Digging Into The Numbers: Forsyth County is Not the Cause of Our Congestion Problems(We Are)

Johns Creek has a constant claim that the traffic here is bad, although it is NOT the fault of our poorly timed and prioritized traffic lights.  No instead it is because of the growth in areas around us that is the cause of our issues.

So I decided to dig into the numbers looking at what the last ten years have brought us in terms of population growth among Forsyth County, Johns Creek, Roswell, Alpharetta and Milton.  What I found is amazing.

Fastest Growing in terms of % Growth: Forsyth County

While that is not a surprise the reason is rather simple:  Forsyth County actually started with a much smaller total population than Johns Creek, Roswell, Alpharetta and Milton did ten years ago.  Put simply they started with a lower headcount, which makes their percentage growth look higher.

Annualized Rate of Growth Over The Last Ten Years

  1. Forsyth County   3.67%
  2. Milton                  2.79%
  3. Alpharetta           2.20%
  4. Johns Creek      1.75%
  5. Roswell              0.66%

There are no major surprises there.  In fact you might look at the numbers for Johns Creek and say “AHA”!  But that is not all there is to this story.

Density Per Square Mile

  1. Johns Creek      2665
  2. Alpharetta          2333
  3. Roswell             2249
  4. Milton                  964
  5. Forsyth County  860

Density refers to the average number of people living per square mile.

 

Johns Creek is # 1 in density.  We have today 2665 people living in every square mile of Johns Creek(on average).  We are more than 15% denser than Alpharetta and more than three times denser than Forsyth County.

Now let’s get to the most interesting discovery.  Who has been adding the most people per square mile over the last ten years-Forsyth County or a Fulton City?

Change in Density Per Square Mile Over Ten Years

  1. Alpharetta               456
  2. Johns Creek          425
  3. Forsyth County     260
  4. Milton                     232
  5. Roswell                 144

Johns Creek and Alpharetta are already dense and getting denser at a faster rate than even Forsyth County, despite it’s tremendous growth.  Why is that?

It’s the size of the land where the growth is taking place, and the starting point of the population 10 years ago.

Size of Cities/Counties

  1. Forsyth County  247 Square Miles
  2. Roswell                42.01 Square Miles
  3. Milton                   39.15 Square Miles
  4. Johns Creek       31.27 Square Miles
  5. Alpharetta           27.3 Square Miles

So if we take the four cites and compare them to Forsyth County on the number of people added per square mile, we find out that despite the growth in Forsyth County, the four cities are adding more people per square mile than Forsyth County.

Growth of Four Cities per Square Mile Over the Last Ten Years

314 New Residents Per Square Mile

Growth of Forsyth County per Square Mile Over the Last Ten Years

260 New Residents Per Square Mile

In fact the four cities are adding residents at a rate that is a whopping 20.7% faster than Forsyth County over the last ten years.

What is the result of the growth that we have seen over the last ten years on a per acre basis?  The results are revealing.  Forsyth County has less than two residents per acre on average, while Johns Creek has more than four residents per acre on average.  So not only are we more dense than Forsyth County, we are adding density faster than Forsyth County.

Remember our zoning as you look at this chart.  R-3, for instance allows 3 homes per acre.  Many townhome communities have 7-9 units per acre.  That translates to 20-30 more people per acre(which is one of the reasons why the densities are rising so fast in Johns Creek and Alpharetta).

 

 

 

In the chart below you can see that Forsyth County is less than half of the population when compared to the four other cities from North Fulton.  And as Forsyth County is adding density at a slower pace than we are, Forsyth County’s  portion of this pie will shrink unless we and the other cities put the brakes on increasing our densities.

 

 

So maybe we better look in the mirror when we start blaming others for our traffic congestion problems.  We are packing in residents faster than they are, and there is no end in sight for this trend.

Is this what we really seek as the future of Johns Creek?  To be the most densest populated City in the area?

Let’s hope not.

The Great Billboard Controversy of Johns Creek

For several years now the interests of the Johns Creek residents have been growing in their desire to  both understand and participate in how their closest level of government-their city government- functions.

And, what many of have seen has not been exactly what we had hoped for.  Voter apathy has been mentioned often in City Council Meetings.  Lack of citizens showing up at City Hall for Council Meetings was evident.  City Council members tired of the same citizens making public comments.

Yet over the last three years there have been several events that have awakened the public, and coupled with more ways to have conversations (such as the Johns Creek Post and NextDoor) the genie is out of the bottle.  Public scrutiny is going to only grow. Continue reading

Are Our High Quality Schools Sustainable With High Density Housing?

There is another problem with High Density housing that you will not hear any politicians speak about in public.  I am not a politicians, and so I will.

The health of your schools is threatened with higher density housing.  Why?  Because a townhouse that sells for $300,000 will pay 1/2 the school taxes that a house that sells for $600,000 will.  If  both homes have two kids in school, the impact is significant. Throw an apartment complex into the equations and the fiscal impact on schools becomes even  more significant.

It costs $13,433 per student per year to educate children in Fulton County.  No small amount.  Property taxes are essential to school funding(especially those property taxes coming from people with no children in school).

Assuming 12 years of education per student, that totals  $161,196, quite a large sum.

For our example, we will consider an apartment, a townhome, and a single family home.

Based on my calculations from the number of units at some of our most valuable apartment complexes here in Johns Creek, an apartment unit is valued round 110,000 for tax purposes.

Apartment Townhome House
Value $110,000.00 $325,000.00 $500,000.00
School Taxes $1,284.05 $2,918.30 $4,961.11
Cost per Student 13433 13433 13433
% Covered 9.56% 21.72% 36.93%

(The above taxes are from the 2016 tax rates, and assume homestead exemptions have been applied for on the Townhome and house.)

As you can see, apartment dwellers and Townhome dwellers pay far less towards the education of a student than does a homeowner who lives in a more expensive property.

The math makes it clear.  If you continue to add more and more students who are in households contributing less to the cost of education, either property taxes will need to rise significantly or the cost of the education will need to drop sharply, reducing the quality of that education.

And none of this would even be possible today at these tax rates were it not for households with no children contributing to the system even though they have no children in school

Which leads us to this question:  How smart is it for communities to continue adding high density housing, which puts the same strain on school financing economics when you know that they are going to contribute substantially less to those very same schools?