Post 3 candidate Kenneth Hamner answers The Citizen’s questions

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Kenneth Hamner, Post 3 candidate
Kenneth Hamner, Peachtree City Council Post 3 candidate

Kenneth Hamner grew up in Peachtree City and graduated from McIntosh High School in 1999. He and his wife Michelle returned to Peachtree City in 2012 and in 2018 founded his own small business marketing firm Funnel Digital Marketing. He also has served on the board of Liberty Tech Charter School in Brooks.

Since 2019, Hamner has served as a volunteer member of the city Planning Commission.

Below are questions from The Citizen and the candidate’s answers following each question.

QUESTION 1: The City Council this year declined to roll back the millage rate for city property taxes even though we are experiencing the worst inflation in the last 40 years. The resulting surplus will be 50% of yearly expenditures rather than the required 31%. Do you agree with their vote? Why or why not?

ANSWER: If I had been a Council Member at the time of this vote, I would have encouraged the city to consider alternative plans to minimize our tax bills. This is an approach Newnan took. It rolled its millage rate back to produce a 0% increase in year-over-year taxes.

As the question noted, Peachtree City’s reserve fund is currently around 50% of yearly expenses, which is significantly better than the 21% of yearly expenses the reserve fund had heading into the 2008 financial crisis. To minimize a tax increase, I would consider dipping into our healthy reserve fund appropriately to help keep money in citizens’ pockets.

QUESTION 2: The previous City Council voted to abolish a popular decades-long moratorium on constructing more multifamily housing, despite the fact that — without rezoning — the city is considered by many to be “built-out.” Give your position on the council eliminating the moratorium and explain your position on building more multifamily housing. Specifically, will you vote to build multi-story apartments in the city? Why or why not?

ANSWER: I’m opposed to developing additional apartments within Peachtree City because there is no property that would work with our Comprehensive Plan, and I will support two actions to prevent these units (none of which require another moratorium):

#1 — I will oppose turning our remaining Commercial & Industrial zoned areas into Residential.

Today, there is very little undeveloped land within Peachtree City, and what is left is primarily zoned as Commercial or Industrial. There are currently over 600 units across five large complexes. Given what little land there is for new development, building an additional large complex would require rezoning an area that is currently designated for Commercial or Industrial. I oppose turning any of those areas into Residential, which would be needed for a sixth major complex.

#2 — I will enforce General Residential rules that prevent high-density developmentA

If a developer could not get a Commercial or Industrial area rezoned, they would have to pursue redeveloping a large property currently zoned Residential. When the moratorium was eliminated in 2019, this could have worked for the developer because an area zoned as General Residential could have had up to 25 units per acre. However, the rules in 2022 are different.

As a Planning Commissioner in 2020, I supported revising the General Residential code to reduce dwelling units down from 25 units per acre to 12. This change was supported by the other Planning Commissioners, and the reduced dwelling units were later adopted by the City Council.

As a Council Member, I will continue to support this revised unit cap and will deny requests to circumvent our high-density limits.

QUESTION 3: The City Council has voted for land zoned commercial, industrial, and office/institutional to be rezoned for residential zoning. Do you agree with that strategy? Why or why not?

ANSWER: For far too long, the city has approved rezoning our Industrial and Commercial areas to Residential. This is bad for Peachtree City for several reasons:

•To maximize profits, developers are increasingly packing new residential areas with houses on top of each other. Sharp increases in residents strain city services, increase traffic, and contribute to school overcrowding.

•Given the same amount of area, the city collects far more revenue from businesses than it would from residents.

•The city loses money on residential properties that are approximately under $400,000.

As a Council Member, I will never support an action that is not in the city’s best interest, and rezoning Commercial & Industrial to Residential falls under that category.

QUESTION 4: A majority of the City Council recently approved changes to the city’s comprehensive plan that would allow developers an avenue to build more multifamily housing in mixed-use and stand-alone formats across the city. Do you agree with the changes to the comprehensive plan allowing more multifamily housing and why? If you do not agree, would you vote to remove the recent changes to the comprehensive plan? Why or why not?

