If PTC enables Kohl’s, the west side will be lost

John Munford's picture

“We don’t want to be like Riverdale.” “We don’t want to be like Newnan.” “We don’t want to look like Fayetteville.” “We don’t need a Pavilion (sneer implied).” “I moved here from the north side of Atlanta. The traffic there is HORRIBLE!”

If you’ve ever been to a planning commission meeting or city council meeting in Peachtree City, you’ve heard this all before.

But if developer Doug McMurrain has his way, Peachtree City will have its own version of metro Atlanta-fied gridlock on Ga. Highway 54 West. It will take you five stoplights to go half a mile from The Avenue all the way to the city limits. The four lights there now are decidedly bad enough.

McMurrain wants both the stoplight on Line Creek Drive and a Kohl’s Department Store. The catch is there’s not enough room for said Kohl’s on the $8 million parcel he owns off Hwy. 54 between Planterra Way and Line Creek Drive.

McMurrain could shoe-horn the Kohl’s in, however, if his wish comes true. He wants the City Council to let him BUY (or swap land for) Line Creek Drive and Line Creek Court — which partially split his parcel. That way McMurrain can get around the city’s pesky little setback rule, which dictates a minimum distance buildings can be located from the nearest road.

Sure, the city stands to make a profit from such a transaction, even if it’s done as a “land swap” instead of a cash transaction. But the cost everyone will pay is gridlock on Hwy. 54 West.

With Kohl’s in hand, McMurrain will be able to convince the DOT the traffic light’s a great idea. He’ll be able to show traffic studies from other Kohl’s across the country, and how many hundreds of cars they bring in.

The result will be another stake in Peachtree City’s soul. Whether its a “top 10” retirement community or not, the city is slowly losing its famed character.

It wasn’t too long ago that “corporate colors” used to be fighting words in Peachtree City. Pizza Hut was forced to have a muted burgundy roof instead of a bright red one.

Peachtree City’s McDonald’s doesn’t have the golden arches suspended 100-plus feet into the air (it would have clashed with the treetops).

But now we’re stuck with that garish “Best Buy” electric blue storefront, one of McMurrain’s projects on Hwy. 54 West. McMurrain also brought us the the supersized (and never full) parking lot at Wal-Mart.

And in case you haven’t seen McMurrain’s Home Depot, well, it’s got the corporate bright orange scheme in full day-glo effect.

McMurrain has paid $8 million for the 14 acres of land he has Kohl’s hooked on. It’s at the corner of Hwy. 54 and Planterra Way and it stretches all the way to Line Creek Drive.

What, you don’t know where Line Creek Drive is? Bet you’ll notice it a few years from now when you’re stuck in stop-and-go traffic on Hwy. 54.

Maybe there’s a chance the City Council will do the right thing. People thought Mayor Harold Logsdon was all gung-ho for giving sewer access to Senoia and he voted against it. His public statements put him in the pro-Kohl’s camp, at least for now.

Councilman Steve Boone is also pro-Kohl’s, and he and swing-vote Councilman Mike Harman live in the Planterra Ridge subdivision where certain groups are putting on some serious political pressure. Harman is still officially undecided and is studying the matter, seeking input from folks who don’t have a direct dog in the fight.

Council members Stuart Kourajian and Cyndi Plunkett have spoken out against the road swap/sale or whatever they’re calling it this week.

Nobody can blame the folks in Planterra and also in Cardiff Park, the subdivision directly behind the McMurrain/Kohl’s property. They want McMurrain’s dream to become reality. McMurrain has pledged to add copious landscaping, berms, trees and the like to screen the Cardiff Park neighborhood.

McMurrain has also eliminated a planned access drive onto Planterra Way that might have allowed city residents to avoid Hwy. 54 altogether. Again, can’t blame the Planterra residents for not wanting their main drag to be a cut-through.

And let’s give McMurrain credit. The drawings he’s produced for the shopping center look spiffy. They’re trying to mimic The Avenue. But without Kohl’s in the picture ... there’s not enough money to make it happen, McMurrain has said.

