Answers from Don Haddix, candidate for mayor, Peachtree City

Tue, 10/27/2009 - 5:30pm
By: Don Haddix

Questions for Peachtree City candidates

1. Based on current zoning, there are roughly 1,400 more homes to be built before running out of virgin residential-zoned space. Do you see any need for the city to expand its borders through annexation for any zoning category? Why or why not? Please explain what type of development — if any — the city needs more of, how it will be paid for and where you think such annexation makes the most sense.

2. Do you support the rezoning of industrial-zoned property to any residential use? Also tell us specifically whether you support or oppose the Callula Hill project that would convert land in the city’s industrial park into an upscale “lake view” subdivision, and if so, tell us why or why not. Also, spell out whether this proposal does or does not represent spot zoning.

3. This has been one of the most painful budget years in the city’s history. Grade the City Council on personnel cutbacks and how it handled the funding shortfall. Explain exactly what you would have done differently.

4. If the city had to cut another $1 million out of the coming year’s budget, what specific actions would you take to balance the budget?

5. Under what conditions — if any — would you support an increase in the city property tax?

6. What is your opinion about Peachtree City selling city streets to a developer so as to enable a much larger shopping center to be built on Ga. Highway 54 West?

7. What will you vote to do to insure that the city’s existing village centers remain economically viable?

8. Will you vote for or against the countywide SPLOST renewal? Why or why not?

9. Describe your general political philosophy, particularly regarding local government.

Answers from Don Haddix, candidate for mayor

1. I see no need to annex more pristine property to add more land for development. To keep growing, Peachtree City will be stripped of its sense of community and Village Center concept. Peachtree City is supposed to be a small-town atmosphere in a rural setting county. Both ideals are at risk and we need to defend them and do nothing to further deteriorate either.

We need more good paying jobs. Between the pristine land already in the city and areas in need of redevelopment for industrial and office, we have more than enough to meet our needs. We can accommodate all from small businesses to a college campus.

As well, we still have pristine residential land, homes in need of redevelopment and far too many homes for sale.

Further, every time we add more pristine land we put off redevelopment, which promotes blight creation.

There is no justification for adding land for the sake of future development.

As for annexation of existing developed sites, that should not occur unless there is a pressing need or unique argument to be made to justify such.

The 54 Publix and Steinmart parcels justify annexation since they are proven revenue sources. We are already expending taxpayer dollars on safety there due to our mutual aid agreements with the county, and most believe they are already part of Peachtree City while wondering why they do not conform to the rest of Peachtree City.

County properties beyond those sites should remain in the county as they do not fit Peachtree City and would promote even more growth outside of existing Peachtree City by the addition of sewer lines.

The Southern Pines site does not justify annexation because we already have an excess of empty retail space. The area is already serviced by the Wilshire Shopping Center and another unneeded shopping center was already approved across Hwy. 74 from the Wilshire Shopping Center.

As well, it will have a negative impact on the Wilshire residents by further adding unneeded traffic and other problems to the area and increase infrastructure and service costs on all of Peachtree City.

The basis for their request is to place city sewer in the county portion of the site, which would remain county, so as to eliminate the septic spray field, which appears to be a development killer.

Allowing sewer into the county is a terrible idea, especially in light of the state 200-foot mandatory hook-up law.

As well, gaining recreation property is no justification for this annexation.

Finally, the Hyde annexation makes no sense either. We have an excess of homes on the market, pristine land zoned residential and homes needing redevelopment.

To access the property they must come through Peachtree City. There is no way to access through the county. So leave it in the county.

2. I oppose rezoning of industrial property to residential. Industrial was zoned there to set it apart from residential. Putting residential in industrial areas has always proven to be a mistake.

I strongly oppose Callula Hill not only for being in the Industrial Park but because of its proximity to the airport.

Residential by airports have always proven to be a legal and community nightmare. It always results in lawsuits by residents and restricts airport growth, operations and profitability. In too many cases it actually forces the closure of airports.

In this case there has already been a suggestion that if the homes go in at least one business will not only cease future expansion plans but relocate elsewhere.

Even the “solution” some have tried to negotiate behind the scenes is not an answer. Pathways owns four parcels in that immediate region, all adjoining and all in proximity to the lake. Just removing the 10 worst positioned homes and moving them does not change the fact the parcels are still by the airport and still in the Industrial Park.

