Take the Cauley Creek Park Design Back To The Drawing Board

Take Cauley Creek Park Design Back to the Drawing Board

by Cathy Eads, Homeowner, Devonhall subdivision in Shakerag

The city’s preliminary design plan for Cauley Creek Park is overly developed and completely out of place where this parkland sits in the city.

In comparing Cauley Creek to another high activity sports park – North Park in Alpharetta – we found that up to 2000 cars were generated on a busy day of weekend sports activity.  North Park has parking for only 659 cars.  It also has two entry points, is only 97 acres and houses only 8 softball fields and 2 multi-purpose sports field plus 7 tennis courts. The preliminary Cauley Creek plan covers 133 acres, has parking for 900 cars, is much more dense with 13 plus fields and amenities, and has only one entry/exit point. As proposed Cauley Creek will likely generate 3-4000 car trips on Bell Road during a busy weekend of high activity.

Traffic on Bell Road is already significant during afternoon and evening hours when school buses are out and people are trying to get home from work. The expected traffic from this park would create additional traffic congestion weeknights and on weekends. Do we really want thousands more cars racing to their next game or practice on Bell Road, even on the weekend?  Do we really want traffic jams 7 days a week on that tiny, two lane road?

The 2016 traffic study completed for this park land, recommends additional studies be done to determine the feasibility of Bell Road for tournament traffic. The current sports complex plans for Cauley Creek are designed to host tournaments in soccer or lacrosse, which would generate significant additional traffic. In addition, the entrance/exit would either require adding east-west turning lanes or converting it into a roundabout. Added improvements will be necessary and are not included in the current 16 million estimated build out cost.

Based on a 2009 traffic study done for a similar project at the now Chattahoochee National Preserve site (adjacent to Cauley Creek) the city rejected the project because it would generate too much traffic on Bell Road. How is it possible that the city council now finds a bigger park with more fields and parking is acceptable despite the fact that it would generate significantly more traffic?

The Comprehensive Plan states that Bell Road is to remain a two-lane road and that the Shakerag Character area is to be maintained as a pastoral, rural residential area.  This intensive sports complex/tournament facility design does not match the Comprehensive Plan description of what is appropriate development in this character area.

Redirecting the 16 Million estimated for the Cauley Creek build out toward the purchase of the old Dean Gardens property will provide a park for an area of the city that currently has zero parks and will preserve a riverfront parcel of land for the city!  Likewise it will allow more time to research a more appropriate development of Cauley Creek park while helping to provide the best parks availability and services for ALL Johns Creek citizens.  Since several acres of the Dean Gardens property can be put into conservation covenants, providing the city significant tax benefits, this purchase is a fiscally responsible move that keeps the preservation of one of our natural assets, riverfront property, under the protection of our city government.

While some city representatives continued to suggest that this facility will generate revenue, I have found no evidence to support that argument. This facility will cost a great deal to operate and maintain.  For example, it costs Alpharetta $78,000 annually just to operate and maintain the somewhat smaller North Park.  Operating and maintaining Cauley Creek as proposed will cost tax payers significantly for the foreseeable future.  And honestly why are we trying to develop our parks as money makers?  Parks are supposed to be for the enjoyment of the tax payers who fund them, not for bringing in people who live outside the city to use our roadways and facilities in trade for the slight tax earned on a hotel stay and a meal or two. It is not the job of city government to generate guests for hotels and restaurants. That’s the job of those businesses to attract patrons.

What about the environmental impact of this intensive development?  There are rare birds living there whose eco-system will be significantly disturbed. These species include the Henslow sparrow, Rusty Blackbird, Sedge Wren, and Lincoln Sparrow, along with protected woodpeckers and owls.  What about runoff into the Chattahoochee?

This development will also have unintended side effects on residents, such as light pollution, crowd noise, late night games, etc.  We’ve seen several instances in Johns Creek where residents were impacted by decisions made, and our politicians answers were never better than “well, we never thought about THAT happening!”  Those factors will also affect property values for those citizens who own property nearby.

Some development of Cauley Creek for sports use is reasonable.  The current plan for a large sports complex is unreasonable and needs to be re-designed with the city’s own Comprehensive Land Use Plan, and the protection of its own citizens in mind.  The agenda that should be served by this park if for the good of the voting taxpayers of this city, not the agenda of a small group or individual in our city government.

