subject indicated that the majority of people wanted to see cutbacks, yes, but were also not unwilling to pay a bit more for millage if it meant keeping the services that make us unique. Bottom line is I would raise the millage temporarily, combined with eliminating one or more special events, and possibly temporarily increase rec fees if necessary to keep the tax increase minimized.

5. We need to raise the millage to cover our budgetary needs at a minimum. We have not done that for the last four years, and the constant dipping into our reserve fund to balance the budget is poor financial planning.

The question is, what are our budgetary needs? How much are we willing to cut back to balance the budget? Enough so that no tax increase is necessary? If that is the case, then we will see a decline in our city services. I am not willing to do that.

I believe a modest millage increase now to get us through the economic downturn, with aggressive efforts to entice sustainable businesses to locate here, will both help those businesses to want to come to PTC and once they get here allow us to lower taxes because of the financial reward those businesses will bring. We need to maintain and take care of our city during these times without sacrificing what it is we all moved here for.

6. Hated it. I have been to every meeting on the subject of Line Creek for the last two years. It is an ever evolving nightmare, and one reason I decided to run for office. Selling the city streets to enable that development was selling out the city for sales tax revenue. This city and its uniqueness were once again hung out to dry because of the promise of a quick buck that council feared would otherwise go to Coweta County.

In a perfect world, I would have rather the city buy that property and I would have been willing to pay for it rather than see our last chunk of tree frontage on Highway 54 West disappear for the sake of something as ordinary as a Kohl’s. But that would have taken guts, and foresight, and a willingness to want to preserve PTC and what makes it special rather than sell it out for money. I know it is too late for that now, and too late for anything in between for this parcel. That land was always zoned for commercial use.

Given all of that, the current problem with this parcel was that the special use permit that was necessary to build such a large shopping center was simply too easy, and too subjective to obtain.

All that was required was to fill out the required forms and it was up to the whim of council as to whether it could be granted. Our special use permit was tested for the first time at Line Creek, and in my view failed us miserably.

This ordinance needs to be revised immediately so that a developer has to offer up a lot more than a stack of papers and $500,000 for a road to enable the building of a big box in an anti-big box town.

Too often has the current council been driven by the appeal of sales tax revenue and has ignored the wants and needs of its citizens. I can promise if on council that I would never put the wants and needs of the city’s residents and its businesses second to new commercial retail revenue. Doing that takes us from being unique, viable, and with some control over our town, to mediocre, and at risk of being like everywhere else.

7. I will work and vote for a comprehensive plan update that encourages viability, sustainability and forward thinking. This is the most important thing we can do right now as a council for our villages. What made PTC so special was that it was ahead of its time at its creation. Way ahead. Now it is time to develop a plan that will keep us ahead of our time. I am excited to see what the innovative ideas of the Georgia Tech grad students are, and have some ideas of my own that will preserve what makes us great now, but also will take us into the next 25 years.

I would like for each village to have something unique to offer the entire community that no other village can offer. This will encourage all citizens to frequent all villages, not just their own.

Some of my other ideas include acquiring city-owned green space to keep some key areas of the city from development, so that businesses are enticed to locate in our existing retail and industrial space. This will in the long-term also be an investment in keeping your home values higher by being in direct proximity to open space as opposed to developed space. (See the Proximate Principle on my website

I think it would also be prudent as we complete our golf cart path system to connect all villages of the city with each other and that we incorporate golf cart charging stations in each village, similar to the way they keep car batteries from dying in extreme cold environments by having chargers built into the parking lots. We would be able to extend the distances golf carts can travel in town and further encourage their use over cars.

I would love for all of our rec complexes to be accessible by golf cart from anywhere in the city. Keeping local traffic off of hwys. 54 and 74 would improve local quality of life.

We need to work to locate higher education within our city limits. The work to get Atlanta Christian College into the West Village hopefully is not dead, but regardless we need to pursue higher education.

I would love for PTC to have a golf-cart-accessible movie theater. I always loved the idea of a golf cart drive-in, or a dinner and a movie type business in town. I could go on and on.

Our villages will remain economically viable if we take steps to make each of them unique from each other, yet connected to each other by golf cart. If we acquire green city-owned land in some of our undeveloped parcels instead of developing them this will force businesses to locate in our current village centers, as well as drive the property value up of homeowners in direct proximity to that city owned protected space.

8. For it. It is not a perfect plan. There are a lot of issues with the bypass and its purpose, combined with the environmental impact that make that aspect of the SPLOST tough to swallow. However the other aspects of the renewal have merit. For PTC it amounts to money for golf cart and street improvements that we may not see happen without it. Sure, we could fund those improvements out of the general fund, but be prepared to pay for it somehow, or lose services. At least the cost of these improvements are shared by all who live here as well as all who visit, and all of the county will ultimately benefit from them.

9. Local government can be the best form of government there is. With the right people in place, local government is best in touch with the needs and wants of a community, the most accountable to it, and therefore the most effective. Our tax dollars are spent on things that we see, touch, and experience every day. The government officials live in our town and have a vested interest in seeing it succeed, or they will have to answer first-hand to the people.

I wish local governments had even more power to see that money allocated to them is spent the way their community sees fit. That said, the key to a positive local government is citizen involvement. I have seen first-hand that this makes a difference.

If a city council sees and hears from its constituency on a regular basis, they will listen. Peachtree City is an active community. We have become more vocal over the last couple of years due to the formation of citizen advocacy groups, and better connectivity between the citizens and the local officials due to monthly newsletters, a great informative website, a responsive city staff, and quite frankly the Internet. There is no excuse for not knowing what is going on here.

We have a very well-run city. Those that are uninformed are quick to say that we need to “tighten our belts” or that our government needs to learn how to “live within their means.” Well, your city has tightened up considerably, but to “live within your means” requires you to define what you want the word “live” to be like.

If due to a recession we are not meeting our projected revenues for sales tax, hotel/motel tax, property tax, something has to give. During hard times you can give up aspects of living here that you may never get back fully once given, or you can put a little more into the city coffer to preserve why we live here, until things bounce back.

I hate state and federal taxes just as much as the next guy, but I also believe that local taxes serve a valuable purpose when spent wisely and responsibly.

I would not have thrown my hat in this ring if I was not convinced that I would have the city staff support to help run an efficient government while pursuing PTC’s future success on behalf of its citizens.

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