ANSWER: The 2022 Comprehensive Plan was put together by a Steering Committee of 10 volunteers over a seven month period. The public had opportunities to share their thoughts on where they’d like to see Peachtree City go with four public open houses/workshops, five Steering Committee meetings open to the public, and two surveys that collected over 1,500 individual responses. The city also made a good effort to promote these public input opportunities with the following:

•A post on the city’s website homepage for 5 months

•Newspaper ads

•12 notices in the city’s weekly newsletter that reaches over 7,000 people

•13 posts on the city’s Facebook page

•2 paid Facebook ads

•A digital display in the city hall/municipal court lobby

•Staff presentations to a local book club that has over 200 members

•Informational fliers in city hall

Given this, there were many opportunities for the plan to register input from the public and incorporate opinions appropriately.

Overall, there is a lot I like about the Comprehensive Plan that passed. Here are some great things the plan directs the city to do with detailed, actionable recommendations:

•Promote family-oriented activities.

•Provide quality community facilities.

•Preserve our greenbelts and natural areas.

•Establish and maintain a transportation system that provides safe and convenient movement.

•Maintain high quality infrastructure that serves both residents and businesses.

•Support public safety and emergency response services.

The most criticized aspect of the plan is its formal inclusion of mixed use. I understand those concerns, especially after the Living Centers Initiative and past attempts to move away from the village concept. I approve of the compromise that was made to include mixed use in the Comprehensive Plan that said those buildings are no taller than three stories, and as a Council Member, I will make sure that any development is in-line with that compromise while adhering to our village concept.

The current Comprehensive Plan is scheduled to be updated again in 2027. I do not support making a new plan until then because that would require forming another Steering Committee, conducting months of meetings, and expending city resources that could produce a version similar to what we have now.

QUESTION 5: Many residents have spoken out against the concept of “mixed use” developments — defined as multi-story buildings with retail on the ground floor and multi-family or condos on second- and even third-story buildings. Would you vote for that concept? Why or why not?

ANSWER: I would review supporting or opposing mixed use (and the condos and townhouses associated with them) on a case-by-case basis because those are part of the newly-adopted Comprehensive Plan. Also, not every proposal is created equal.

Having said that, as a Planning Commissioner, I have not been in favor of many proposed mixed use developments. Here are two examples:

•As a Planning Commissioner in 2020, I opposed redeveloping the Governor’s Square area in east Peachtree City. The plan proposed building commercial/residential mixed-use buildings and an additional 94 houses crammed on top of each other. This plan was great for the developer, but it was bad for our traffic and crowded school system. Equally as important, it also did not align with the 2017 Comprehensive Plan and placed high-density housing in areas specifically designated for low-density. Despite all this, City Council members voted in favor of the development 4-0.

•Shortly after the Governor’s Square rezoning, there was a rezoning proposal to place a large mixed use development along Highway 54 between Carriage Lane and Robinson Road. This was significantly outside of our approved plans on how we develop the city, and it would have caused further traffic areas around the new Booth Middle School. I opposed its development as a Planning Commissioner, and the rezoning did not occur.

QUESTION 6: Do you foresee the need to build any new government facilities in the city? If yes, what would you like to see built, and explain how you would fund the construction and the annual maintenance and operations?

ANSWER: As a member of the 2023 SPLOST Advisory Group, I supported using those potential tax dollars to create new facilities and infrastructure throughout Peachtree City. Here are a few examples:

•I supported constructing two new stations for our fire/EMS department. One would serve the far southside of town that is currently drastically underserved (which is concerning given the area’s high population and the Somerby senior living complex on Rockaway Road). The other would replace our aging midtown station by Fresh Market.

•For our police I supported upgrading the police station with a new evidence room since the current one no longer meets our needs.

•The tunnel by the Braelinn Taco Bell is one of the heaviest used tunnels in Peachtree City. It also has the lowest ceiling, causing carts to scrape against the tunnel’s top. I supported investigating ways to replace this tunnel with something larger and safer.

The construction of these items would be covered by SPLOST dollars. Funds for annual maintenance and operations for our essential public safety facilities would come from an appropriately allocated general fund. Other items like the tunnel would be a one-time expense and not need addressing for many years.

