Realistic view of Kohl’s: It’s the best we can get

Tue, 09/25/2007 - 3:19pm
By: Letters to the ...

I want to offer here the viewpoint of a person who is hopeful that the character of Peachtree City can be preserved for years to come, but also realistic enough to see that while we can have a positive affect on change, we cannot have complete control over all changes in our community.

I recently volunteered to be a member of a committee of citizens which was formed to work with the developer of what most are referring to as the Kohl’s development on Ga. Highway 54 West.

The committee’s task was to offer advice and suggest changes regarding the design and aesthetic quality of this planned retail site so that it would add value to the Peachtree City community, fit the quality of life we are trying to preserve, and have as minimal affect on the closest residential communities (Cardiff Park and Planterra Ridge).

I do not live in either of these residential communities. After months of work with the developer, the architects, and Kohl’s representatives, the resulting design will provide a very pleasing development in an area which is destined to become a retail development.

I ask you, the citizens of this community not to rush to judgment simply by the mention of big box, but first to find a way to view the proposed design plan. Our committee has had a significant impact on this design and I believe you will find it similar to the existing nearby development, The Avenue. When you examine the plan, please consider this information:

1. The land in question is currently zoned for commercial development and despite the fact that a great number of Peachtree City citizens, including myself, would prefer to see that land remain covered in trees, the owner of the property has the right to develop it. Some type of retail WILL be built there.

2. To build a big box on this property, the developer, by Peachtree City code, must apply for and receive a special use permit. If the developer were not asking to build a big box on this site, the city officials, and we as citizens would have a significantly reduced ability to affect the quality of this development.

Yes, the Hwy. 54 corridor has certain design requirements, but there are a lot of high quality design features which our committee has forced this developer to add which would not otherwise be included.

For example, included in this plan, the citizens most affected by this development (Cardiff Park and Planterra Ridge) would receive a 90-foot minimum buffer plus a substantial addition of trees between their community and this retail area. Without the special use permit that buffer would only be 50 feet.

3. Peachtree City cannot enforce a law which says, No big boxes allowed. Such a law would be fought in court by developers and they would win. Once that developer won, we would have virtually no means to keep out the truly ugly big box stores.

4. The ordinance we do have requires the developer to apply for a special use permit if he is planning to include a retail facility above 32,000 square feet. It would therefore be logical to assume that this ordinance means a larger store could potentially be built in Peachtree City if a very restrictive set of rules were followed (see City ordinance 1006.4).

I believe this developer began the process in the right way, by involving citizens early in the design process, and he has absolutely agreed to every change that was requested. After facing this citizen group, the developer now has to go before the city for further scrutiny. If this process is not representative of the right process, then the right process does not exist.

5. There are certainly big box retailers which would never agree to change the design of their stores, who would insist on their standard plan with massive brick or steel walls with large unattractive signs and massive barren parking lots.

Kohl’s has demonstrated to our committee that they are not one of these companies. They have agreed to make significant changes to the facade of their structure. The plan breaks up the building facade so that the structure appears to be several smaller stores instead of the one large store. The developer has agreed to add many important items including lots of larger then usual trees, water fountains, pedestrian paths, and patio areas where families can sit and relax.

I will remain opposed to the traditional big box retail stores for Peachtree City, but I think it is very important to recognize that this issue is really about protection of community aesthetics and lifestyle.

I view this Kohl’s development as an opportunity to set a precedent and take a stand against ugly retail.

If we move forward and demonstrate the real strength that exists in our city ordinance, we show that big box retail can only exist here on OUR terms. We will accept these stores only after the leaders and citizens of our community have significantly affected the design regardless of the cost to the developer. This precedent, in my opinion, becomes our best weapon in the future for control of our retail areas.

If you would like to learn more about the plans for this retail development and express your opinions and constructive comments, please attend one of our informational meetings, Monday, Oct. 1, or Tuesday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. in the Floy Farr meeting room of the Peachtree City Library.

John Lyden

Peachtree City, Ga.

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Submitted by Jones on Wed, 09/26/2007 - 11:19pm.

Mr. Lyden do you work for Kohls? I sure hope you do because I would hate to think that a fellow citizen of Peachtree City could say such stupid things.

I'm with Cal Beverly on this one. Find me some candidates who can say "NO" and they have my vote.

Submitted by MIKEK on Wed, 09/26/2007 - 11:25am.

Typical of polital ranting, pro versus con, let's find a solution that will work for both sides. Unless I'm wrong the Kohls proposal cannot come to fruition unless portions of city owned property are ceded to the developer by purchase, grant or swap. This being said, now Mr Developer you may develop your property within ordinance guidelines and thank you for the cooperation given to both the citizens and Planning Commision. City property will remain city property and respectfully, it may not be used to meet the requirements for your "big box". You do not own it, you may not develop it.
As for as the proposal for Hooters, perhaps if you substituted "Valentinos" instead of Hooters the uproar of the citizenry would have been favorable.
It is high time ordinary citizens that have lived in our fair city that commute north for their livelihood have a say. Any development , large or small to the proposed Kohls location will only burden an already congested thruway and must be minimized.
It is because of unchecked growth and ever increasing traffic congestion that I threw my hat into the City Council Race. I stand resolute in my objection to the Kohls proposal.

