Lakefront development in PTC industrial park faces land use hurdles

Tue, 02/24/2009 - 4:23pm
By: John Munford

A proposal to rezone a 37-acre industrial site for an 80-home subdivision and event center faces some significant hurdles based on feedback from the Peachtree City Planning Commission Monday night.

Developer Pathway Communities is touting the land’s views of the future Lake McIntosh reservoir and the Planterra Ridge golf course as a principal justification for the rezoning. But the Callula Hill site is also very close to Falcon Field Airport, separated by two golf holes from a safety area off the end of the airport’s runway.

Planning Commissioner Joe Frazar said he needs more information on the federal aviation requirements that might be imposed on the site due to its proximity to the airport.

Gene Lavine of Pathway Communities told the commission that planes taking off and landing will not fly over Callula Hill but rather fly over what will eventually be Lake McIntosh.

Former Mayor Steve Brown countered that in his Planterra Ridge subdivision to the north, some aircraft leaving Falcon Field are quite noisy. He suggested the noise would be even worse to potential residents at Callula Hill.

New planning commissioner Lynda Wojcik said she was concerned about the potential for an airplane crash due to the site’s proximity to Falcon Field.

City Planner David Rast said the city’s airport authority has said it wants to study the Pathway proposal more before determining its position on the rezoning. That recommendation is expected to be received before the next planning commission meeting, Rast said.

The commission did not vote on a recommendation about the rezoning because the public hearing was not advertised properly in advance. Ultimately it is the City Council’s responsibility to approve or deny the rezoning application.

Several commissioners suggested that the site would benefit from having fewer homes so more trees can be saved on the property. An aerial photo of the property shows it is almost completely wooded, and officials have said many of those trees are hardwoods.

The land is located off FieldTurf Drive (formerly Husky Way) and is large enough that it could host a company the size of Hoshizaki, said Assistant City Planner Tony Bernard.

Brown also pointed out that the adjacent tracts zoned for industrial use could host a company that uses dangerous chemicals, and that the city would have no control over the potential danger to residents at Callula Hill.

“On the one hand we don’t want industrial because it’s dangerous, but we want to keep my land industrial? Either it’s dangerous or it’s not dangerous,” Lavine said.

Planning Commissioner Larry Sussberg asked what would keep another chemical company from locating near Callula Hill. Lavine said the city could do that, but Brown vehemently countered the city could not control what business locates on a given property if it is in accordance with zoning laws.

Another big question for the Callula Hill project is whether or not the rezoning can be justified to coincide with the city’s land use plan. Rast pointed out that the 1985 land use plan spelled out a need for medium and high density multi-family development adjacent to the industrial park to serve as homes for employees of the industrial park and to maximize the number of people who could enjoy the lake amenities.

However, the land use for this site has always been industrial and remained so when the land use plan was updated in 1992 and again in 2002, Rast noted.

Rast also said the proposed subdivision would not blend in with one of the city’s villages.

“In essence it would be a standalone development within an industrial park,” Rast said. “... If you look at that alone you may say that may be cause to not move forward with it.”

It could also be possible to interpret the land use plan being in favor of the project because it would provide housing in the industrial park and the houses would take advantage of the Lake McIntosh views, Rast added.

“There are some aspects of this that could be considered as being in sync with the land use plan,” Rast said.

Sussberg asked if the city attorney’s opinion has been solicited as to whether the subdivision would be consistent with the city’s land use plan. Rast replied that the city attorney has said the main goal is for the city to evaluate the proposal based on its merits and on the various ordinances, land use plan, comprehensive plan and other special studies that have been done.

Rast said that attorney Ted Meeker told him if the commission makes a random change that deviated from the land use plan, the city is more likely to lose a lawsuit that might be filed over the property’s zoning.

Rast also noted that the zoning sought by Pathway is for limited use residential and limited use commercial, which gives the city power to require additional landscape buffer, tree preservation and design guidelines for the site. Also the city can limit the specific uses for the site, he added.

Rast also noted that the city recently adopted an ordinance that requires a 75-foot undisturbed buffer between any commercial or industrial use and any land zoned residential. That would necessitate changes to the conceptual plan of Callula Hill presented by Pathway, Rast said.

