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Thank you for taking the time out of your busy Wednesday to hear updates on where the city is, and where it’s going, as the year 2022 continues to fly by. It’s already April, but it seems as if just a few weeks ago, I was delivering a State of the City Address to kick off the new year.
Tonight, I am coming to you via Zoom because my wife and I are visiting our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in Arizona. The city chose tonight to host a townhall meeting because it coincides with Georgia Cities Week, which is recognized April 24th through April 30, and hosted by the Georgia Municipal Association.
Georgia Cities Week gives hundreds of cities an opportunity to tell their stories when the focus statewide is on showcasing and sharing information about the valuable services cities Lilburn provide residents.
And in Lilburn, we have much to be proud of, to share, and to disseminate.
We try to do so routinely with our Lilburn News newsletter, city website and Facebook pages. So much of what you hear tonight you may already be aware of if you follow our postings and messaging, something we have ramped up in recent months as a means to “tell our own story.”
So, let’s begin!
First, a little bit about me and my ties to Lilburn. I served as a City Council member from 2007 to 2020 and I have been mayor since March 2020. Sheila and I have lived in Lilburn since 1981.
We love this community.
We are especially delighted to see the dynamic changes unfolding before our very eyes, and hope you are as well.
For starters, here’s a little background.
The City of Lilburn partners with the Lilburn Community Improvement District and the Downtown Development Authority on various initiatives aimed at bringing new businesses with new jobs to the community.
Without a doubt, developers, neighbors and even some of our very own citizens are “Rediscovering Lilburn!”
Let’s talk about some of the projects taking shape right now.
As I stated in a recent online commentary, a project has been awarded at Main Street and Railroad Avenue west of town to revitalize Old Town streetscaping and pedestrian crossings, add a four-way stop, lighting and landscaping
All of this is necessary to manage traffic and to clear out the old to make way for the new. It’s also the precursor to new beginnings that include construction of retail space across Main Street from existing businesses on the west side of Main Street, along with sidewalks, curbs & gutters.
Additionally, properties at First, Main, and Velva streets are owned by the Lilburn Downtown Development Authority. The corner at First and Main is being reserved by the DDA for construction of a new restaurant.
And please know that we are focused on areas beyond Old Town. Of particular concern is the U.S. Highway 29 corridor and its potential for commercial growth, notably restaurants.
In 2021, the city, LCID and DDA brought in consultants Retail Strategies to evaluate our existing commercial climate and recommend solutions to capture any dollars of our residents that are leaving Lilburn for goods and services elsewhere.
As a result of the work by Retail Strategies, the city currently is reviewing plans for a new grocer and a new fast-food, casual restaurant. We expect many more success stories during our three-year agreement with Retail Strategies.
While we pursue these capital projects, rest assured your City Council remains laser-focused on maintaining a safe community with a variety of community assets such as high-quality parks and trails. Businesses thrive when the city thrives, and our city services and assets create an environment that no one (or business) wants to leave.
As for residential growth, well, that’s hard to miss, but here are some examples:
As you can see, we are well on our way to providing the kind of rooftops and accessibility that attracts restaurants and eateries, something residents have said they have wanted for years.
Now, let’s turn to finances. I am proud to say the city stands on stable ground.
One of the best economic indicators for our city is the sales tax we collect. We are currently receiving approximately 40% more per month than anticipated. Moreover, the 2017 SPLOST funds provide critical resources for public safety. They repave local roads and design new connections, and the SPLOST dollars jointly-fund transportation and recreation projects to maximize limited city resources.
Now let’s turn to safety.
As you know, a safe community is an attractive community. It attracts rooftops and restaurants. Thanks to Police Chief Bruce Hedley and his fine department - as well as buy-in from you, our citizens - Lilburn is blessed to have a crime rate that has declined 30 percent since 2016 and a noticeable 9 percent between 2019 and 2021.
It takes dedication from the police department and our remarkable community policing spearheaded by Senior Police Officer Mike Johnson to maintain such an outstanding low-crime record. Officer Johnson spends countless hours speaking to senior living communities, churches, schools – wherever there’s an audience to teach and promote preventative crime measures and safety initiatives. He’s arguably the face of the Lilburn Police Department and, I might add, of the city of Lilburn as well.
If you’re in attendance tonight Mike, I thank you for all you do, as well as your colleagues and our city staff in general. We are fortunate to have the personnel that we have in all of our departments.
Lilburn has been a bedrock of leadership within Gwinnett County and has remained ethical, steady and forthright in its decision-making. Lilburn has a long history of visionary leaders who have remained focused and steadfast in their decisions.
Next month, we will experience transfer in leadership, but no loss whatsoever of our vision and pursuits related to quality-of-life. After 14 years, Bill Johnsa is retiring as City Manager, but will remain on board to manage our capital projects, which he has advocated and envisioned his entire tenure with the city. He laid the groundwork for many of our successes, and for that, we thank him.
Assistant City Manager Jenny Simpkins will step into Bill’s former role. She has been with the city nearly two years so, rest assured, the City of Lilburn will continue its legacy of strong, ethical responsible leadership. We often say that Lilburn is a 30-year “overnight” success story. The renewal of a city takes a focused leadership with decades of continuity and purpose.
Lilburn continues to attract the attention of families, young professionals and folks just looking to relax and have fun. Your city staff and elected remain committed to ensuring that your hometown continues to be a place you are proud to call home.
Again, thank you for taking the time to hear me speak.
Now, I will answer any questions that you may have.