Dean Gardens Obstacles

Dean Gardens Obstacles
By: Mayor Mike Bodker, City of Johns Creek
The City of Johns Creek appreciates the desire and allure to preserve Dean Gardens and possibly convert the property into an exceptional property in the grand tradition it once had. The City has certainly attempted to do so over the years. As it stands today and to date, there has not been a reasonable price that the City has considered a wise investment of your tax dollars.
Dean Gardens, prior to the site being redeveloped into a residential subdivision was surely a gorgeous piece of property. After many failed attempts at a viable purchase from the City or others, Lennar Homes, through the site development process has now converted the property to a subdivision. In the course of this transformation, it has stripped the property of a number of assets that were once its trademark. If the City decided to invest in the property now, it must factor in the purchase price and the costs associated with restoring the grounds while under limited conditions. We must also consider the current physical condition of the stripped land, the fate of the homes that have been built and the roadway that Lennar has installed that is not conducive to either a park or venue setting.
Let’s go back a bit and review the history of the property and how we came to where we are today. When Larry Dean purchased the property more than two decades ago, he imagined it would be his “forever” estate. As such, when he combined a few separate parcels together to form his estate, he sold off much of the impervious surface rights that came with the property which were then utilized by the surrounding residential communities that would later form around it. In doing so, he did not impede his use of the property as an estate, but he placed unforeseen handicaps on its future ability to redevelop.
Impervious surface rights define how many structures, parking spaces, and other impervious uses can be developed on a property. Impervious surface limitations are even greater as you get within 2,000 feet of the Chattahoochee River by virtue of state law. These limitations still stand.
When Larry Dean approached the City on several occasions to purchase his property, we were not able to come to terms on a price that reflected a fair value for the property nor were we able to spend the amount that would have been required to use the property at that time due to the timing of those discussions relative to the young age of the City.
Eventually, he sold the property to Tyler Perry whom we believe intended to use it as an estate in a similar fashion to how Larry used it previously. There was not much activity for a while after Mr. Perry bought the property until representatives of Mr. Perry approached the City to discuss his plans to alter and expand the estate. The City informed Mr. Perry’s representatives about the serious restrictions which would limit his ability to make the kind of changes to the property he desired. It is important to note that the restrictions were not imposed by the City, but rather a consequence of the disposition of impervious rights by Mr. Dean many years before. Because of his inability to redevelop the property as he desired and other factors, I have been told that Mr. Perry then decided to sell the property. It is also important to note that again the City was unable to come to acceptable terms to purchase this property from Mr. Perry either.
After Mr. Perry put the estate on the open market, perspective buyer after perspective buyer made contact with the City with interest in redeveloping the property only to find out that the restrictions caused by a lack of impervious surface rights would render those plans unviable. Eventually, Lennar Homes purchased the property and set out to rezone it for redevelopment as a detached home subdivision. As the plans came before Council, the neighboring HOA’s spoke in favor of the proposed plans, realizing that no other plans put forward could have come to fruition. It was shortly after their purchase that the City made yet another attempt to purchase the property. Unfortunately, we were again unable to come to terms on a price as Lennar simply wanted more for the property than made economic sense for the City.
There have been many ideas floating over the years of what the property could ultimately become, such as a City Center, a performing arts center or a park. Let’s take the idea of it being developed into a park as an example. Sadly, much of the value of the property in terms of its use as a park has been destroyed since Lennar began redevelopment. Today, it is has been scraped barren of many assets, such as the incredible gardens, band shell, conservatory, wedding chapel and so on, that would have been of great value in a park setting. It has now been redeveloped in such a way that the improvements that have been made are for the benefit of a home builder and not that of a park.
As noted previously, to justify the purchase of this property, the CIty would have to acquire the land at such an enormous discount (as compared to what Lennar both purchased and has subsequently invested into the property), plus spend significant funds to develop it into its final form and adhere to the impervious restrictions still impacting the property.
So, what is the real value of this property and what is a fair price? We are open to evaluating this once again with the same scrutiny as we have through past offers and ideas. But, at the end of the day, it has to make financial sense, coupled with a realistic view of what can truly be accomplished with its purchase.

We understand the desire of our citizens to preserve this land and appreciate the comments of many. The City has always believed that Dean Gardens is a special piece of property and hopes that it becomes something special once again.

A Proposal for Dean Gardens Property

A Proposal for Dean Gardens Property 

By: Irene Sanders, Homeowner, Thornhill subdivision

 

Teddy Roosevelt once said, “The nation behaves well if it treats its natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value.” He was, of course, talking about our great national parks; but, the same sentiment can apply to Johns Creek, Georgia. If our city does not treat its green spaces as assets to preserve for the next generation, it ultimately has failed its citizenry.
From the ashes arose the Phoenix, and out of the ruin that was once a magnificent parcel of land on the south side of Johns Creek arises the opportunity to acquire a potential green space gem for the City. The reasons for acquiring Dean Gardens, this 58-acre parcel on the Chattahoochee River, are endless.

