With Callula Hill, unplanning reaches its apex

Cal Beverly's picture

[EDITOR'S NOTE: As of Thursday afternoon, the rezoning vote on Callula Hill has been postponed to mid-July.]

Once upon a time in Peachtree City’s history (like up to about 10 years ago), the volunteer Planning Commission served as the diligent, sometimes picky, but always faithful guardian of the city’s land use plan.

Up until the mid-1990s, so did the elected City Council.

That is now ancient history.

The new breed of volunteer arrives in town two months ago, gets appointed to the commission two weeks ago and two nights ago decides on the basis of his own personal aesthetics what should or should not be approved and built in Peachtree City.

To hell (or to irrelevance) with the city’s primary planning document. You remember: Peachtree City, a “planned city”?

Witness the latest witless unplanning of our “planned city” in a 3-to-2 vote to rezone 37 acres in the city’s industrial park to a high-end, dense residential-commercial lakeside development:

“[Planning Commissioner Joe] Frazar ultimately voted in favor of the rezoning, saying that he felt the property lent itself ideally to a residential use. Joining Frazar in favor were Theo Scott and Patrick Staples. Voting against were Lynda Wojcik and Larry Sussberg, who both said the proximity to the airport was a significant issue for them, particularly in light of the noise of planes taking off and landing.

“Wojcik also said she felt the plan was contrary to the city’s land use plan. But Staples noted that the city attorney has informed the commission that because of the uniqueness of the property such a rezoning would not set a precedent for other rezonings of land from industrial to commercial and residential uses.”

Thanks from an ancient resident of our once-planned city to Ms. Wojcik and Mr. Sussberg, who demonstrated fidelity to sound planning principles.

Unplanners Frazar, Scott and Staples must subscribe to that new-found virtue of “empathy” we hear much about from supporters of a self-described “wise Latina” as she awaits anointing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The trio of unplanners empathize with every rezoning applicant and shopping center developer appearing before them. These unplanners positively ooze identification with the supplicants, always seeking some way — some tortured reading of the city plan or zoning rules — to give the developers what the developers want.

Guys (Frazar, Scott and Staples), let me be blunt with you: You have gone to work for the wrong employer. You should be working for us, the residents of Peachtree City. You should have as your first principle the wishes and welfare of the residents of the city as personified in the land use plan.

Where is your empathy for the city’s planning document? Where is your empathy for the city’s thousands of residents, most of whom would not share your enthusiasm for changing and even discarding the basic structure of the city?

Messrs. Frazar, Scott and Staples, your highest volunteer service for the citizens of Peachtree City at this low point would be to volunteer yourselves off the Planning Commission.

And now cometh the City Council, three of whose members are as deaf to residents’ wishes as those ceremonial bricks in front of City Hall.

I wrote many years ago that the big battle for Peachtree City’s soul would come with requests to rezone the city’s signature industrial park to residential uses, at ever higher densities.

The battle is here [postponed to mid-July] in the council chambers.

Callula Hill will set a planning precedent, a legal precedent and a moral precedent.

I’ve long since given up expecting any deference to the city’s history and planning cohesiveness from Mayor Harold Logsdon and Councilman Steve Boone. They simply ignore public opinion and consistently vote the developers’ way.

Councilwoman Cyndi Plunkett seems to hear only her own internal voices on issues like this, so long as the issue doesn’t negatively impact any recreation programs.

She has disappointed on many rezoning issues because she votes like a scared defense attorney cowering before a plaintiff’s (read: “developer’s”) lawyer. The public can afford to lose this one, she seems to suggest many times, so long as the city doesn’t get sued. Public opinion is at best a distraction for this councilwoman.

Councilmen Don Haddix and Doug Sturbaum reliably vote for strictly upholding the city’s carefully planned features. They usually are a minority.

The most important council vote in at least two years is coming [now in mid-July]. I’m afraid it will be 3-to-2 in favor of bastardizing the city’s land use plan.

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Submitted by Imker on Wed, 06/17/2009 - 3:14pm.

