Hallmark of local governments: Continuing failure to plan

Steve Brown's picture

Our current local political environment evokes the old proverb, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.”

The educational SPLOST was narrowly approved by the voters of Fayette County. The additional sales tax can best be described as a Board of Education’s attempt to correct a massive deficiency in planning.

The lack of due diligence with not setting aside funds to purchase new computers, granting pay raises without the necessary funding, building schools in the wrong locations, adding capacity at a time when the student population is declining, etc., caused a budgetary black hole.

A mother of two from Fayetteville wrote me to say she was voting in favor of the E-SPLOST because she was not willing to let her children suffer at the hands of a blundering Board of Education who could not manage the affairs of the school system.

Unfortunately, the Board of Education dropped back to a position of, “We’ll figure it out later.”

In June of 2007, Peachtree City Mayor Harold Logsdon organized a town hall meeting to “discuss the area growth, transportation and redevelopment issues that will impact Peachtree City over the next 50 years.” As an invited speaker, I thought the meeting would be a wonderful springboard for planning the city’s future.

I love the way Alan Lakein says, “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”

One of the key points I made in my presentation was, in the future, the least dense areas in metro Atlanta will be the most sought after communities.

There are some real estate agents who think their survival in this area depends upon a multitude of houses being built year-after-year, when what we really need is a strong, less congested community where demand comfortably exceeds capacity, creating healthy returns for us all. (For proof, look at the areas where the sub-prime mortgage crisis has devastated communities.)

Since 2006, Peachtree City has approved annexations and rezonings for thousands of new homes, new school children, new automobiles on our roads.

In addition, the West Village, now known as Wilksmoor, has been one of the most poorly orchestrated land planning operations in the city’s history.

The failure to master-plan all of the parcels into one logical development strategy has been painful to watch. There are not enough votes on council to override the unconvincing, piecemeal land planning actions of Mayor Logsdon and Council members Boone and Plunkett.

The answer for the mayor’s three-member majority always seems to be permitting a larger concentration of new houses with each developer request.

The big box development and the ill-advised traffic signal on Ga. Highway 54 West is the antithesis of good land and transportation planning.

In fact, many of us felt the sting of betrayal when Council member Plunkett and Mayor Logsdon both wrote articles in favor of the big box developer, citing they had no choice but to allow the big box development because of the developer’s property rights.

Mayor Logsdon had to audacity to say, “In the case of Highway 54 West, our power was limited because the land was zoned decades ago when the area was envisioned as the major commercial center of the city.”

He later said, “But we can’t use powers we don’t have, or deprive select property owners of their rights to their property” (PTC Update, October 2008).

Now wait a minute.

The mayor and Council member Plunkett voted to exempt the developer from our big box ordinance.

They sold the developer city property so he could build the big box.

They wrote a lopsided developer agreement saying the city would not oppose the application for a traffic signal for the development.

Finally, they initiated some political persuasion on the Georgia Department of Transportation, trying to approve a traffic signal that had been denied twice before.

Does anyone really believe the mayor and Council member Plunkett had no choice but to approve that mess? Give us a break!

“Logsdon said there’s no doubt that even without the light the shopping center would ultimately be developed” (The Citizen, Dec. 23, 2008). That’s funny because we were told the big box plan would be null and void if the traffic signal was not implemented.

As I pointed out at the town hall meeting, Mayor Logsdon and Council members Boone and Plunkett know the official Coweta County transportation plans project all roadway connections into Peachtree City to be at level of service “F” (the worst possible) in the future.

So, why throw a wrench into the works and cause even more congestion with a traffic signal which does not comply with state and federal engineering standards?

It is common sense, as proved in years past, that congestion on Hwy. 54 eventually disrupts the vital intersection of highways 54 and 74.

Regrettably, it looks as if we have experienced deterioration in planning since the town hall meeting a couple of years ago.

I will leave you with the bewildering words of the mayor who wants to force the installation of several real traffic impediments on Hwy. 54 West: “‘There’s so much traffic on 54,’ Logsdon said. ‘Developers want to build where there’s a lot of traffic and there is a lot of traffic. And a lot of it is just standing still, unfortunately,’ Logsdon said” (The Citizen, 12-23-08).

