Let’s recognize the original genius responsible for PTC

Steve Brown's picture

There were certain issues in the past, whenever they arose, when I just kept my thoughts to myself and kept going.

As an elected official who was vocal on land use and transportation issues, I was often called to speak to various groups regarding those subjects. But before speaking, I would sometimes be introduced as the mayor of a city created under a master plan, never veering from it, maintaining the original vision from start to present. It was not true.

Without going into any detail, I would say something like, “You have no doubt heard a lot of things about the history of Peachtree City, some of which are true.” Generally, I left it there and went on with my talk.

Many of the tall tales could be sourced back to the first mayor, Joel Cowan. Mainly, I just looked the other way, thinking he was just trying to embellish his legacy.

Most people were led to believe that Cowan founded Peachtree City, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, when I read where sculptor Andy Davis asked the City Council to ply his trade to honor Peachtree City “founders” Joel Cowan and Floy Farr, I was repulsed by the notion that the local government agreed to officially commemorate a historical lie.

Floy Farr is nothing but a mere footnote when it comes to the creation of Peachtree City. Farr is often given credit for single-handedly launching the Coweta-Fayette EMC, but that is also stretching the truth.

Amateur historian, Carolyn Cary, whose previous attempts at Peachtree City’s history only begin with Cowan and Farr, reluctantly admitted Developer Pete Knox, Jr. preceded Cowan in her recent column entitled, “I’m proud to have known PTC’s founding father.”

Ms. Cary confesses, “An article [on the new town, Peachtree City] in The Atlanta Journal, May 13, 1957, caught the eye of a Georgia Tech junior, Joel Cowan. He was the roommate of a Tech senior, Pete Knox III.”

Ms. Cary continued, “Cowan thought this ‘new town’ sounded like a project he wanted to be associated with ....’”

Obviously, someone else, specifically Pete Knox, Jr., had already begun the process of creating what is now Peachtree City before Cowan ever knew the project existed.

Renowned developer Tom Cousins, who at the time was an employee at Knox Homes, and teamed with Knox on the creation of Peachtree City, will openly say Pete Knox, Jr. was the founder of the city and Cowan later became an employee, or “their man on the ground,” as Cousins would say.

Unfortunately, Ms. Cary chose not to interview Cousins or Willard Byrd over the many years she purportedly kept an accurate history of Fayette County. Sadly, Ms. Cary did not even know of Walter Hunziker, the man who promoted the “new town” movement, convincing Pete Knox, Jr. to take such a daring move, until she read my column of May 13, 2009.

Truth be told, the first time Hunziker ever heard from Ms. Cary was an email on May 19, 2009. Ms. Cary requested of Hunziker, “I would appreciate your sending along a comment or two as to your early involvement, I believe it would be about the year 1956.”

The email request from Ms. Cary clearly shows the ball was rolling well before Cowan read the Atlanta Journal article in May of 1957.

Nevertheless, Ms. Cary still clings, in a sort of stubborn resentment, to her claim of Cowan and Farr as founders.

As the first mayor of Peachtree City, Joel Cowan became the city’s first ethical dilemma, acting as both the government and the developer simultaneously. Following citizen displeasure of such conflicting interests, Ralph Jones, an established figure in the community, possessing a great deal of respect, was elected mayor.

Another myth was the city just zipped along following the perfect plan toward what we have today. In actually, there was no master plan until 1972, composed by Arthur Little Inc., projecting a build-out population of 84,000. Likewise, the developer and the landholdings went belly-up in the early days, leaving the city in receivership.

The most valuable player in Peachtree City’s history was the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, electing to keep the landholdings intact from 1979 to 1994.

Quite literally, the city could have been subdivided, sold off and developed in a way that would have never resembled what we have today had Equitable not been such a stable force.

Equitable brought in the Peachtree City Development Corporation (PCDC) as its development agent from 1979 to 1994. (PCDC is now known as Pathway Communities.)

PCDC’s Doug Mitchell is the person most responsible for Peachtree City being what it is today. Although Mitchell left some personal and professional damage in his wake, a somewhat forceful presence, he led the effort to reshape the city into its current form, creating the allure that drew most of us to this place. PCDC purchased the remaining Equitable holdings in 1994.

