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Street light law could be changing in Flowery Branch
Treasurer of homeowners association concerned about current financial burden
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Fred Richards sees Flowery Branch's efforts to reduce his subdivision's financial burden over street lights as a "step in the right direction."

But he would like to see more.

"Our position is that, being taxpayers in the city, if the city is paying for street lights for some subdivisions, they should pay for all of them - if the subdivision has city streets - or pay for none of them," said Richards, treasurer of Madison Creek's homeowners association.

"It's just that everybody should be treated fairly."

The city is looking at crafting a street light ordinance to deal with the issue, one that officials have said would be designed to equally distribute the cost of street lights for all property owners on public roads.

The issue first came to City Council's attention late last year when Madison Creek residents said they were paying Georgia Power Co. $34.71 per month for each of the subdivision's 18 street lights when the city is paying for that same amenity for others.

Council members later agreed to ask Mayor Mike Miller to meet with representatives from Georgia Power and the homeowners group to see if an agreement about rates could be worked out.

Georgia Power ended up offering a 14 percent reduction on a portion of the bill, with the discount being about $3 per month per light, City Planner James Riker reported to council Feb. 3.

Madison Creek, which is off Jim Crow and McEver roads, got a much better deal when City Council voted at that meeting to draw up a contract calling for the city to take over the street lights and have the neighborhood pay to the city Georgia Power's governmental rate of about $15 per month.

The contract could come up for a vote at the council's next meeting, set for 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 5517 Main St.

The city's electricity providers are Georgia Power, Jackson Electric Membership Corp. and Sawnee Electric Membership Corp.

Flowery Branch pays for 195 street lights, 26 of which are in Newberry Point and Portsmouth subdivisions, which don't have homeowners groups. Last year, the city's monthly street lighting bill was $2,552.

"The city historically has paid for street lights on public roads everywhere except for subdivisions where they have (a homeowners association)," Riker said. "In that case, the HOA historically has been responsible for those street lights."

One exception is Anagaluske subdivision, which is serviced by Sawnee.

"Those (street lights) are paid for by the individual property owners," Riker said.

City officials have said that in Madison Creek's case, Georgia Power and the developer had contracted to put the financial costs of the street lights onto the homeowners group. The contract had no pay-off date for the homeowners.

Richards noted that Madison Creek residents not only are paying for their street lights but are seeing part of their property taxes help subsidize lights for everyone else.

"That isn't really fair," he said.

Riker said the new ordinance "would be an attempt to address overall equity."

"For those subdivisions that pay for their own lights, they would not be part of it," he said. "If they are subdivisions with private roads who pay for their own lighting, they would not be part of it.

The ordinance would focus on "everyone who is served by a street light that is paid for by the city."

The street light ordinance could take a long time to put together. Riker said he expects city staff to give a progress report on the matter at City Council's March 11-12 retreat.

The city, as part of its research, could be looking at an overarching street light ordinance in Gwinnett County.

"We can't just draft something, have a resolution (before the council) and just all of a sudden have this show up on everyone's tax bill," Riker said.

"I'm not saying that's how it would show up - I'm just saying that's how Gwinnett County does it."

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