Lavine said an industrial or office building will require much more of the vegetation on the site to be removed than their plans for Callula Hill. Wojcik agreed that more trees would be saved if the site was developed as residential instead of as industrial.

Commissioner Theo Scott said he is concerned about how the subdivision would connect to the city’s cart path system, particularly in terms of navigating to Braelinn Village.

“This area is pretty much isolated from the multi-use path system,” Rast said, nothing that staff and Pathway have looked into perhaps connecting the path somehow to the Planterra Ridge subdivision.

Another option is to build a path up Dividend Drive to reach a path that leads to Kelly Drive and a tunnel under Ga. Highway 74, Rast said.

Lavine argued that the construction would “create jobs” now instead of perhaps 10 years down the road when the property might be developed as industrial.

Brown countered that the city needs the jobs that would be created by the site being used for an industrial or office use so some residents wouldn’t have to commute outside Peachtree City.

Pathway officials said they have not been successful in selling the property as an industrial site but they envision great success marketing the site as a subdivision. The event center, with an estimated property value of $5 million, would also include 12 villas that would be rented out to customers holding events there, Pathway officials have said.

Brown, who lives in the Planterra Ridge subdivision, said he felt the city made a huge mistake years ago when it rezoned the Planterra land from industrial to residential. Because of two former industries and the dangerous chemicals they used, Brown said had he known about their existence so close to his home he never would have bought his home in Planterra Ridge.

Brown suggested that once the lake is complete the site would make a very desirable location for a corporate headquarters, a use allowed in the city’s industrial zoning district.

Marcia Hendershot, the only other citizen to comment at Monday’s meeting, said her main concern was the increase in traffic that would occur if the site is rezoned for residential use.

Lavine said if the rezoning is approved construction would likely not begin until 2010. It would take roughly three years to complete, he added.

The homes will have a maximum size of 4,000 square feet and have an average sales price of $550,000, Pathway officials have said.

Lavine noted that although the subdivision’s initial entrance will be through the Southpark industrial park, its main entrance will be off TDK Boulevard after it is extended to reach the Lake McIntosh project.

Pathway has owned the property since 1979 and has considered multiple uses for the property, Lavine said.

Another Pathway official said the company has shown the site a number of times to potential corporate clients but none have ultimately located there.

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yardman5508's picture
Submitted by yardman5508 on Tue, 03/03/2009 - 8:29pm.

as if it was a done deal. What is the status of that project right now? I was under the impression that TDK was more or less on hold for the present. Keep the faith.

Democracy is NOT a spectator sport.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Fri, 02/27/2009 - 5:29am.

You were right on about converting industrial to residential and I agree with everything you said until this gem

"........ two former industries and the dangerous chemicals they used, Brown said had he known about their existence so close to his home he never would have bought his home in Planterra Ridge"

Huh? You didn't know there was an industrial park in your backyard? It is pretty big and visible. Fire Department has all the info you would need on the dangerous chemicals. Newspaper and police reports would have revealed the Photocircuts chemical spill. You need to do your due diligence before buying a house.

BTW, there is an airport there as well - long before any houses were built.

Steve Brown's picture
Submitted by Steve Brown on Tue, 03/03/2009 - 1:04pm.

Blogger Robert W. Morgan is correct. I should have taken it upon myself to thoroughly examine the situation. I foolishly believed what the real estate people had to say.

Somehow too, I foolishly never thought a Planning Commission or City Council would be careless enough to convert industrial land to residential zoning knowing the site was adjacent to two of the worst hazardous industries in Fayette County history. Thank God, those hazardous entities are gone now.

Planterra Ridge, as much as I love my home and my neighbors, was, for many reasons, a land planning mistake.

The city just might make a similar mistake again with Callula Hill, only to the fifth power this time. It is a blantant error in land planning to rezone that land to residential.

Spear Road Guy's picture
Submitted by Spear Road Guy on Tue, 03/03/2009 - 8:08pm.

I haven't hear a peep out of him on this one. I'd rather have the business than more stinking housing. We're flooding our city with housing.

How many houses have yet to be built in the west village alone???

Vote Republican

Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Tue, 03/03/2009 - 9:38pm.

Nope. Have not been silent.

Callula Hills

I oppose the annexation for the Hyde Development as well. Totally the wrong time to even ask for something like this.

Don Haddix
PTC Councilman
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