All this rosy talk of courtyards and fountains, etc., comes a short time after McMurrain essentially threatened the Cardiff Park and Planterra neighbors by name-dropping potential tenants if Kohl’s doesn’t make it. Hooters. Pep Boys Automotive. You get the idea.

Naturally the neighbors took umbrage to those proposals. Many neighbors have e-mailed their council members and they’ve also attended a council meeting arguing on behalf of McMurrain, pulling for the Kohl’s.

Kohl’s reportedly has made architectural concessions such as having awnings and stylized lighting, etc., to break up the sheer mass of the storefront. McMurrain has admitted that he’ll even cater to the Cardiff Park homeowners, allowing them to choose which plants are put in to buffer their backyard from the Kohl’s store, which, by the way, won’t have many truck deliveries.

I’ve never seen PTC folks argue they WANT a big box in their backyard, but hey, whatever. The Kohl’s will be some 80,000 square feet. McMurrain said Kohl’s is necessary to make the shopping center vital.

However on the same side of Hwy. 54 right at the city limit a developer is — gasp! — trudging on without a big box in its arsenal. Flexxon Operating of Sugar Hill is staying within the city’s big box guidelines and the retail stores will be smaller.

Humor me for a minute: Imagine the Hwy. 54 West corridor as the Civil War. You’ve got a North and you’ve got a South.

This time, however, the North is already lost. Best Bought, Wal-Mart-ified and Home Depot-ed into oblivion.

But the southside of Hwy. 54 still shows some promise, as evidenced by Flexxon’s fledgling shopping center, which will basically be across the street from the revitalizing Wynnmeade neighborhood, where the homeowners are taking no gruff and weeding out unlawful and unruly renters (the good renters, of course, can stay!).

But if the city sells out to McMurrain and Kohl’s, the battle for the south of 54 will indeed be lost. It may just be another traffic light to you, but to folks who have to commute through there, it’s another 10, 15 or maybe 20 minutes a day they won’t be able to see their kids before bedtime.

Never mind the DOT just widened that road for us, and now we’re going to ruin it further?

As a former PTC resident I can testify to the city’s uniqueness: from the golf cart trails through serene wooded areas ... to the fairly strict control over commercial development. Never mind that it’s still a pretty darn safe town crime-wise, though its record isn’t as spotless as in the past.

A Kohl’s can’t ruin all that, to be sure. But its a slippery slope to perch upon and this won’t be the last “re-development” the city council will see.

The future vote on McMurrain’s roads will set the tone for the rest of the development crowd.

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Submitted by wdd5885 on Sun, 10/14/2007 - 6:57am.


While I share your opinion on the traffic issues which Kohl's will create, after speaking to various city council members, I'm told the state will require the stop lights you speak of regardless of the stores put in. Do you know different? I don't want the extra lights because it will definitely make the West Side a traffic nightmare. However, and this question is for anyone, how do you legally stop a developer from developing on his own land? I hear all the usual rhetoric from candidates, but no legal examples or concrete evidence it has been done before. I don't want that land to be developed at all, but I don't think the city has a choice.


John Munford's picture
Submitted by John Munford on Sun, 10/14/2007 - 7:49am.

My understanding of the way traffic signals are secured is that someone (developer or city) does a traffic study of existing conditions and submits it to DOT to see if it meets "warrants" aka the fancy rules.

OR the developer can take his anticipated traffic counts for Kohl's, etc. (based on other Kohl's stores) and probably have enough cars to "justify" a light.

Without Kohl's, there won't be as much projected traffic to truthfully petition for a traffic light.

A right-in, right-out should suffice. ESPECIALLY if the development is connected to Planterra Way as it should be. Then it could be served by the EXISTING light at Planterra. (I know, the neighbors don't want that either) BUT access to Planterra via the access road that can't be done was ALWAYS a part of the plan put together for the city, and I believe that was done by a citizen's advisory committee.