First, Dean Gardens could provide a park for a significantly underserved area of Johns Creek. In the current land use plan, this property was identified as a “distinctive area.” Indeed, one of the primary goals for this “distinctive area” was to use the Metropolitan River Protection Act to investigate measures to protect the Chattahoochee River as an important resource. That document envisioned improvements being made to the Old Alabama Road corridor, with additional multi-use trails and sidewalks connecting adjacent neighborhoods to parks (including the Autrey Mill Nature Preserve), and creating a multi-trail network along the river that residents could enjoy. In short, this property could be an important part of a future greenway plan for the residents in lower Johns Creek.

Newtown Park is terribly overused. Dean Gardens parkland could provide relief to the fast-paced Newtown scene. Residents who might prefer a more passive park for walking, biking, or simply enjoying an afternoon read along the Chattahoochee River would have a wonderful option in a pastoral setting.

Although Mayor Bodker states that the City has attempted to purchase Dean Gardens “a half dozen times,” discussions on such an acquisition have taken place during executive sessions, which are not subject to open record requests. Thus, we don’t know the amount the City offered in exchange for the land. We do know, however, that this property has been sold twice – once for approximately $7.2 million to Tyler Perry, and again to Lennar-Atlanta for approximately $10.5 million. Both purchase prices were considered true bargains at the time, considering the tremendous potential of the asset. What is amazing is that the citizens of Johns Creek have a remarkable third and most likely last chance to purchase this property – would Johns Creek residents see acquiring Dean Gardens as a good use of their tax dollars?

When Lennar-Atlanta requested rezoning of the property to allow for 70 single-family houses, there was considerable pushback from neighbors and efforts to improve the plan, but there was no legal rationale for the city to deny this zoning; sadly destruction of the considerable assets that made Dean Gardens truly remarkable was almost immediate. While the property has been stripped of these amenities, it still is a 58-acre property along the Chattahoochee River – a true value in its own right. With an eye to dynamic park development, Dean Gardens could once again become a jewel for Johns Creek.

So how can the City afford to purchase Dean Gardens? One option is to use park bond money. Of the five parks recommended by staff – all are north of State Bridge Road. Why not potentially develop these five green spaces more slowly or less intensely. Do the voting citizens who live south of State Bridge Road really want all the park bond money directed north of State Bridge Road? Do the citizens who live south of State Bridge Road in the lower half of Johns Creek deserve green space?

Cauley Creek, the intended target for a large portion of the recently approved park bond money, could still be developed; as the present parks bond currently has millions set aside for future park acquisition (http://www.johnscreekga.gov/parksbond) or if necessary the suggested plans for Cauley Creek could be scaled down (it is currently slated for roughly 900 parking spots and a competitive athletic facility – is that what the citizens truly want – see the plan the city has developed for this parkland at: http://www.johnscreekga.gov/JCGA/Media/PDF-Parks/Cauley-Creek-Park-Prelim-php.pdf) If this parkland is made less intense it could allow for the purchase of this riverfront resource in Area 3 along the Old Alabama Road corridor where no parkland currently exists. This wise use of park bond money would result in parks for both the north and south quadrants of the City, thereby impacting more citizens with the park bond money. Furthermore, to help drive down the purchase price, Johns Creek might apply for a conservation easement on much of the property; this would prohibit development on much of the property that is currently impeded by impervious restrictions. Certainly Lennar-Atlanta could either donate or drastically reduce the asking price on behalf of the city thus allowing a significant tax advantage to their corporation. In addition, the City could pursue federal and state grants for the protection of land on the river.

The one certainty is that every person in Johns Creek desires to preserve green space and parkland for future generations as Teddy Roosevelt suggested. Purchasing Dean Gardens is an option that’s too attractive to pass up. Given the considerable brain trust residing in Johns Creek and managing our great City, there’s no doubt we can find a reasonable way to add this outstanding parcel to our inventory of precious green space.

 

Our May 2017 Newsletter

A Letter from JCCA President Judy LeFave
Dear JCCA Members,
Over the past three years, I have given much of my time and effort to serving the citizens of Johns Creek through the JCCA.  During the past two years, I have taken on the challenge of leading this great organization as President. In that time I have faced many challenges, which includes guiding the JCCA toward a path of enhancing our purpose and function to the membership and in the community.  The JCCA has so much more to offer our membership than advising our member HOAs how to best handle a rezoning case.

