Peachtree City Council Post 1 candidate Laura Plauché Johnson provided these responses to questions posed by The Citizen:
1. What skill sets do you bring to the office?
I started a business called Peachtree Threads, which I ran out of my basement for 6.5 years until Covid. I managed everything from design and production to online advertising and sales.
I forged relationships with diverse clients and some of the 1,700 business owners in town, and gained experience with decision making, marketing, managing a budget and balancing cost with value.
I also have deep roots in Peachtree City. I moved here as a child in 1991 and five generations of my family (the Plauchés) have lived here.
I have been active in our community my entire adult life and have directed conferences and youth camps, am a substitute teacher, and volunteer in my church. Knowing our city’s history and having connections with many of our residents has equipped me to be an effective leader and public servant.
2. Specifically, what differentiates you from your opponent(s)?
There are three of us running for Post 1, and something unique I bring to the table is that I am the only one of those candidates who is raising a family.
I am offering Peachtree City a vital perspective that has been missing in local government. Right now, there is no one on the city council with school-aged children at home. That is one of the reasons I chose to run now.
With children at Huddleston Elementary, Booth, and McIntosh, I have the pulse on our city. I am out in the community every day on the golf cart paths, at our parks and playgrounds, playing pickleball, sitting in school traffic, substitute teaching, and cheering on my kids at youth sports and community theater.
I love the phase of life I am in — and think it uniquely qualifies me to serve.
3. List the top three problems facing Peachtree City and define exactly what you will do to solve those three problems.
Over the course of this campaign, I have had the opportunity to meet with several residents and hear about the issues that matter to them. Based upon their feedback and my own experiences growing up and raising a family in Peachtree City, I believe three of the most pressing issues we face are traffic, economic opportunity, and planning.
• Traffic: Many of us chose Peachtree City wanting somewhere clean and green — not congested and overdeveloped. The state department of transportation is expected to begin construction at the 54/74 intersection in spring of 2024, but that doesn’t mean we can’t impact traffic issues at the local level.
The city can remove and add speed bumps and HAWK lights, adjust the speed, the number of lights and more. I will stand firmly against proposals that would exacerbate traffic.
MacDuff Parkway is one area I’m concerned about as residential development continues. Like many of you, I also sit in the Booth Middle School traffic every day and drive up Stage Coach and Carriage Lane to pick up kids from school. I do not want that whole area at Robinson and 54 to become the next 54/74.
• Economic Opportunity: We are the best place to live and play, but we need to develop a better work climate. Our per capita income used to be the highest in the region. There is an important correlation there with great school systems and low crime.
I will work with the development authority to help attract businesses and motivate existing companies to expand. We want to find the right kind of businesses to grow the corporate tax base and offset the tax burden on our residents.
It takes real leadership and a willingness to sit down with stakeholders. It also demands a fully open and transparent process. I have the background and interpersonal skills necessary to tackle this challenge.
• Smart Planning: We live in a master-planned community. Our founder knew the importance of green space, and strategically placed village centers to void the need for a downtown. Green belts, lakes and ponds, and the 100+ miles of golf cart paths linking it all together are our city’s hallmark.
It is no accident that we do not have a problem with graffiti, nor billboards, litter, and overhead power lines or excessively tall buildings and apartments.
In some critical ways, the city has strayed from the founder’s vision. Traffic and poor development threaten our quality of life. This is why planning is so essential. We need to use data and look at facts, and most of all, protect our paths, villages, and green spaces.
4. The council has three holdover members: Mayor Kim Learnard, and council members Frank Destadio and Clint Holland. Based on your knowledge of the council, who will you likely be voting with most often in split votes? Whose side will you take on the issues noted below?
I have been asked this question in one form or another several times on the campaign trail. “Are you a (Clint) Holland or a (Mike) King?” And here’s my answer: I am Laura Johnson. Please, get to know ME! I am not running to be version 2.0 of someone else. On the contrary, I believe our unique voices are ALL important and help our city council function well.
