PTC looking to sell our green space for big box

Tue, 01/30/2007 - 5:14pm
By: Letters to the ...

Longtime residents of Peachtree City and Fayette County are continually experiencing that punched-in-the-gut feeling that accompanies the almost weekly bad news of one over-development scheme after another. Even the revelation of significant evidence pointing to disastrous consequences with traffic and public service levels has not deterred some of our decision-makers from proceeding with certain projects.

Many wonder why we are experiencing this development avalanche which is so contrary to what we have known in Peachtree City for four decades. I think it all boils down to a few key things: lack of long-term vision; exclusion of the citizenry; severe lack of institutional knowledge and planning acumen with elected officials; the mayor’s allegiance to development interests and a lack of aggressiveness from the remaining councilmen.

Can this situation be turned around? I quickly answer with a “yes” because the majority of the City Council has good intentions. When the mayor eliminated citizen committees, public task forces and other forms of public discussion, the council lost the pulse of the city. The council’s lack of institutional knowledge simply made things worse.

Look at the City Council’s desire for additional big box stores in our city. The City Council has made it very clear they are pursuing big boxes for the cash. The shortsighted vision of evading community standards for an infusion of ad valorem taxes is heartbreaking. We would be trading our principles for the dollar.

Let us not forget it was our ability to adhere to our aesthetic and planning principles that created the success we have enjoyed for the last 30 years. Peachtree City’s success has come from being a niche product. Most of us living in this area are refugees from cities and counties who lacked standards and had little vision. Why would we want to go back?

I found that the Planning Commission was not even considering city ordinance 875, the ”Big Box” ordinance, in their discussions on the prospective projects. More public input was received from citizens across the city against big box-type stores than any other issue that has come before the City Council. More public input was received in support of Ordinance 875 than any ordinance in the city’s history.

Neither the City Council nor the Planning Commission was given the historical record on past discussions with big box stores. At the time, Mayor Bob Lenox said in January of 2001 that the vote on big boxes, with no Ordinance 875 in place at the time, was “one of the most difficult decisions ever faced by a Peachtree City Council.”

He continued, “Had the council members not been elected, some or all of them would likely have been in the audience to protest.” In addition, council members Fritz, Tennant and McMenamin also expressed their unwillingness to have the large regional retail boxes settle here.

In September of 2000, Planning Commissioner Jim Finney summed up the commission effectively voting down every big box proposal that came before them by saying, “The majority of the people in Peachtree City moved here to get away from that.” Even Police Chief Murray publicly opposed the big box stores.

Later on the Big Box Ordinance 875 received unanimous support from the Planning Commission and the City Council to insure that we could restrain big box stores and maintain our sense of community in the future. Our current council and appointed officials do not have the institutional knowledge derived from the massive public discussions. However, the material is at their disposal from the archives.

“Your traffic is controlled by your land use.” I made that statement in 2002 at a meeting with elected officials and GRTA staff. I also kept pushing that point with the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC). Most of the time I would get blank stares when I made the point. You see, at that time all they were interested in was widening roads. However, what they were not paying attention to was that every time they widened a road and enlarged the capacity, they enabled more development and, unfortunately, more traffic volume.

Sometime later, GRTA and ARC finally got the point. They created what is called the Developments of Regional Impact (DRI) studies. Each time a developer reached a certain threshold in the size of the development, whether it is commercial, residential or whatever, the plans had to be studied to determine the impact on the surrounding roads. However, the practice turned out to be a resounding dud as they never turn any of the big projects down even though they leave the roads in utter gridlock.

Now when Home Depot and Wal-Mart arrived on the scene in Peachtree City, many will remember all of the glorious promises that were made about the big boxes not negatively impacting traffic on Ga. Highway 54 W. In fact the same big-box developer who built those two big boxes and wants to build another on the south part of Hwy. 54 W. said, “We think the improvements [they would have to make to 54 W.] will ease the traffic problems that are already existing there and help the traffic for our [Wal-Mart] project” (July 2001). The city’s subcontracted traffic engineer, Ed Ellis, actually said the traffic would improve with the Wal-Mart road improvements.

We all know what really happened to Hwy. 54 W. It shut completely down to the point where cars clogged intersections and people exhibited road rage like I had never seen before. That section of road had the worst congestion and the most traffic accidents of any section in all of Fayette County. My council and I diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars for more road improvements and the road remained clogged.

Go back to that paragraph which starts with “Your traffic is controlled by your land use.” Here we go again. We made major improvements to Hwy. 54 W. and increased the capacity. Now some misguided souls are saying, “The road can take another big box store or two.” Just read Ordinance 875 and say “no.”

Coweta County, with record housing starts in 2005 and 2006, is going to supply enough cars in 2007 to significantly reduce the capacity on Hwy. 54 W. without another big box store. Why would we want to add another regional draw on a vital arterial highway and go back to gridlock?

By the way, the TDK Extension into Coweta will enable a monstrous retail pavilion that will suck more tax dollars out of the city than we gain with more big boxes. TDK has majority council support.

Mayor Bob Lenox established several useful task forces to look at traffic and growth issues. I was on the Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) planning group. The group included city staff, seasoned developers, citizen planning advocates and others. We discussed the city’s planning values and created the city’s first overlay zone on Hwy. 54 W. Our plan won several grant awards. Our plan never envisioned additional big box stores in that corridor.