By the Way: if the city sells the Line Creek streets to McMurrain, what stops it from going across Planterra Way and selling the land the tennis center is on? I'm not sure of the acreage, but that would be one heckuva way to raise city funds and pay off the tennis center debt!!! (Of course, you know I'm being sarcastic... but it would actually work.)

I've got to go to the air show but can anyone find out what smaller boxes might fit in under 35K sq. ft.? How 'bout Old Navy, PTC doesn't have one of those either?

In some brief reserach I've found they call 35K and under "junior boxes" and I've found reference to a junior box Kohl's going in Colorado. (Colo Springs Gazette; Dec. 22 '06).

Submitted by Nitpickers on Sun, 10/14/2007 - 7:10am.

Can be stopped in many ways:
Don't sell them the streets they need.
Turn down their request and keep asking for stuff til they disappear!
Let them sue.
I could go on.

However, it won't happen. Those voting know where their butter for their bread comes from!

Submitted by carcar on Fri, 10/12/2007 - 12:24pm.

Did the SF Bread Company already go out of business?

Submitted by ATLtoPTC on Fri, 10/12/2007 - 12:56pm.

I know the family who owned it - they couldn't have been nicer. I'm sad their business didn't make it.

mudcat's picture
Submitted by mudcat on Sat, 10/13/2007 - 4:28am.

Another predictable restaurant casualty in PTC. 2 things get them every time.
1. Puffed up demographics that look as if we have lots of disposable income and eat out 5 nights a week. Reality is different among the house-poor majority.
2. The city's endless desire to tinker with site plans and retain the "uniqueness" of PTC. Result is restaurants that have no exposure to the highway, a small sign, poor access and inadequate parking. But the buildings look nice and have lots of landscaping.

Does anyone see a trend?

Submitted by d.smith700 on Sat, 10/13/2007 - 6:19am.

Every red-blooded American has the right to go broke and our politicians will let them all do so.
Your insight though is correct: elite little places with expensive cucumber sandwiches and $3.00 soft drinks only fly in San Francisco.
And, the rent is way too high in most of our strips for any food store.
If I don't want another steak, I usually don't know where to eat in Peachtree City! Spaghetti, Tacos, and fried rice also get old!
We need a large, high-quality, country food restaurant with very consistent quality---run by Americans. Menu or cafeteria, ok.
A Cracker barrel or a clean Ryans, or a Red Lobster, or believe it or not, a good Cat Fish Hollow, would help. Somewhere you could eat at anytime and get something you weren't tired of eating.
The uppity atmosphere of the "Avenue" will die.

Submitted by carcar on Fri, 10/12/2007 - 1:16pm.

I am very sorry for the family, but shouldn't this be a lesson for the City Council. PTC does not need any more retail. We have to much vacant space already. What happens when Kohls can't make it. I understand that Bombay Company is in Chapter 11 with an intention to auction off parts of the company. Speculaters say it won't be long before the company shuts the doors completly. Then we'll have another empty space. There should be some kind of incentive to the revitalize our existing shopping centers so that the occupents don't take off for newer prettier space. Plumyummi moved behind the avenue, so did Mud Pies. We can not give our city away willingly.

Submitted by ATLtoPTC on Fri, 10/12/2007 - 2:08pm.

is the plethora of retail/office space that is vacant behind Mellow Mushroom & La Hacienda on Hwy 74, and they are still clearing land to build MORE. It's crazy! There are vacancies all over PTC, not to mention around Fayette County, and I really don't see how they will all get filled.

And, no, we DON'T need a Kohl's - that's just stupidity on top of craziness.

It was very sad to see SFBread close its doors, but not all new businesses are struggling. Johnny's NY Pizza & Rita's seem to be thriving. PTC is a tough market to survive in though, and it seems to me that we have more retail space available than we have a population to support.

Submitted by skyspy on Fri, 10/12/2007 - 10:10pm.

We have more open and empty retail and office space available, than the empty space in all of our councilFOOLS heads combined.

But, you know the councilFOOLS motto, if there is a tree grownig, we need to cut it down for a big box that will be empty in a year.