At council meetings, you can count on me to listen with an open mind while remaining unabashedly committed to my principles. I respect those who are now serving and believe I have earned their respect in return.
We have far more in common than what divides us and I am eager to work together on behalf of the community. It would be a disservice to our citizens who come and speak at council meetings to have my vote committed before hearing all sides.
5. What is your exact position on allowing new multi-story mixed-use developments to be built or reconstructed in Peachtree City?
Not in favor. We live in a master-planned community and should stick to the core principles that make our small town great. Multi-story, mixed-use developments are a better fit for urban areas outside of PTC.
However, it is important to maintain and update our infrastructure in order to secure the future for our children.
Where reconstruction of aging facilities is warranted, there must be stakeholder involvement and it must be in keeping with the founder’s vision.
Excessively tall buildings do not belong in Peachtree City. When it comes to development or reconstruction, we must preserve the village concept as well as the green belts and adhere to the step down principle — we “step down” the density of residential areas the further away you move from the village centers.
6. Does your definition of redevelopment of existing village centers include new multi-family apartments, or townhouses, or condominiums? If yes, where?
No. Village centers are a convenient place to shop, gather and work, as well as destinations for families to go out for dinner or a treat. With the rising cost of living and gas prices, our villages are even more brilliant. I love that they offer independence to the aging community.
When I am on the city council, preserving the integrity of our villages will be a top priority. I envision families and neighbors gathering at our village centers for decades to come – but not living in them.
Right now Peachtree City housing is 83% single family homes, 11% apartments, 3% condos, and 3% townhomes. This is appropriate for a city of our size. I have not seen demand for more multi-family apartments.
7. Please name the village centers in Peachtree City and what you think should happen in each of those places.
The ideas I’ll list below come from citizens I’ve met on the campaign trail. I scheduled meet and greets in each of the five villages (Glenloch, Kedron, Aberdeen, Braelinn and Wilksmoor) in order to hear directly from those most impacted and best represent you.
• Glenloch: Residents told me their concerns about safety on the golf cart path along Stephens Entry. People speed through right by the recreation area — which draws in a lot of families and kids — and there are points on that path with only a tiny grass barrier a few inches from the street. If a small child is wobbling on a bicycle up ahead of their parent, there is a real safety concern.
The city also needs to eliminate user fees for the splash pad. One mom I talked to traveled to another city every week this summer to use their splash pad because in her words, “It was bigger and nicer than ours and they won’t charge me an entrance fee.” We need to make sure we have quality amenities for families and seniors right here in town.
• Kedron: A parent I talked with was concerned that the city may transition Kedron Aquatic Center into a seasonal pool to save money. While I appreciate the need for fiscal restraint, there is legitimate demand for this pool and it needs to stay open year round. High schools and private swim clubs hold team practices and meets there, kids take lessons, and residents swim laps. It is busy every time we go, and I’m glad our city has this great amenity! Since I’ve lived in Peachtree City, two city pools have been filled in.
We also need to ensure that the recently vacant Bed Bath & Beyond gets filled as well as the old Clayton State facility (whose tenants have moved into the old Booth Middle School building) and Kedron Office Park.
Aberdeen: The 38-acre Crowne Plaza Hotel is in receivership. It is owned by IHG which operates hotels worldwide. In the past, residents rose up to successfully prevent it from becoming a Great Wolf Lodge. Their input is vital when it comes to this site.
I met a master gardener who suggested a horticulture center with classes and beautiful gardens. Please keep the good ideas coming! Ultimately, we want something profitable and long-lasting that will provide value to our community.
Tuesday morning is recently vacant and residents want to ensure the right tenant is found. Lake Peachtree, the library, Picnic Park and Drake Field are all central gathering spots and should be kept beautiful and well-maintained.
• Braelinn: Quite a few residents expressed their desire for a family-friendly gathering spot in the old K-Mart. It was also brought up that we don’t have a dedicated teen space in town. Most people are aware of the situation with Kimco Realty, the decline of big box stores, and Kroger’s contractual right to approve new tenants (which makes a second grocery store such as Trader Joe’s unlikely to be approved). We cannot let it remain empty forever.