We’ve made great strides in working with our sponsors to bring our membership the educational opportunities that will help make their HOA Boards a success. As an organization we’ve experienced unbelievable growth, this has truly been a dynamic time for the JCCA.

While the JCCA continues to evolve and grow, it will have to do so without me. I have recently had some life issues arise, and have decided to resign from the JCCA. At this time, the duties of President will be delegated to and divided among the Executive Committee consisting of Kirk Canaday, Kathleen Field and Michael Pelot-Hobbs until January 2018.  They will split the responsibilities of the President as each issue is presented. As I leave this organization, I am sure that the JCCA membership is in quite capable hands and look forward to watching it continue on its current path.
I am truly honored and humbled to have served my community.
Warm Regards,
Judy LeFave

Chris Coughlin Sworn In as Newest Johns Creek City Council Member
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Christopher Brasher swore in recently elected Johns Creek City Council member, and former JCCA Board Member, Chris Coughlin during Council’s April 24 regular meeting.

Coughlin took the oath of office for Post 4, which was vacated after Council member Bob Gray resigned in February 2017.

Coughlin’s term will run through November 2019.

A Point/Counterpoint on the Merit of the Dean Gardens Property

Many see this property as a gem of the City. The JCCA will send a special edition communication in regard to the potential sale/purchase of this Dean Gardens.

Outdoor Burning Prohibited Until Sept. 30
A state-mandated burn ban on all outdoor burning is in effect from May 1 through Sept. 30.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division imposes the ban to comply with Federal Clean Air Regulations.

According to the Georgia Forestry Commission, careless burning of debris is the leading cause of wildfires in Georgia.

In the hot months of summer, the ozone in the air can reach unhealthy levels. Outdoor burning is a significant contributor to the pollutants that form ozone, according to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

For more information about the burn ban, see the outdoor Burning Guidelines on the City website. Submit an Outdoor Burn Request using this online form.

Questions? Call Johns Creek Fire Marshal Chad McGiboney at 678.512.3363 or email him atFireMarshal@JohnsCreekGA.gov.

McGinnis Ferry/Jones Bridge Corridor Project Mtg Set for May 18
The City’s next monthly public update meeting regarding the proposed road widening projects along the McGinnis Ferry Road and Jones Bridge Road corridor will be held Tuesday, May 18, from 7-9 p.m. at City Hall.

The public is invited to attend to receive the latest updates, ask questions, and provide input regarding each project.

Additional meeting dates include:
  • June 15
  • July 13
  • Aug. 17
Connect Johns Creek2

City Seeks Input on Draft 2030 Comprehensive Plan
The City of Johns Creek is currently updating its Comprehensive Plan and we need your input regarding future transportation, commercial, and residential development needs. The draft plan will be available May 1, and the City needs your feedback.

Based on feedback from residents and stakeholders who have participated in meetings, workshops, and surveys, the City has proposed the following goals:

Goal 1: Create a citywide multi-modal transportation network. Reduce traffic congestion. Connect neighborhoods and schools.

Goal 2: Create an identity for the City. Preserve existing character of residential neighborhoods as a guide for future development.

Goal 3: Expand the City’s economic base.

Goal 4: Provide superior recreational and cultural activities throughout the City. Positively engage our diverse population.

Goal 5: Develop tools needed to implement goals. Revise the Zoning Ordinance and Development regulations.

Feedback Received So Far

Transportation congestion is a problem

Landscaped, multimodial street corridors are preferred

The City needs an identity–a town center

Low-density development is desired

Walk-ability and bike-ability is a preference

We have too much under-utilized retail development

We need more small locally owned shops

Residents prefer traditional styled architecture with a 3 story max building height 

For more information and to view the draft plan on May 1, visitwww.ConnectJohnsCreek.com.

Crews to Begin Inspecting Storm Drains in Johns Creek
The City of Johns Creek will begin to expand and improve the annual assessment of its storm drainage system.

Following a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) storm water discharge permit with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the City is required to have an inventory of the storm drain system and Johns Creek must inspect 20 percent of the system each year. The inspection includes identifying City-owned pipes and structures that need to be cleaned or repaired.

This year, the inspection program will include photographic records of the interior of storm drain pipes and structures. The City’s study contractor, Metals and Materials Engineers, will conduct the inspections, which are expected to take nine months.

Crews may need to be on homeowners’ properties in order to conduct the inspections and they will have identification. If the homeowner has any concerns regarding the inspection and requests a delay in the process, the crew will notify the City, who will then follow up with the resident.