So ....I have to ask......who or what buisnesses are going to fill all of the spaces left open by buisnesses that have failed???

Maybe mcBULLY will open up a store and sell....hmmmm....lets see, what would he be good at??? I know.... he could sell bullcrap, lots of people need mulch for their plants, or maybe books on fairytales and fables.

DragNet's picture
Submitted by DragNet on Thu, 10/11/2007 - 8:25pm.

PTC is slowly coming to be more like the rest of the ATL metro area....We might as well bring the GRTA buses and use the big Walmart parking lot as the Park & Ride. What say you?

Making you think twice......

Submitted by Arf on Wed, 10/10/2007 - 10:42am.

Thanks for the article - I hope someone listens, but...

You made some very good points and I personally cannot understand why PTC would allow any further big box development at the 54/74 intersection, or any other type of commercial development for that matter. The area is already overly congested, and how much shopping do we really need? With all of the shoppers and workers already coming in from elsewhere, combined with those going 'somewhere' between Coweta and Fayetteville, local residents can barely get around. I live in this area, and often can't easily get out and through to get anywhere else, or in and through just to get home. I have begun to realize that the residents of PTC, who always used to be the major consideration, no longer count.

I haven't seen anyone mention that there is a major shopping complex going in at Fischer's Crossing, right down the road on Highway 54 across the county line. This looks and sounds like it will be a huge development with not only shopping, but more restaurants and a movie theater. How much snarl is this thing alone going to create when coming through 54/74 (home of the longest traffic lights in Georgia)and why would we even consider heaping on more?

I don't understand why we would keep overdeveloping an area that has already been way overbuilt. We've seen in other places that once an area is frozen in gridlock, people begin avoiding it, stores board up the windows, the grass overgrows and the rats take over.

I remember a PTC in the eighties when businesses couldn't even have an "oversized" banner or back-lit signs or stores too close to the road. I also remember the city standing its ground over McDonald's arches (and winning.) And don't even consider the Line Creek nature preserve. Have you seen Huddleston Pond lately? I don't know what happened, but it seems like these days we are at the mercy of everyone else, including self-serving developers, the DOT, the ARC, CSX, and criminals of all types.

A planned community?

It will be interesting to see what Peachtree City is like ten years from now...if there is anyone left to see it, that is.

Submitted by JJsMom on Wed, 10/10/2007 - 5:54pm.

and has been for decades. So, regardless of whether a Kohls, Hooters, Quick Trip or whatever goes there it will be commercial area. Even before you get over to Fischer's Crossing look at the shopping center being graded for where the Days Inn used to be. There will be a gridlock regardless of what brand of store(s) is built in these areas. I can see traffic backed up all the way to PTC going to Fischer Crossing. (think Bullsboro Drive). That's going to be what causes the traffic problems. Peachtree City will still be here in 10 years, it'll look more like Fayettedale.

Submitted by susieq on Wed, 10/10/2007 - 11:03am.

I listening and LMAO. So you remember PTC in the eighties? I remember when there was no PTC and the area was called Shakerag. How do you think the farmers and other land owners felt when they were pushed out in the sixties and seventies?

Every person who moves to their little haven in PTC thinks "somebody" should close the door and not let anybody else in. That door is wide open, and there's nothing that can or will be done.

yellowjax1212's picture
Submitted by yellowjax1212 on Thu, 10/11/2007 - 8:47am.

Suz, I too am not in favor of the rampant development on the west side and, yeah, although unrealistic, I wish someone could have closed the door to PTC when I moved in three years ago.
However, I must make comment of your reference to the farmers and landowners that were pushed out in the sixties and seventies. You can bet these folks didn't have their property seized and most likely sold willingly for hansome profit. The original developers of PTC took a lot of financial risk in buying up thousands of acres of what many people felt was worthless old farm and wetlands with the vision of a unique planned community.

Submitted by susieq on Fri, 10/12/2007 - 2:19pm.

