Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.

Johns Creek officials strategize at Greenville retreat

Johns Creek Strategic Retreat

Johns Creek officials walk toward TD Stage in Greenville Jan. 28 during a weekend planning retreat. 

GREENVILLE, S.C. — With a momentum-heavy approach, the Johns Creek City Council spent the Jan. 27 weekend nailing down strategic priorities for this year at its annual planning retreat.

City officials spent the weekend in a conference room at the AC Hotel in Greenville, S.C., to identify five priorities and 10 secondary focuses that will receive regular staff updates.

Johns Creek Assistant City Manager Kimberly Greer facilitated discussion, steadily keeping the City Council out of minutiae.

“I’ll just say I think you’re a morning person,” Mayor John Bradberry said of Greer, whose energy could have easily shaken sluggishness.

With a swift vote from the City Council, Greer wrote municipal elections and Creekside Park as the first two strategic priorities on a five-colored wheel posted on the dry-erase wall.

After considering a host of other proposals, the City Council added Town Center, economic development and the “gigantic elephant” that is Recreation and Parks to complete the list.

JC 0292 Johns Creek retreat Story 1 (1).JPG

Johns Creek Assistant City Manager Kimberly Greer leads discussion at the City Council retreat Jan. 28 in Greenville, S.C. Over the weekend, the City Council decided on five strategic priorities for the upcoming year — municipal elections, Creekside Park, Town Center, economic development and Recreation and Parks.

Establishing municipal elections

Following Milton’s lead, city councils across North Fulton in the last week have discussed the potential of self-administering municipal elections. The Johns Creek City Council decided to investigate operating its own municipal elections at its Jan. 23 work session.

As she did at the work session, City Councilwoman Erin Elwood urged her colleagues at the retreat to await final word from Fulton County on the price it would charge to run the election as it has in years past. She said the county’s proposal is expected Feb. 1. She said if cost is a true factor, the City Council should examine the county proposal before deeming municipal elections a strategic priority.

“We will have said that we're not going to do something else awesome because we've chosen to do [municipal elections] instead,” Elwood said.

But the option stuck. Bradberry remarked on the need for the City Council to have an aggressive posture on the issue of municipal elections.

“...For this point in time, it’s the posture of the Council,” Bradberry said. “And that's where we need to be going.”

The next discussion on municipal elections is scheduled for the Feb. 28 City Council work session, a day before the March 1 deadline set by Fulton County.

Town Center continued

The City Council agreed to stay the course for Town Center, a strategic priority also identified at last year’s retreat. Councilmembers have already taken significant action on the project, like approving Town Center zoning districts meant to give guidance to members of the private sectors wishing to redevelop the area.

Most recently, the City Council approved zoning for Medley, a $350 million mixed-use development set to anchor the Town Center. Medley will provide residential, retail and “eatertainment” offerings.

“Your efforts, your visible public focus on Town Center, is what brought Medley to Johns Creek,” Greer said. “It wasn't going to be another plan that sat on my shelf. It was going to be something we were committed to doing.”

The Town Center will also see Boston Scientific's $65 million research and logistics facility as part of its Innovation Hub.

To spur more redevelopment, the city will begin construction of infrastructure and other improvements on land it owns at the site.

Creekside Park, a symbol

The 20-plus acre Creekside Park will anchor the city’s Town Center, serving as a community gathering space intended to host special events and other programming. The pond behind Johns Creek City Hall will be at its center.

Creekside Park was pulled out of the larger Town Center as its own priority to give the city more drive to its completion. The park is also symbolic, Councilwoman Elwood said.

Summing up Elwood’s estimation, Greer said, “It's a symbol of priority. It's the action that moves us forward. It's what our community sees.”

JC 0202 Johns Creek retreat Story 1 (2).JPG

The final draft of strategic and secondary priorities for 2023 was posted Jan. 29.

Forging investment opportunity

Economic development is one facet of several concrete projects, like Town Center, but the City Council conceded that general economic development of the city should be designated as a separate strategic priority in 2023.

Another project on the books is the revitalization plan for Medlock Bridge at State Bridge roads. The plan encourages redevelopment of existing shopping centers that have high vacancy rates into walkable village centers at all four corners of the intersection. The project was also noted as a secondary priority.

Consultants are developing proposals for the plan, and city staff will make a contract award recommendation at the March 14 City Council work session.

Recreation and Parks

Out of the five strategic priorities, Recreation and Parks involves the most moving parts. The 10-year Recreation and Parks Master Plan, which has yet to be officially approved, will act as a springboard.

Greer said the “real crux” of plan implementation is choosing what the “first splash” will be, using the $1 million set aside in the 2023 budget. The City Council will then pick the next round of projects to be implemented through the fiscal year 2024 budget, she said.

Early on in the retreat, the City Council highlighted some projects, like trail buildout. Trails were the biggest ask among residents, according to questionnaires solicited for the master plan.

While buildout includes the 5K perimeter loop at Cauley Creek Park, the City Council plans for a sidewalk and trail network spanning across the city to fill in gaps and improve mobility for pedestrians in addition to a trail connection between Cauley Creek Park and Town Center.

Other essential pieces to the plan include renovation to the water reclamation plant at Cauley Creek Park for a makerspace and a riverside outparcel to be used for special events. Because the Cauley Creek Park’s special event space would be the lone special events facility, the City Council elected to seek other options for special events as a secondary priority.

Ongoing initiatives

Initially marked as a top-level priority, an effort toward sustainability was listed for secondary focus. Initiatives include Green Communities certification and a city recycling program. To obtain Bronze level certification, which requires 175 points, city staff have completed 14 projects, submitted 7 projects and have 11 projects in the works.

Stormwater was also listed to address eroding banks in the backyards of homeowners and the upstream causes for the problem. The City Council also voted to prioritize building and permitting. In November 2021, councilmembers eliminated four types of permits seen as overburdensome to homeowners. Since then, a task force has been formed to consider other adjustments.

Councilmembers also touched on TSPLOST, or Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax, II projects. The city is expected to receive $65.5 million from the five-year tax that will fund some 18 projects approved last April. Projects include bridge improvements, traffic congestion relief, landscape and streetscape improvements, operations and safety projects and pedestrian and bike improvements.

Other secondary priorities drafted at the planning retreat include the city’s communication strategy, the Transportation Master Plan and historic preservation, which entails adopting a Historic Preservation Ordinance. The City Council also voted to add the Legacy Center, a performing art facility, to the list. At a recent work session, councilmembers agreed to acquire land for the venue.

Reach Amber Perry at 770-847-8334. Follow her on Twitter @ambermarieperry