In government and development circles, Cowan has readily taken the credit for Mitchell’s success even though Cowan’s vision of the city was different from what we have today. Mitchell publicly disputed Cowan’s claims during a LINK trip sponsored by the Atlanta Regional Commission, according to an article by Maria Saporta of the AJC (July 22, 2002).

Many have also been disappointed by Cowan’s willingness to sell his landholdings to big box retail developers, further eroding the city’s village concept.

I do not appreciate Cowan’s silence on the sidelines as others do his bidding, allowing revisionist history and the disintegration of Pete Knox, Jr.’s legacy. Even though I never met Mr. Knox or his family, I have a deep appreciation for the man and his vision, willing to take a huge risk on the concept of creating a new city.

Cowan can certainly take credit for being the city’s first mayor and a primary developer, but the indignity of shoving the true founder, the man who employed Cowan, provided him with an opportunity, and acted as a mentor, out of our city’s history is shameful.

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

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Steve Brown's picture
Submitted by Steve Brown on Thu, 09/03/2009 - 11:52am.

Always amazing how those chosen few resort to personal attacks because the facts are working against them.

Please, if you want to dispute the facts, have a go at it. I have accumulated a large body of documentation on the early days. (I have more than the city or library and will eventually turn these historical reference documents over to the library.)

The comments regarding Doug Mitchell are interesting. Mitchell and I have often been on opposite sides of the fence. However, the truth is his team's endeavors worked and paid large dividends. The argument can definitely be made that the man is a scoundrel, but his development model, in general, worked, regardless of what we think of the ripoff sewer deal and the proposed Callula Hill development.

Nuk never gives up on the TDK issue. I was never against the road for the sake of building a transportation corridor, but I was never going to use city funds for something that was based on a huge lie (traffic relief). I'm saying the exact same thing about the West Fayetteville Bypass.

Former Mayor Bob Lenox said it best:
"When Steve Brown took office on Jan. 1, 2002, the design and engineering work was virtually complete, all the necessary right-of-way was either in hand or committed to the city at no cost, the city had the necessary financial resources to build the road, and it was estimated that the road could be completed and opened to traffic by July 1, 2003.

For the next two years Steve Brown personally stonewalled this project. You don’t have to take my word for this. Pick up your telephone and call Greg Dunn, Fayette County Commission chairman, or any member of the Fayette County Commission. Call Ken Steele, mayor of Fayetteville, or any member of his council. Call Mitch Seabaugh, our state senator at the time. Call Lynn Westmoreland, then our state representative, now our representative to the U.S. Congress. Call the chairman or any member of the Coweta County Commission.

Ladies and gentlemen, building a road nowadays is an arduous and complicated undertaking that can easily take many years. Getting it done means that many good people must stay the course over many years.

Unfortunately for us it also means that stopping it requires only one bad or incompetent person who fails to do the job when necessary.

It is not often in government that you can clearly find the culprit when things go wrong, but in this case every one of us who has worked for years to make TDK Boulevard a reality knows that Steve Brown stopped it.

Congratulations, Mr. Brown. That was your goal when you took office and you did it. I hope you feel proud."

I tried my best to get the people to believe the road was a hoax, eventually it was proven. It was worth fighting even tough I was vastly out-gunned.

The same is true about the revisionist history movement in Peachtree City. Hopefully, people will see the truth there as well.

It really does not matter whether Doug Mitchell was a bum, Joel Cowan was nice or Pete Knox, Jr. is dead; no, it is the truth that matters.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Fri, 09/04/2009 - 6:17am.

Fact #1 - It was not Mitchell's development plan, neither the original one that had a population of 80,000, elevated monorails and high rise buildings on Drake Field OR the 2 revisions, one of which occurred during his tenure.
Fact #2 - The revised development plan that he was actually here for was forced on him by Equitable, the reason being the increased absorption rate (10 years to build out) that they required in turn for fronting the money to purchase the land from Georgia Craft ($2500 per acre) that is now southern Braelinn Village.