I agree that the original developers took a financial risk, but I am not talking about the original investment. I am talking about the property owners who owned smaller acreage and eventually had to sell whether they wanted to or not when PTC grew up around them. Newsboy had relatives on both sides of this fence. He knows what I mean.

Submitted by JJsMom on Wed, 10/10/2007 - 6:06pm.

I was right there with you and feel the same way. I remember when people complained they had to drive to Fayetteville for groceries. Greenbriar was the mall of choice unless you went downtown. You could go to McDonald's if you drove to Newnan. Riverdale was a nice area to live in and we hung out at Old National after football games.
My how times have changed. I've seen so much a Kohls store doesn't seem like the devil. Everyone is going to be shopping at Fischers Crossing anyway.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Wed, 10/10/2007 - 5:16am.

You got it, John. The Kohl's developer is getting what he wants because he's a real pro at this and knows exactly which buttons to push.
1. He got some fear started with the Hooter's idea and that got a lot of citizens interested.
2. Then he started throwing them concessions like landscaping and cart paths. The rookies in Planterra and Cardiff were taken in completely. We got to see an airline pilot speaking publicly in favor of a big box and tweaking the rules - gotta be a PTC first.
3. The most brilliant step was the citizens committee to enhance the appearance of not-yet-approved Kohls. That was the equivalent of a 60-yard drive in football. Assume it is a done deal and move the ball closer to the goal.
4. Then dressing the pig up in a fur coat, he throws several hundred thousand dollars at city council. It is just like a bribe, but there is no personal gain here. Instead the citizens and taxpayers are being bribed and so far Logsdon and Boone are the facilitators.

Mr. Harman, show some courage and publicly say you will vote this down. Last night at the Rotary forum you and others were more focused on the amount of the bribe instead of the ramification of letting the developer dump this junk store on the city. The young guy running for Post 1 and Mike somebody on Post 2 were the only ones who seemed to recognize that something was amiss. I will be voting for the candidates that are most vocal against creative bribery by developers.

And McMurrin deserves credit for being creative - just go do it somewhere else.

Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Wed, 10/10/2007 - 10:23am.

Were we at the same forum? Only O'Toole was against the Big Box on Seat 1?

Did you miss my statements the Big Boxes have negative economic and traffic impact on PTC? That I was totally opposed to Kohl's, Big Boxes and any more super shopping centers?

Amount of bribe? Where did I ever indicate anything that would appeal to a developer to offer me a bribe?

So, you loved Tom O'Toole saying he doesn't need a moratorium to get it all properly in place? He knew exactly what needed to be done and he would do it? He, alone, would make it happen. Ready to make it happen right away.

Last I looked, it took 3 votes to do anything. But he never spoke in any terms other than HIM doing it. He had all the meanings and methods in place, now, and was ready to do it all, immediately.

A bit naive, don't you think?

And he is also going to get all the security, cart path and other issues fixed by just making it all more efficient using exactly what we have now, with a no new tax pledge to boot.

Where did we hear that one before? But of course, his having moved here recently would not make him really aware of this past election reality.

Time to clarify what Mike Harman said:
1. He personally does not like or want Big Boxes.
2. You cannot legally stop a developer from building what he wants on his property. (a false statement but essential to where this leads)

Thus he has plausible deniability for, after the election, voting to sell the street to Kohl's because even though he personally does not like Big Boxes, you cannot stop them, or just about any new development, because of property rights.

Toss redevelopment into this, with his want to bull doze whole existing older developments and 'redevelop,' not remodel or rebuild, them, and we have years of new and higher density construction in our future.

By the way, O'Toole also supports redevelopment. Look at his site. He wants to redevelop PTC into a Green PTC, but not quite the way most think this means. Reduced carbon footprint, lower fossil fuel consumption and less pesticide use, in example. At the Forum, on his website and in his writings he dwells on Green.

What does that mean? Higher density to cut sprawl? Mass transit?

Don Haddix
Candidate for PTC Council, Post 1

Submitted by McDonoughDawg on Tue, 10/09/2007 - 5:05pm.

Great points, NO TO KOHLS!!!!!!

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