Wednesday, April 21, 2004
PTC Council warms to annexation change
By J. FRANK LYNCH
Annexation is no longer a taboo subject in Peachtree City, temporarily at least.
But a city ordinance prohibiting staff or council members from even officially discussing the possibility of enlarging the citys borders may soon be a thing of the past as well.
In its place, the city should adopt a formal but more flexible and logical policy on dealing with developers who walk into City Hall with annexation requests in hand, said Developmental Services Director Clyde Stricklin Friday during the citys annual planning retreat.
Thats exactly what happened the day before.
On Thursday, developer John Wieland delivered a letter to the mayor and city council formally asking them to lift the ban on annexations temporarily so they could examine his proposal to finish out roughly 350 acres in the so-called West Village area above Wynnmeade.
According to City Manager Bernard McMullen, the citys current protocol requires that Wielands request be placed on an upcoming council agenda, possibly as early as the first of May.
But instead of presenting the council with plans and hoping for some kind of approval, Wielands initial request will be for permission to approach Stricklin and his staff to discuss the development, the first step in any development process anyway.
We need some flexibility to be able to come back to the council with some recommendations on these requests, said Stricklin, who was hired last fall and appeared frustrated by the citys hard-line attempt to snuff out annexation proposals before they even get off the ground.
Weve got a development ordinance locally that says we cant consider annexations, Stricklin suggested. But its something were encouraged to consider and weigh the impact of as part of our comprehensive planning review.
When going through the long-range planning process, cities are required to look beyond their boundaries, Stricklin told city staff and a room full of citizens Friday afternoon.
Youre required to look at whats going on just outside your city, and how that will impact you, as well as how your city will impact those around you.
The annual update of the citys comprehensive plan focuses on six specific development goals that Stricklin said the city has neglected:
Provide a broad range of housing to allow an appropriate mix of styles, sizes and prices;
Continue to focus commercial development on the four village centers with minimal negative impact on nearby homes;
Maintain a diverse economy with a range of jobs and salaries;
Establish a comprehensive system of transportation that provides safe and clean ways to get around the city;
Establish appropriate land uses in areas that are suitable for development that would not endanger but protect the environment and aesthetics;
Continually provide adequate levels of service to all residents in every area of the city.
We havent been looking at the proper data since 1999 when the moratorium was adopted, said the developmental services director.
We need to be able to look at that information and weigh that impact on the city and bring that information to you, Stricklin told the council. For example, many people dont know that an upgrade of the citys sewer system several years ago was designed to serve the entire Westside tract eventually, Stricklin said.
But if that sewer access is tapped, what will it mean to future development elsewhere in the city? he asked.
Im proposing we adopt a process that allows for us to easily look at these requests and bring reports back to you, he told the mayor and council. We need to look at this whole concept, the whole region.
Judi-ann Rutherford, who requested the discussion on the moratorium be placed on last weekends agenda, said she was pleased with Stricklins suggestion.
I like the idea of a process, she told Stricklin. Thats what we need, a formal procedure to follow.
City Attorney Ted Meeker, who has expressed hesitation about the intent of the ordinance, suggested implementing a process and getting rid of the moratorium altogether.
But Councilman Murray Weed said it was all or nothing on the moratorium and asked if the process would apply to specific requests or be more general.
Either we have a moratorium or we dont have a moratorium, said Weed. Either youre pregnant or youre not; theres no middle ground.
Meeker said the process he envisioned would simply allow somebody to approach the city saying they would like to annex property, and that request would be presented to the council.
And they would determine if the annexation request be allowed to move forward, said Meeker.
McMullen insisted nobody at this point is arguing that the moratorium be lifted, pointing out that Fridays discussion was about the issue in general, and had nothing to do with Wielands request.
We just want to consider a method for dealing with annexation requests differently, he said.
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