Fact #3 - Arthur D. Little, Robert Charles Lesser, Jerry Peterson and Jim Williams are the true authors of the 3 versions of the development plan. Certainly Joel had some input in the early years, but Mitchell's only contribution to the development plan (or anything else) was simply to hire smart people who had talents he did not and leave them alone - which to his credit he did for most of his tenure. And yes indeed, the plan worked. It worked because government and landowner were on the same page and the landowner knew squeezing every bit of density out of the land was the proper thing to do. Now we have 0 responsible landowners and a government that is clueless when it comes to historical perspective and reverence for the land use plan, but I digress.

By the way, Willard Byrd, Walter Hunziker contributed ideas and concepts, same as Wood and partners, Jim Strickland, Clark Rector, Dave Stone and many others did over the years. There are many conceptual plans created over the years some used, some not. That's not the same thing as creating a land use plan and a detailed strategic development plan on how to build a city.

Fact #4 The early 90's presented Mitchell with another temptation he could not resist - Equitable desperate to sell all the remaining undeveloped land ($15,00 per acre, I think - I'll send you the purchase agreement when I find it) and the sewer system for $1 (no agreement on that one, except the $28 million one the city paid). That's when Mitchell started micromanaging and earning his scoundrel reputation on the business side. The personal side of his scoundrel behavior began years before that when he was sent to Georgia Military Academy - when it was a military reform school.

If you are collecting documents for some reason, you will enjoy the sales agreements,the memos that went with the drafts and Mitchell's personal services contract with Equitable ($100k per year in 1978 - not bad for a former Chamber of Commerce employee in Brunswick).

I hope you are collecting material to write a book since now is the time to do it while some of the early people are still with us. I'm not sure you can be objective as an author of history should be, but it doesn't look like anyone else is interested. If you do write that book be aware that the early days are far more interesting to your readers than the tennis center fiasco and TDK bridge.

Look for a UPS delivery early next week.

Steve Brown's picture
Submitted by Steve Brown on Fri, 09/04/2009 - 9:44am.

I am closer in thought with Morgan's "Brown:facts" with fewer disagreements. There is a great deal of merit to your post.

1/2/3. I never claimed Mitchell was behind the original master plans. He had to work under Equitable's watch, no doubt, but he did manage the team who executed the design that worked. As you know, hire the wrong person or make the wrong decision and the operation can collaspe.

Absolutely, Arthur D. Little, Robert Charles Lesser, Jerry Peterson and Jim Williams deserve their own pedestals in the annals of PTC's history. (The column was specifically addressing the "founder" issue.)

Mitchell was not someone a lot of people admired, and personally, I did not admire the guy. But he was smart enough hire and keep guys like Jerry Peterson who had the eye and creativity to make it all work. After all of the decades of Peterson's great work on PTC, Mitchell gave him the ax as a reward, typical Doug Mitchell.

From the city's end, Jim Williams was the greatest weapon in the city's arsenal, getting incredible developer concessions.

And I wholeheartedly agree with your statement on "a [current]government that is clueless when it comes to historical perspective and reverence for the land use plan."

Huniker and Byrd were more important than you let on because they had a solid working relationship with Pete Know, Jr. They sold him on the "new town" idea and zero-ed in on the area that is now PTC as the site with the greatest potential for the price.

4. Doug Mitchell's life speaks for itself; thus, I stated he had a lot of personal and professional damage in his wake.

Yes, what I have collected could lead to something bigger down the road. I am always looking for more documentation, if you wish to send it. As far as being objective, my column was factual, giving Mitchell the credit he was due even though he threw large campaign contributions to anyone who ever ran against me.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Fri, 09/04/2009 - 7:41pm.

Thanks. We are on the same page. Please collect the materials and write the book.

I know we and many others know this is the best place in the country to live and I think the history of the development (warts and all) is relevant to our current peace of mind. Also, it keeps the clowns out of the parade - i.e. Callugha Hills.

I did find some of the documents from the old days and they will be sent to you.

NUK_1's picture
Submitted by NUK_1 on Fri, 09/04/2009 - 11:03am.