In addition, I supported the plan to repair the boardwalk behind the old community garden and am glad to see that moving forward. Our family loves The Fred and it remains profitable, according to my conversations with city leaders.
• Wilksmoor: Traffic is a heavy concern here. I have already mentioned 54/74 but MacDuff Parkway is another area where traffic continues to develop as new homes go in. There are also safety and quality of life issues with the cut-through traffic in neighborhoods, notably Planterra.
All of this has to be addressed. We also want to ensure that when new neighborhoods go in, they feel like the rest of Peachtree City. Our founder, Joel Cowan, believed green space was “as important as the need for water, streets and electricity.” I firmly agree.
I moved here as a kid in 1991, and can still remember seeing the green belts that made me wonder where all the homes were. Our paths, lakes, ponds, and green spaces make Peachtree City.
8. The city is nearly built out within its current borders: the Industrial Park has no big tracts left to develop, and residential areas are at or near their zoned limits. What is your plan for what’s next?
In a few key ways, we have strayed from the founder’s vision since my childhood, and that has brought on some traffic and quality of life issues. Annexation and rezoning are not inherently bad, but there needs to be a long-term strategy.
One of the main reasons I am running is to keep Peachtree City true to the founder’s vision. I have no rezoning or annexation agenda. In fact, I have ZERO ties to developers or interest groups. But my thoughts for what comes next are that Peachtree City does not need to build out even more; we have 38,000 residents and are nearing capacity.
Instead, we must focus on improving and maintaining what is already here and stay true to the core ideals that make this the best place to live.
9. Make your case for why you would support or oppose any annexations, and why citizens should welcome or oppose them.
When it comes to annexation, there has to be a clear benefit for our citizens. I have discussed this topic with one of the founders of Peachtree City and he emphasized the importance of a long-term strategy and the cost of piece-mealing in small pockets of land without a plan.
Traffic is the top issue I hear about from voters, and so my concern — and the first question I will ask with any new proposal — is how it will affect traffic flow.
You have heard me say this many times on the campaign trail, but we should be focused on fixing up what is already here rather than growing our borders. We have spaces in town (the vacant K-Mart, Stein Mart, Clayton State, and now Tuesday Morning and Bed Bath & Beyond) that still need to be utilized.
10. Place yourself on the political spectrum with 10 being far right, 1 being far left and 5 being the exact center. Yes, the office is officially nonpartisan, but every official ever elected to office occupies a spot on that ideological spectrum, whether the official admits it or not. We want to know where you actually are on that spectrum.
I am excited to bring a fresh conservative voice to the city council. As a lifelong Republican, I believe in limited government, free enterprise, and fiscal restraint. I honor the Constitution and the rule of law. It is fair to ask about my political views as these values will no doubt guide my decision making process. But as the saying goes, “potholes aren’t partisan.”
In my role as city councilwoman, my job will be to set aside partisanship and represent all of you. You don’t need me to tell you who to vote for or what to think about the latest D.C. political stunt. You DO need principled leaders who listen, look at issues from every side, and make the best decisions for Peachtree City. I am eager to do just that.
11. What else would you like to tell the voters of Peachtree City?
I am approaching this job with a listening ear and an open mind. I respect the process of receiving public input and hearing from all sides. It is a process I have proudly participated in as a citizen.
I am working hard for every vote and will work just as hard to represent you when I am on the council. Someone else may out-fund-raise me, but no one is going to out-work me. I am out in the community every day knocking doors, holding meet and greets, returning calls and emails, and attending events.
My four campaign cornerstones are: 1. Preserve the Founder’s Vision. 2. Represent Families — Young and Old. 3. Jobs and Fiscal Responsibility and 4. Integrity and Transparency.
Please visit VoteLPJ.com to learn more and connect with me on social media @VoteLPJ. If you want to talk, just reach out.
I ask for your vote for Post 1 on Nov. 7, 2023.