Michael L "Mike" King
Candidate for City Council Post # 2

Submitted by mg30269 on Mon, 10/01/2007 - 8:56pm.

I find it interesting that Mr King is running for council and is ready to speak about an issue after pointing his finger into the wind to see which way it's blowing. How about researching some facts or speaking with people who know more than what has been written by Cal "The Witchdoctor" Beverly, whom by the way, has yet to attend a City Council meeting or Planning Commission meeting where this issue has been discussed? For starters, the developer never spoke to the Hooters corporation and reference to this restaurant was made in frustration and in reference to the GUC zoning. It was an inappropriate off-hand comment that is a non-issue. With regard to traffic, if Mr King had been half as involved as some ordinary citizens have been in working the TDK battle, listening to Coweta officials, and coming to understand the huge traffic problems we face, he would know that this development represents a minor variable to the increase in traffic coming out of Coweta. We will have big traffic problems until such time that Coweta gets the funds to build an alternate route to I-85. Finally, Mr King represents that Monday morning QB who comes in acting like the Cavalry on his white horse, as if the present Council and Mayor are totally unaware of what is going on. He wants us to believe that they have done nothing to solve the major problems, most of which go way beyond this Kohls development in their complexity, inter-agency cooperation, planning, and controversy. Governing is very hard Mr King and you just don't have a clue. Please don't patronize us.

Submitted by MIKEK on Tue, 10/02/2007 - 10:16am.

I did not know my years spent in the US Army's Air Cavalry was that well known, but sir, you are not being patronized. I simply state my opposition to the Kohls proposal with the following rationale:
First--Peachtree City has an ordinance on the size of retail buildings it will allow commonly referred to as the Big Box Ordinance and I do not see this as a good enough reason to approve an exception.
Second--The developer requires city property to go forward with his proposal as his current tract is simply not large enough to accommodate the space required by Kohls and again, I do not see this as good enough reason to sell, swap or cede city property.
Third--Should some ten years down the road the corporate headquarters of Kohls realize that of the three stores they have (Fayetteville, Newnan, and Peachtree City) are not meeting profit standards they will close one or more of them. That gives Peachtree City a one-third probability of having an empty 90,000 square foot empty space that the city will have to maintain without the revenue that the department store would bring.
You are right,sir, governance is indeed no simple matter. My standards of development are in keeping with what those of us who have resided in our fair city for fifteen to twenty years. Peachtree City can and will survive without Kohls. The time and effort placed into this project while well intentioned is, in my opinion, not supported by our residents.

Michael L "Mike" King
Candidate for City Council Post 2

Submitted by McDonoughDawg on Tue, 09/25/2007 - 7:44pm.

to me. I'm not sure where it went wrong over there, but when you cross 74 it just looks like Cumming, Smyrna, etc. Zero thought seemed to have gone into planning, cart path integration etc. The Home Depot/Walmart nightmare are just flat out UGLY. Frankly, give me two or three smaller stores anyday than another JUNK clothes store.

Give me the "old look" Peachtree City anyday.

Submitted by skyspy on Tue, 09/25/2007 - 8:17pm.

The "west village" walley-drug-sting, home-no-customer-service, and the cluster homes by the railroad tracks look like rivercrimedale or any other ORDINARY town.

The value of our city and homes went down with these additions to our "planned" city.

The only time you can demand and get a high price for property is when it is unique and upscale. Ordinary, and crime don't sell. They don't sell well. I guess we need to face the fact that we are an "ORDINARY" river-crimedale. If we had stayed on track with our "plan" and stayed with first class or upscale buisnesses things would be better. More "upscale" buisnesses, fewer foreclosures. How different our city would be if Restoration Hardware, Trader Joes, and Frontgate were in place of walley and home-no-customer-service.

Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Tue, 09/25/2007 - 5:29pm.

Mr. Lynden,

Here are some excellent reasons why Kohl's is not our best option.

Big Box Tool Kit

Research shows Big Boxes cost a municipality money. The do not add revenue at the bottom line.

Also, the traffic impact of Big Boxes is tremendous.

An average WalMart adds over 96,000 auto trips per week to traffic.

A Kohl's is going to add at least 40,000 trips, probably a lot more, per week, to roads that have already been declared unable to handle projected traffic increases without anything being built there at all.

These are but two reason why the Big Box impact is so high that several states are considering adding a special Big Box tax to recoup tax revenue losses caused by Big Boxes.

The smaller retail stores that also have negative impacts are fast foods.

Specialty retail has a positive financial effect on a municipality without the dramatic trip generation that adds heavily to traffic congestion.

As our ordinances currently exist, it is indeed hard to keep a Big Box out.

The PTC Big Box ordinance was a good beginning. But only a beginning.