Regardless of the kind of person Mitchell is, no one can deny the fact that he certainly had a big role in the development of what PTC came to be, along with several others as Morgan and Brown have pointed out. Anything else about Mitchell is interesting from a perverse standpoint like hearing about what Hollywood celeb did something stupid, but not that relevant to this discussion.

I don't really know the HUGE relevance over who should be called "founder" or "father/grandfather" of PTC is all about or if it matters one iota, but it makes for an interesting read at least.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Thu, 09/03/2009 - 4:44am.

I think the most restful part was when the internet service went out. Then I fly across the whole country to get home and read this:
"PCDC’s Doug Mitchell is the person most responsible for Peachtree City being what it is today. Although Mitchell left some personal and professional damage in his wake, a somewhat forceful presence, he led the effort to reshape the city into its current form, creating the allure that drew most of us to this place. PCDC purchased the remaining Equitable holdings in 1994."

Huh? Mitchell? Are you kidding me. First of all the man is a Democrat, the booze and womanizing and the sewer system sold to the city in complete disrepair are bad as well, but a Democrat? Good God. And what possible reason does Brown have to throw Joel Cowan under the bus in order to promote Doug Mitchell - who is also a huge Logson and Lenox supporter - Lenox ran because Mitchell asked him to do so. And Mitchell spent endless time railing against Brown when he was mayor.

Joel has never been anything but honest and modest about his role in PTC. The role of Peter Knox, his son and even Tom Cousins is all probably true, but in no way diminishes Joel's role as Founder of PTC. On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the city, what possible good comes out of this type of nonsense from someone who was booted out of office after one shaky term as an ineffective mayor.

Submitted by Bonkers on Thu, 09/03/2009 - 9:42am.

It seems to me that multi-millions of wealth for the three heroes should be sufficient pay for them. No hero worship required.

Submitted by johenry on Thu, 09/03/2009 - 8:04am.

I can see how you would be amazed that someone would say something nice about a person who talked bad about him. As you say Doug Mitchell was out railing against Steve Brown when he was mayor just proves to me Steve is a Godly man of character.

It's pretty clear Steve Brown was more interested in telling the truth than just patting his friends on the back. In a word that's called integrity.

The men who grew up in my day had integrity. Nowadays the men are selfish.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Thu, 09/03/2009 - 5:07am.

And Brown bestows greatness on the one who is trying to violate the land use plan and ruin the industrial park? "Splain that please.

Submitted by Spyglass on Wed, 09/02/2009 - 6:11pm.


Spear Road Guy's picture
Submitted by Spear Road Guy on Wed, 09/02/2009 - 8:30am.

After reading Mudcat's I-hate-Steve-Brown rant, I've got to say if you had to pick the most honest mayor out of the lot I'm picking Brown.

Don't know why he propped up Doug Mitchell the jerk. Ok, Mitchell did hire the people who got things moving, but his inflated ego was his worst enemy.

Unbelievable that Mudcat is still bringing up the Direct PAC scum bags. What a bunch of crooks!!!

Vote Republican

Submitted by MYTMITE on Wed, 09/02/2009 - 7:58pm.

mistaken, her significant other is heavily entrenched with the old group. I, too, feel Steve Brown is honest and has the best interest of the community at heart. For someone who knocks Steve for not being here at the time, and admitting she was not either, she sure has a lot to say about it and like most of her posts, it's negative.
If she is holding Logsdon up as some paragon because his pics are appearing around--reminds me of a saying of a former teacher--"Fools names, like fools faces, often found in public places." Certainly, she is not meaning to say that Logsdon has done good for the city in his tenure as mayor???? Let's hope he cuts those puppet strings if he does win--and God help us if he does.

mrs fran sheldon's picture
Submitted by mrs fran sheldon on Wed, 09/02/2009 - 12:35pm.

On Steve Brown, I would have to agree with Mr. Spear Road Guy. Mr. Brown was an honest, hardworking person and I think he was a good mayor. Not to criticize our other fine public servants, but I just think he is a fine young man.


Mrs. Fran Sheldon


Submitted by swac on Wed, 09/02/2009 - 5:21pm.