The structures and pipes that need to be repaired will be placed on a list and repaired as funding and schedules allows. Urgent repairs will be prioritized and conducted as soon as possible.

For more information, contact the City of Johns Creek Land Development Manager, David Chastant, at 678.512.3284 or email David.Chastant@JohnsCreekGA.gov.

Check the Chattahoochee Water Level Before Heading to the River
Viewed from a distance, the Chattahoochee River looks like a languid, easy-going river, but its appearance can be dangerously deceptive. When the Corps of Engineers releases water from Lake Lanier, the resulting surge of water can cause the river to rise several feet in a short amount of time.

During the summer, the Johns Creek Fire Department Swift Water Rescue Teamresponds several times a month to emergency calls to rescue people from the frigid, rushing water of the river. In some cases, they’re asked to help recover bodies.

“The surge of water doesn’t come in a crashing wave,” said Johns Creek Fire Chief Jeff Hogan. “The water level just rises, and if people aren’t paying attention, they can suddenly find themselves stranded on a rock that’s about to go underwater or in a boat that’s being pushed downstream by the current.”

During a release, the Chattahoochee can rise as much as 11 feet in minutes. The water can be as cold as 47 degrees, enough to bring on hypothermia and hamper efforts to swim to shore.

“We’re asking people to please check ahead to see when releases are scheduled,” Hogan said. “Always wear flotation devices, and focus on safety.”

The Army Corps of Engineers releases water from Buford Dam during weekday afternoons unless there are unusual downstream water demands or especially heavy rains. In those situations, unscheduled water releases can come in the morning and on weekends.

The Corps gives notice, but the announcements vary from a few minutes to a few hours before the releases. People can call 770.945.1466 or listen to 1610AM. River users may also view the daily schedule for releases (see the Buford column).

Four warning sirens are placed between Buford Dam and State Road 20. Releases occur within minutes after the sirens stop.

River safety tips:

  • Call ahead at 770.9451466 to learn when releases are scheduled. It’s also a good idea  to call just before entering the river. Be aware of the time and head for the shore when the release is scheduled. Even though it may take a while for the water to get to you, don’t wait.
  • Always wear a flotation device.
  • Keep an eye on the water level – note the water level on a solid fixture, such as a bridge support, and check it periodically. If the water level has risen, it’s time to get out!
  • Just because you’re in a boat, don’t assume you’re safe. People have drowned after their boat struck rocks broadside and flipped.
  • Make sure someone knows where you are. If you get into trouble, someone can find you and alert authorities.
  • Pay attention to where you are – there are mile-markers along the river. If you have to make an emergency call, you can tell authorities where to find you.
For more information, watch the JC Swift Water Rescue Team’s Water Safety Video, review the US Army Corps of Engineers safety tips, or download the attached Chattahoochee WaterSafety flyer.
The JCCA is now on Facebook!
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Special Needs Summer Kick Off Picnic Set for May 6
Local families (Johns Creek and neighbors) who have a family member with a disability or special need are invited to help us kick off the summer season! Joins us for the Johns Creek Summer Kick Off Picnic on Saturday, May 6 at Newtown Park, on the Park Place Event Lawn.

The Hawaiian-themed event, sponsored by Great Prospects and Johns Creek Civitans, will feature games, music, food, prizes, and other activities. Festivities run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and are open to all ages.  Be sure to wear your favorite Hawaiian Shirt!

There is no cost for the event but please RSVP by emailing Kirk Franz, Recreation Manager at Kirk.Franz@JohnsCreekGA.gov.

Free Outdoor Fitness Returns to Johns Creek
Free Outdoor Fitness is back at Newtown Park Amphitheater and Autrey Mill Nature Preserve. Looking to try something new or you just enjoy working out in a fun outdoor atmosphere, the Outdoor Fitness classes are a great workout. Certified instructors teach these popular classes and all fitness levels are welcome.
The free group classes begin Sunday, April 9. Sign-in is at 8:45 a.m. and class begins at 9 a.m. All classes are one hour. Click here for more information.
2013 Sponsor - Sears Pool
JCCA Board of Directors
Judith LeFave – President
Abbotts Landing
president@jccahome.org

Michael Pelot Hobbs – Treasurer
Prestwick
treasurer@jccahome.org
Mark Venco
St. Ives

rep5@jccahome.org
Scott Sanders
Mayfair/St. Clair
rep9@jccahome.org
Kirk Canaday – Vice President
Hayden’s Walk
vp@jccahome.org
Kathleen Field – Secretary
Thornhill
secretary@jccahome.org
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