Its seems the citizens are nearly unanimous in their desire not to approved this rezoning. How can any council member consciously vote for this? Why? Why? Why? So you disappoint one or two campaign contributors. Why would you want to shove this down the rest of our throats? Boone and Plunket need to simply live with the fact they're not going to get reelected nor be elected mayor. That's the problem when folks get into office with higher ambitions. It stinks. I beg one of these two folks to do the right thing and vote No. Please don't do this to our community as some kind of payback either for your former supporters or future goals. Think of our city first.

Steve Brown's picture
Submitted by Steve Brown on Wed, 06/17/2009 - 2:54pm.

Former Airport Manager Jim Savage hit the nail on the head: the city has always tried (until the last Planning Commission vote) to protect the Falcon Field Airport from residential development; the city's planning documents clearly show this.

Sadly, I expect Logsdon/Boone/Plunkett to approve the rezoning. There is no reverence for the city's history of strict planning amongst the three. Logsdon is a sure vote in favor because he owes the Pathway principles for the campaign support he received.

The future of the airport will be affected by this development. Too bad the Airport Authority allowed themselves to be pressured into silence on the matter.

The Pathway Communities tactic of throwing the rezoning on the city council agenda immediately, so as to thwart any organized opposition, is designed to take some of the pressure off of Logsdon/Boone/Plunkett.

Many thought the "planning" aspect of our city would erode under Mayor Logsdon and friends, but it is literally imploding before our eyes. The Callula Hill decision has major future implications to the airport and the city.

Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Wed, 06/17/2009 - 9:01am.

I was shocked and concerned when I read the statement this would not set precedent, since I firmly believe it would.

I spoke with the City Attorney and he says that statement was never made by him.

There are other parcels adjoining this proposed site owned by Pathways that I could foresee Pathways wanting to rezone to LUR in the future. How could we say no to them if this one were granted?

This is a bad proposal for many, many reasons.

Don Haddix
PTC Councilman
Post 1

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Wed, 06/17/2009 - 5:18am.

Cal, your comment about Cyndi running scared from lawsuits and protecting recreation is right on. I never could figure out her thought process, but that analysis explains most of her "decision-making".

Normally I wouldn't want a judge making zoning decisions in Peachtree City, but this is a case that is just begging for a lawsuit and a decision by a judge. Either Cyndi grows a pair and votes against this horrible project - in which case Mitchell has to sue the city and explain to a judge, let's say Judge English for example, how he has the right to rezone his industrial land to residential against the requirements of the land use plan, FAA recommendations and common sense - just because the land has a good view of a future lake. Anyone see any possible outcome other than to send Mitchell and his flunkies home to pound sand?

OR, the more likely scenario - a 3-2 vote in favor and the plan proceeds. Plunkett's career is over and so is Boone's, but who would notice. Anyhow, those of us who really, really care about the sanctity of the land use plan and are as angry about the gang of 3 pushing this off on us because of some unknown (and inexplicable) obligation to Mitchell and Pathways take things into our own hands. We join forces and file fund a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the citizens of PTC in conjunction with a recall vote for the 3 brain-dead council people who voted for this. The recall effort is purely symbolic, but it will enable us to collect signatures for both the recall and the lawsuit and solicit cash contributions at the same time. I talked to 3 neighbors who would pledge at least $1,000 and I know I can easily double that. Best guess is that it would cost about $15,000 to get this before a judge (pray for English, although any judge would rule with us). And again, someone would have to explain the logic of the decision to rezone over the requirements of the land use plan and the safety recommendations of the FAA. Can't be done logically and legally. Of course, even a 2-year delay for a court date is a victory since Mitchell will wimp out like he always does when faced with serious opposition.

JGF9148's picture
Submitted by JGF9148 on Wed, 06/17/2009 - 11:51am.

There should not be any suprise here. The city has been going thru deconstruction at the hands of these folks for sometime now. The Planning Commission needs to be disbanded, since its failed to live up to its mandate as caretakers of the land use plan established for this city. Self interests and personel vision has no place at that table. Prior to Thursday night, Council needs to examine their own conscience on the risk they are willing to take.I would be concerned with voting yes on placing homes, more than likely with young children in them at the end of an active runway. That airport is vital to this city, I don't think it will be too long after this development is completed that the lawsuits will start and will end with the demise of Falcon Field.

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