This is so typical of Steve Brown- trying to build a reputation by destroying the reputation of others who actually built something.

Voice of Fayette Future's picture
Submitted by Voice of Fayett... on Thu, 09/03/2009 - 2:03pm.

"Reputation of others who actually built something..."


Built what? Let's see (1) a World Class Cash Drain Tennis Center (2) a local bank for developers....Oops we shouldn't talk about that one.

Submitted by Doug on Wed, 09/02/2009 - 8:33pm.

Destroying a reputation? The way I read it, he's trying to defend one from someone who ought to know better.

No one make the good old boys more angry than Steve Brown.

Submitted by Bonkers on Wed, 09/02/2009 - 9:09am.

Yes, Steve Brown tried to be honest and point out some terrible mistakes which many did not see the need to do!

It is similar to the CIA investigation currently by the Justice department, many, Cheney and Bush in particular--and several gen erals-- want that smoothed over quickly under the guise of morale in the CIA!

The ones being investigated don't want those punished whom they ordered to do the dirty work. They probably promised them they wouldn't be.

PTCs few crooked millions doesn't compare to the CIA mess, but I couldn't resist the comparison.

mudcat's picture
Submitted by mudcat on Wed, 09/02/2009 - 7:07am.

Seldom do I hear from 3 previously elected officials before 8:00 AM, but I did today and the reason was Steve Brown's idiotic and totally pointless opinion piece (hopefully unpaid) in The Citizen - the printed version. Dissing the late Floy Farr (like he did his late son, Tom Farr) is totally uncalled-for and inappropriate. But I suspect Joel Cowan, the founder of Peachtree City, was Brown's real target.

You have to read the thing 2 or 3 time before you connect the headline "The real genius behind Peachtree City" to any one person, but I guess he settled on Pete Knox who did in fact hire Cowan to found Peachtree City. Mr. Knox, Sr never took any credit for founding Peachtree City other than the previously stated fact that he hired a young Mr. Cowan and Pete Knox, Jr. has always acknowledged Joel Cowan as the founder.

This kind of revisionist history will certainly be disputed with more on the scene facts from those who were actually here - unlike Brown, myself and indeed 99% of our current residents. I'll leave the details to them.

The reason for this attack by the city's worst mayor is painfully transparent and once again highlights his immaturity and poor judgment (previously exhibited during his 1 term as mayor). Brown was shunned many times during his tenure as ex-mayor, but never as strongly as before the July 4th parade when several people tried to get all the former mayors and Harold Morgan's wife Dolly together for a photo. We are very fortunate to have had all our past mayors alive and well living in Peachtree City until Mr. Morgan's death a couple of years ago and this was a strong PR statement for our 50 year-old city. No one wanted to stand next to Brown or even acknowledge him on July 4th and at many previous events, the same thing has happened. Of course when all the former mayors signed the Direct PAC petition condemning his accusations of improprietry against Tom Farr when Brown was actually a city official - mayor, that probably upset him as well. When all the former mayors endorsed Logsdon over Brown, that may have upset him as well.

Of course when an incumbent first-term mayor draws 6 opponents in could have been his first re-election, one might suspect there was a problem with his performance as mayor, but not the brown clown.

Now, with Logsdon running for State-wide office and his photos with Joel Cowan appearing on every magazine cover, the immature Brown finally snapped and wrote this idiotic opinion piece. Cal, you need to edit these things, not just for length and profanity, but also for stupidity.

You are also wading into very dangerous waters when you begin to promote Doug Mitchell as being any more than a figurehead employee (technically a property manager) for Equitable. Mitchell knows his background and personal antics prevent him from any public positioning and that's why he remains under his own rock. Again, those that were actually there will probably comment on that. There's plenty of them in town.

You are 100% correct about Equitable being the glue that held this place together during the important development years. Consolidated land ownership and close liason between developer and city government is what made this place. Look at Cedar Croft, the apartments, McDuff Parkway ending in the middle of nowhere and generally everything west of 74 as an example of too many individual landowners and weak government leadership as the bad example. Equitable never had much of the land over there and certainly did not have control - as they did with most of the city.