We are seeing record amounts of funds being used by cities, counties and the state of Georgia to purchase and preserve green space. In fact, I openly supported the purchase of Drake Field next to the library by the Lenox administration.

My administration purchased green space along Hwy. 54 W. so that we could maintain the green feel of the busy corridor and to allow for a cart bridge across the highway to the commercial areas. The developer of the new Flexxon site opposite of the land we purchased is willing to assist with the bridge placement and he is building his development in accordance with the official overlay zoning and Big Box Ordinance 875.

In a uncanny twist, our City Council is now looking to sell — I promise this is true — portions of our city-owned preserved green space (Line Creek Nature Center) on Hwy. 54 W. Even worse, the City Council is selling it to enable a big box store to be placed on the exact same site.

While most jurisdictions are scurrying to buy green space to prevent overdevelopment, we are selling green space to allow for overdevelopment.

Keeping preserved woodlands on the westside along Hwy. 54 W. is essential to preserving the character of the city. Even the developer who wants to build the proposed big box said of Hwy. 54 W. in July of 2001, “Right now, that area doesn’t look like it’s a part of Peachtree City, except for the entrance to Planterra Ridge subdivision, which I think is beautiful.”

Thousands and thousands of local citizens agree, so please leave the Line Creek Nature Area, one of our most precious gems, off of the auction block.

Hopefully, former Mayor Joel Cowan will remove his property from sale to the big box developer until he agrees to build the site in accordance with our development plans.

As for the big box store proposed for the southern portion of Hwy. 74 near Holly Grove Road, there are a lot of misconceptions about that project. The realignment of Rockaway Road is absolutely necessary and GDOT has already agreed to do the project. People have been mislead to believe that the big box store will allow Rockaway Road to be realigned, but it makes no difference at all.

The developer of the Hwy. 74 S. big box introduced a plan that would be well-suited for Gwinnett County where they appreciate shallow design, no trees and large asphalt parking lots. The big box proposed for the site would be a super-regional membership warehouse [club] pulling people and their cars [from] the surrounding counties, not the kind of activity you want next to local schools nearby.

Do not forget that the nearby land in the unincorporated county owned by Starr’s Mill LLC is also zoned commercial. Turning Redwine Road and Hwy. 74 S. into a big box shopping corridor would not be a good idea. Peachtree City’s Comprehensive Plan does not support this kind of activity on our end.

Disrupting the unique character of our city in order to gain an infusion of cash is penny-wise and pound-foolish. When Mayor Logsdon obligated the city taxpayers to fund $1.4 million in debt service for the illegal Development Authority loans at the same time hundreds of thousands of dollars are being used from the reserves to balance the budget, we knew there was going to be a cash crunch.

The mayor saying, “I do not see a tax increase in the immediate future for this” (Nov. 29, 2006) was misleading. He wanted to change the character of our city to get the funds.

We are stuck with those illegal loans now, so let us face reality. Many would rather see a tax increase equal to the amount of taking a family of four on a single trip to McDonald’s to cover those and other expenses than to ruin our uniqueness and long-term traffic outlook.

Steve Brown
Peachtree City, Ga.

Brown was mayor from 2002 to 2005.

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Submitted by mjma on Tue, 03/06/2007 - 12:28pm.

Actually Steve, the development at Hwy 74 and Rockaway Road is not as you described it -- large asphalt parking lot and no trees. The proposed site plan on their website shows extensive landscaping, parking areas broken up by trees and a section of restaurants with outdoor patios close to a new entrance to the ballfield. For those of us who want to learn more and make our own informed decision, take a look at

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Submitted by abeautifulday4us on Tue, 03/06/2007 - 4:58pm.

No surprise that the website does not have any individual's with it. I wouldn't either. This will be another strip cleared lot with stick trees that won't grow in for ten years. In the mean time we get another huge contribution of impervious surface? Why ? Glitzy marketing for an aggressive project.

Submitted by manny60 on Thu, 02/01/2007 - 12:12pm.

Steve, thanks for a well written, informative, article which brings together many conversations currently taking place in Peachtree City. People do appreciate the effort you have taken to inform the citizens of Peachtree City about what is happening to our town. Many homeowners are outraged and have formed a non profit, non partisan, organization precisely for the reasons you have mentioned. It has become necessary for citizens to exercise vigilance over the current development, zoning, and trends which contradict the quality of life envisioned by the original Comprehensive Plan. In fact many of us feel that the single, biggest threat to Peachtree City is the extension of TDK. It's nothing less than a dagger at this town's heart and it does not have to be built. Several professional city engineers from other states have said that government offices are full of plans for roads that were never built as a result of shifting "polticial" winds. A road is not built until the asphalt starts pouring. Please keep passing along any information that you have Steve and educated people can determine what ideas to believe or disregard. Other people (or animals) would rather attack a person than taking the time to research and write thought provoking solutions, observations, or ideas which would otherwise give another point of view.

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Submitted by mudcat on Wed, 01/31/2007 - 7:34pm.

When noting that Brown wrote the letter - please refer to him as "former mayor of PTC" No one cares about the dates - only that he is "former"

And secondly, how about a word limit. No one actually reads his crap and it certainly uses up valuable ink and space. Howabout 500 words max per letter?


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