I see no institutional knowledge, no vision for the future and a misaligned set of priorities.

[Steve Brown is the former mayor of Peachtree City. He can be reached at stevebrownptc@ureach.com.]

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Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Sat, 01/10/2009 - 6:25am.

Your closing line was actually very insightful:
"I see no institutional knowledge, no vision for the future and a misaligned set of priorities"

You were describing Logsdon's regime, but it applies to your 4-year hiccup in the proud history of Peachtree City. The fact that you (or Logsdon) happens to be correct about specific issues does not make either one of you a leader. It takes knowledge, vision and the ability to get along with others.

The Crime Dog's picture
Submitted by The Crime Dog on Thu, 01/08/2009 - 9:47pm.

How on earth you can *itch about planning is BEYOND me. Are you typing this stuff with a straight face?

YOU were the one who convinced Wieland to annex. Don'tcha remember?

For you this is a win-win issue. If the light is granted you will *itch about the traffic. IF not, you'll *itch about how crappy the shopping center will look ... because they can't attract high-paying tenants.

I used to think you meant well Steve. Now I'm afraid you can't see the forest through the trees. PTC is still a pretty nice place and the screwup on the west side of town was set into motion those 30+ years ago when the land was zoned commercial.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Fri, 01/09/2009 - 8:04am.

When Planterra was rezoned (without any opposition or comment) it was because residential land was more valuable than commercial or industrial. Yes, it actually was - in PTC at that time - for about 5 years in the late 80's and early 90's.

PCDC had an excellent master plan for that entire area but the major land owners Cowan, Farr, Huddleston had such a low opinion of Mitchell and Black and even the mayors Brown I and Lenox that they did not cooperate with or endorse that plan.

Then Ravin Homes snuck in Cedarcroft and the apartments through a loophole and all the landowners pulled back from any hope of cooperative effort and clung desperately to their commercial zoning. They ultimately made more money - lot's more, but the real cause of the problem was the egotistical and patronizing attitude of PCDC toward the real developers and founders of PTC.

In government at the time, I can say with certainty that we were very close to a much better plan on the westside - full-fledged retirement community of over 40 acres, replacement indoor and outdoor entertainment venue for The Fred, small college campus, several church sites large enough for modern needs and most importantly a good mix of housing in all price ranges - yes, Wieland and townehomes (done properly) would be part of the plan. Wieland was needed to get the 3 northern landowners on board who would not even speak to Mitchell and Black (hope someone writes the background of that story in the first PTC history book - it is really interesting and would read more like lite fiction).
If the plan were implemented, you would see a performing arts center instead of The Avenue, Mc Duff Parkway would have been built early on as a collector road connected to 74 and the YMCA would be there instead of Wal-Mart and part of Cedarcroft. And everybody would have made plenty of money without all the self-centered (and perfectly legal) attitude about the highest and best use for their particular parcel of land and certainly without the north Atlanta/Riverdale approach that all commercial must be visible from a state highway.

PTC was a planned community until about 1990 then we lost our way. Brown II certainly didn't help, but it was lost long before he came along.

mudcat's picture
Submitted by mudcat on Thu, 01/08/2009 - 9:03pm.

I am so tired of hearing from you every week in this stupid newspaper. Go away. We don't want you back in our lives ever again.

Cal gives you ink because ......? Why?

If you are planning on running again hubby says DirectPac will come back with a different name and different players and with a huge support system.

How does Amos, Brooks, Rower sound to you as the 3 united candidates in November?

Or, Green, Haas, Pfeifer?

Or, Strickland (the younger), Nesbitt, Tyler?

Or Harris, Heil, Chapman (all the younger generation)?

What say you ****head?

mudcat's picture
Submitted by mudcat on Fri, 01/09/2009 - 4:39pm.

Oddly enough 2 of the several names I mentioned - totally in jest - as possible candidates for city council actually expressed a serious interest in running earlier today. One is definitely going to run and the other is taking a wait and see approach, but might do it.

Both are young and were raised here - making them second-generation PTC. I think that is a good thing.

Neither will run for mayor, bith support Haddix for mayor. We could do worse than Haddix.

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