For additional facilities that may be needed, I would consider using our recurring revenue, our Capital Improvement Plan, or (in extreme cases only) a General Operations Bond to fund construction. Facilities would then use the general fund appropriately to cover annual expenses.

QUESTION 7: Will you support annexations to increase the size of the city? Why or why not?

ANSWER: A Growth Boundary Study was completed in 2014 to identify how future annexations would impact Peachtree City. Several areas with a mixture of residential and commercial have been annexed into the city since then, and those made sense to annex for two reasons:

•Taxes from the commercial properties allowed the new areas to be financially beneficial.

• Because of their proximity to Peachtree City and distance from county-provided services, these areas were already utilizing our city services like police and fire, but because these areas were in the county and weren’t being taxed by Peachtree City, they were getting our city services for free. Annexation finally taxed them for the services they were using.

I oppose further annexation of considered areas because additional incorporation would not be in the city’s best interest. The lack of commercial properties would not bring in enough tax revenue, and annexation would require us to cover street maintenance, water/sewer, multi-use paths, and more. Unless economic conditions change, these areas are not currently in our best interest to incorporate.

QUESTION 8: The City Council has been criticized for restricting citizen comments in council public meetings, both the limited time allowed for each speaker (twice less than 55 seconds per speaker) and the limited number of people allowed to speak. The council divided the allotted 20 minutes by the number of speakers, rather than extending the 20-minute limit. Where exactly do you stand on allowing citizens who make an effort to attend a public meeting to be able to comment? Would you vote to extend the time allotted for the public to speak rather than cut each speaker’s time to fit within the limit? Why or why not?

ANSWER: We ran into a similar issue on the Planning Commission after City Council stripped our voting privileges and we adopted a “workshop” model. We created a public comment system where every speaker could share their thoughts with no hard time limit, but Commissioners had the right to ask them to wrap-up their comments once they had made their point in a concise manner and were not repeating themself. This has worked well for the Planning Commission, and we mostly have not had any significant issues with this set-up.

As a Council Member, I would be open to testing a similar arrangement. If that is not a good fit, I would also consider having a multiple-minute time limit for each speaker (not just a block of time shared amongst everyone). As the current limits stand right now, they are too restrictive and ultimately disrespectful to those willing to speak to City Council.

QUESTION 9: Have you read the city charter and ordinances for Peachtree City? Why or why not?

ANSWER: As a Planning Commissioner, I strive to make objective comments and decisions that are guided by the city’s documents. Along with the Comprehensive & Land Use plans, I’ve read the city charter and ordinances multiple times over the years. It has allowed me to understand how the city operates and has helped me be a better Planning Commissioner.

QUESTION 10: Have you read the Georgia Open Records law and the Georgia Open Meetings law? Why or why not?

ANSWER: Yes. I first read these when I became a Planning Commissioner, and I’ve referenced them multiple times since.A

For example, the former city manager invited Frank Destadio and me to a two-on-two meeting on a weekday morning with other Council Members back in 2019. I re-read the Georgia Open Meetings law at that time to confirm the meeting was legit because discussing a rezoning request with two Council Members for one hour and then another two Council Members the following hour seemed questionable. While the meeting was legal and open to the public, it still felt like issues were being discussed away from the public’s view. As a Council Member, I strongly support abandoning the current weekly two-on-two meetings held amongst Council Members and staff so discussions on city matters can be presented in a more open forum.

QUESTION 11: Do you have any comments on your positions on issues facing the city?

ANSWER: I have a lot more to say about how we can preserve Peachtree City. I encourage you to visit www.HamnerForPTC.com to view my detailed plans on the following:

•Restore Integrity To Our City – Do what’s best for us all, not the select few.

•Improve Our Traffic – Address the root causes behind our gridlock while targeting hotspots.

•Save Our Unique Character – Revitalize our city without sacrificing our community.

•Grow Our Economy – Minimize our taxes while encouraging investment.

•Support Our City Services – Ensure our path system, public safety, and recreation opportunities have the resources that they deserve.

•Protect Our Green Spaces – Conserve our natural green spaces for future generations.

Kenneth Hamner

candidate for Post 3

Peachtree City, Ga.

www.HamnerForPTC.com