There are impact and community standard type ordinances, in other communities, that are proving effective in denying development, Big Box or otherwise. Plus state level legislation, in other states, are making it easier to keep new development out, except where actually wanted.

We need a PTC Council that will pursue these avenues and remedies. We cannot stay on the path of 'cannot keep them out so we have to compromise.'

Can we keep any Big Box off of that site? Yes. Just deny the property to them.

Is the threat of a Hooters valid? I don't think so. It failed in Fayetteville and we have the wrong demographics for it to succeed here.

Threats are not reasons to give into developers. They want to make money. If they cannot develop what makes money they will not develop anything.

Can PTC afford to give future developers this kind of ammo to use to demand future accommodations for what they wish to build? No.

With respect, this impacts all of PTC, not just Cardiff and Planterra.

I oppose giving the land to Kohl's.

Further, I would hope the next Council has the votes to enact a moratorium on all development until all available impact studies, community standards laws and such are researched, developed and enacted for PTC, as appropriate.

If I am elected, I will push for it.

And yes, such a moratorium is legal.

PTC cannot stay on its present course and retain what PTC was intended to be.

Don Haddix
Candidate for PTC Council, Post 1

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Wed, 09/26/2007 - 3:36am.

Mr. Lynden and Mr. Haddix that is. McDonoughdawg is 100% correct about the generic look of 54 west.

My disagreement with you two is that it is obvious that neither of you has any practical experience in managing growth. Think tank philosophy and citizen focus groups are two techniques at completely opposite ends of the growth management spectrum. The think tank nonsense is feel-good socialism which like all socialism is not practical - or legal. The citizen focus group starts with the flawed premise that the developer is already approved and the citizens are there to help him tweak the final design.

The real solution is nowhere near any of these extreme positions. Those that actually get elected are invited to Athens for a practical course in what you can and can't do as an elected official. Obviously it would be better if all candidates had to take this course before they started spouting off about what they would do. In every election I have seen here in almost 30 years, the same thing happens - specifically the newly elected candidate comes back from Athens with his tail between his legs having found out that 90% of his feel-good campaign rhetoric is not operable. Sad, but true. We are a nation of laws, one of which is the right to own property and to improve it within the existing laws and regulations. The city is about to learn about that once again courtesy of Mr. Hyde and Mr. Lindsey. Yes there will be a Lowe's in the industrial park and it will be shown that unwritten laws and fuzzy interpretations are not big enough to hide behind.

No simple solutions exist for Kohl's except to stick to the land use plan for the area, which is unfortunately very poorly done. Micromanaging and tweaking after the fact is patchwork planning and the results are usually poor.

And the moratorium idea, Mr. Haddix is legal under certain circumstances for a short period of time. Please review the Brown, Rapson, Weed campaign promise/moratorium of 2001 and its demise 2 months later. Noteworthy in that it was enacted over the objections of the city attorney who later quit because of the immature leadership exhibited by those three. Let's see if we can remember who that was - oh yea, Rick Lindsey.

KraftyFla's picture
Submitted by KraftyFla on Wed, 09/26/2007 - 8:53am.

Sorry, Bob...that sounded too much like your old "I know more about planning than you" schtick. Don Haddix is right about the moratoriums. And just because you went to a government affairs seminars in Athens does not make you the expert. The Big Box situation worse was made legally worse by the city by allowing it to be installed in the worst location traffic wise in the city. The inadequate infrastruture would have justified a moratorium but you and others wanted to "RAM" it through and now you have given the Kohl's development legal precedent that did not exist.

Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Wed, 09/26/2007 - 8:01am.

I suggest you do some research.

Yes, a moratorium for discriminatory or otherwise illegal purposes will fail.

Cobb County currently has a development moratorium that has been extended to one year, and may go longer.

One year, 18 months and such are factual moratoriums that have happened or in process.

All have the common element of giving the municipality a chance to revise, update and review its development ordinances for the purposes of protecting their cities against damaging development and delaying developers from attempting to jump in to build before their work is complete.

Note the crucial point. Delay, not denial, of a developer until the work is done. Thus the developer proposal will legally be made under the revised standards with no legal claim to grandfathered or past practice.

There are community standard type ordinances in place that define the nature and goal of a city. They work in conjunction with the Master Plan and are working. They were enacted for precisely the reasons happening in PTC, that being the vision and nature of the community was being destroyed by developers forcing unwanted development based on claims of property rights.

I am talking revising the city laws and ordinances for future development. I didn't say a word about the Lowe's situation because it would, unfortunately, be grandfathered under the old laws when the proposals were made.

That was a bad assumption on your part.

No owner has a right to total self determining properly usage. Their rights can and should be balanced against the rights of other property owners within the legal jurisdictions their property rights reside within.

Your positions ultimately boils down to any developer can and will build about anything they want and all we can do is seek compromise.

That sums up to mean 'Good bye PTC and hello Riverdale/Northside.'

It will be neither smooth or easy.

Don Haddix
Candidate for PTC Council, Post 1

Submitted by skyspy on Tue, 09/25/2007 - 8:19pm.

You have my vote.

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