PTC roads sale: Only winner is developer

Tue, 02/19/2008 - 4:16pm
By: The Citizen

Last week the Peachtree City Council voted 3-2 to relinquish its interest in two roads off Ga. Highway 54 West in favor of a retail developer who wants to build large retail “big box” stores.

Immediate neighbors of the shopping center probably think it was a win for them, but it is a net loss for city residents as a whole, particularly those who commute to Coweta, who will likely face yet another traffic light on the Ga. Highway 54 West corridor.

Most troubling, the approval by Mayor Harold Logsdon and council members Steve Boone and Cyndi Plunkett represents a troubling precedent for future councils: The council is actively enabling a developer to build what he otherwise could never build on that site — big box retail stores.

Neighbors of the future shopping center scored aesthetic concessions from the developer of the 14-acre site at the southwest corner of Hwy. 54 and Planterra Way. The city also will get at least $500,000 from Capital City Development, and more if the roads are appraised at a higher value.

Such victory comes at a cost, however. In the development agreement the city agreed to allow CCD to request the traffic light. If the light is approved by the Georgia Department of Transportation, it would further bottleneck the area ... which was just widened to four lanes less than two years ago.

Already the west side corridor features three traffic lights in less than a mile’s span between Ga. Highway 74 and the county line.

Mayor Harold Logsdon, who has said several times that he already notices westbound traffic on Hwy. 54 backing up to City Hall at peak times in recent months, still voted for this potentially traffic-choking proposal. While some might say the answer is traffic signal synchronization, the brutally honest answer is that never works ... at least not for very long.

The city also is allowing Capital City the chance to super-size up to three stores at a cap of 50,000 square feet each. That’s roughly a third bigger than current city guidelines of 32,000 square feet, the approximate size of the Best Buy store.

Though City Council has the power to ultimately deny the big box permits, it may be difficult water to tread from a legal standpoint. Such a decision will come after Capital City has written the city a big, fat check for the roads.

Without the roads, the developer had no legal way to squeeze in big box retailers.

We can only hope that the council closely scrutinizes the big box plans and uses its authority to create a fantastic development with lush landscaping. CCD’s Doug McMurrain, you’ll remember, gave us the Home Depot and Wal-Mart and that whole westside row of small retailers a cars-length away from the four-lane highway, so color us skeptical on how well this will work out.

McMurrain has publicly pledged to make his new shopping center look as nice as The Avenue, though. To hold him to that, the council should require a large performance bond before approving any big boxes on the site.

Time will tell if the PTC Council sold out the city by selling the roads, or if the city will reap the benefit of a well-thought out and well-landscaped shopping area for city residents.

What is certain is that this three-person majority has voluntarily entered into a business deal to enable a development that many — maybe most — people in Peachtree City would never agree to if the average citizen had a vote.

That’s a first for Peachtree City, and not an achievement to be proud of.

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