DarkMadam's picture
Submitted by DarkMadam on Thu, 09/03/2009 - 12:45pm.

I see that you have voiced your opinion. Here is mine...
LOGSDON IS THE CLEAR WINNER OF THE WORST PTC MAYOR OF ALL TIME...Just my opinion, and every bit as valid as anyone elses!

Submitted by johenry on Tue, 09/01/2009 - 8:12pm.

As Paul Harvey used to say, "And now you know the rest of the story."

Tell us more about who Doug Mitchell is. I've never heard of the guy.

NUK_1's picture
Submitted by NUK_1 on Wed, 09/02/2009 - 8:20am.

You claim he speaks the truth and don't have any idea who Doug Mitchell is? Your knowledge of history in PTC is so hopelessly ignorant that you wouldn't have any idea about what the "truth" is or not. You always agree with Steve Brown 100% and without question, so I guess he could state the earth is flat and you'd agree.

Submitted by johenry on Wed, 09/02/2009 - 12:14pm.

I remember when Bob Lenox and Greg Dunn beat up Steve for opposing extending TDK Dr. into Coweta County. Everybody was calling him names and saying what a bad boy he was. The bottom line was HE WAS RIGHT and just in case you haven't driven down TDK lately the extension isn't there!

I also think he's "100%" correct on the awful tennis center. What a bunch of corruption that was.

Not knowing a bunch about Doug Mitchell by me doesn't mean Steve Brown is wrong. I was here when PCDC still used that name. I tried fighting those apartments they built in Kedron on 74.

Steve came to my home with a bunch of men and they cleaned all my gutters and pruned my shrubs around the house and asked if there was anything else they could do. I tried to pay them and offer them something to eat and they wouldn't take it. So between you and him who do you think I'm going say has more character?

By the way Steve wouldn't say the earth is flat because he tells the truth.

NUK_1's picture
Submitted by NUK_1 on Thu, 09/03/2009 - 8:32am.

Let me refresh your memory on TDK and Steve Brown and council's position:

TDK gets blessing from Mayor and Council

So, still think "HE WAS RIGHT???" How about converting the Lutheran church into a 24/7 drug store at the corner of 54/Peachtree Pkway? Swell idea.

Yes, after everyone saw what Coweta was planning to do next to that ares, everyone became opposed suddenly. No surprise there.

Submitted by Spyglass on Fri, 09/04/2009 - 7:32am.

Because some folks around here can't handle the truth. In fact, you may should make a copy of it on your hard drive, as it wouldn't surprise me that if the Citizen pulled that article and others about Steve Brown and his Council's support of TDK.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Thu, 09/03/2009 - 4:56am.

If Brown brought city workers to your private property to clean your gutters and prune your shrubs, he violated his oath of office - same as he did when he sent the city secretary to pick up his kids at school when she was on city time. And that resulted in an ethics charge as well.

We need to pursue this, johenry. I think you would make a very credible witness against Steve Brown. This is far more serious than Horgan smoking pot.

Seriously, Brown has been right about lots of things (although certainly not the Joel Cowan thing), he simply has no style, class, people skills or leadership ability. Being right about issues suits his new role as a pundit and it keeps him in a place where he can do very little real damage.

Submitted by johenry on Thu, 09/03/2009 - 7:51am.

Steve Brown never brought city employees to my house. The men were from a local church.

What a sad excuse for a human being you are Mr. Morgan. You are nothing but a trouble maker who gets a thrill out of slinging mud.

Submitted by Bonkers on Wed, 09/02/2009 - 5:51am.

This man and a few others still here, made millions of dollars worth of profit developing some of PTC.

The never fixed the sewers, the bridges, the water system, nor the cart paths decently, among many other things.

The donated land to such things as schools that had no value for homes or businesses and sometimes was contaminated!

Whatever is left of PTC as a "planned community,' and that ain't much, was done out of necessity in order to sell the land.

I have never understood the "heroes" honored in this situation---none of them.

Submitted by idk_revisited on Tue, 09/01/2009 - 5:32pm.

never mind, it doesn't matter anyway. No one reads your posts.

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