I firmly believe, as I have said repeatedly, grant this rezoning and allow these homes and Pathways will be back and homes will domino across all those parcels, as will the problems that will come with them.

Yes, most assuredly this is spot zoning. It is totally out of step with the immediate surrounding zonings of airport, open space and industrial.

3. My grade is D, even having been on council during the last two years.

My constant frustration was I ran on the need for changes in 2007. In 2008 I stressed the economy had been sliding for several years, was accelerating and would continue to fall. Staff stressed needs for action. Yet in 2008 the majority said the economy would recover in 2008, early 2009 at the latest, and we were in a recession-proof bubble.

When that didn’t happen, I kept pushing, privately and publicly, that we had to do something. Then there was a rush to do something, which is never good, but did included changes I pushed that the majority had not wanted to make, such as changes at The Fred, Tennis Center and Kedron complex.

I pushed for a survey in 2008 to go out no later than December. It was unwanted but finally went out in 2009, again in a rush, but not containing some elements, for political reasons, that needed asked.

The landscape outsourcing was also a frustration of delays. Instead of being smooth and timely, it ended up rushed. With rushing came the problems as we have seen throughout the year.

The ideas and thinking that were the source of my frustrations were again stated at the 2010 budget hearings. Again the majority stated staff would make some adjustments, the economy would turn around and we would get SPLOST, so it would all work out.

Action should have actually started in a serious manner several councils prior. Many saw the economy problems five years ago and longer. If I could have had my way, we would have begun serious changes and adjustments immediately when I came on council in 2008 and moved forward as quickly as an efficient approach as would have been allowed. As well, all decisions would have been by business model, not political.

Now we have to smooth out some less than ideal areas created in the rush. There are some political decisions as well that need to be removed because they are still costing taxpayers money.

No, there are not millions left to cut. But there are efficiencies that need to be added.

Having been in the process for the last two years I am ready to step forward, with Councilman Sturbaum, and get the ball rolling quickly with no need for a long learning curve and no repeating of the policies of the last four years while helping new members of council get up to speed as quickly as possible.

4. Whether there is a million-dollar shortfall or gain, I intend to finish bringing better management models to bear. I am looking long-term beyond a recovery as well as short-term.

The reality is there will be no way to avoid taking money from the reserves without a huge tax increase. But that kind of tax increase would do far more damage to the citizens and our ability to recruit good paying jobs than taking from the reserves.

Fact is, without the SPLOST, it will be a lot more than a million dollars. It will be over $2 million a year minimum.

I will not vote to cut Fire, Police or Code Enforcement, as they are already cut to the bone. I will have all the numbers formulated, in layman’s language, as to what are the costs of golf cart maintenance, road maintenance and Recreation and Public Works are, along with tax options. That will be presented to the citizens in town hall meetings and discussed.

Then a survey will be sent out asking the citizens about their priorities, ranging from no tax increase and associated service cuts to 100 percent tax increases to cover everything with no service cuts. The survey results will weigh heavily in budget decision-making.

No, I don’t believe in governance by survey. But I do believe in listening to the citizens, and some issues are of such size and impact they demand a citizen voice via survey or referendum. Since tax issues such as this are not referendum items, that leaves the town hall meetings and survey option.

It would be made very clear we are at the point where our only budget tools are service cuts, tax increases and reserve usage, and that we cannot, if we do not get SPLOST, totally fund all needs for the rest of this bad economy out of the reserves alone, so a combination of elements will be needed.

5. Only if the majority of citizens, per the survey following the Town Halls, authorized a small tax increase. And here I would place a request, more so burden, upon the newspapers to cover how important it will be to respond to that survey. Be it 25 percent or 100 percent participation, that survey is going to be a decisive tool in my vote, at least, for setting the 2011 millage rate. After all, if it is enough to put someone in office, it should be enough for them to pay attention to.

I cannot support a large tax increase. The impact is far too negative. I will not support putting the budget burden totally on the backs of property taxpayers.

6. As I stated on the dais during the debate before I voted against it, this was illegal. In spite of my statements and reading the law into the record the majority voted for the abandonment. Councilman Doug Sturbaum and I voted against.

Here is an extract from my website at on the subject from Jan. 23, 2008.

Official Code of Georgia Annotated, Title 32-7-2, as stated below:

“When it is determined that a section of the municipal street system has for any reason ceased to be used by the public to the extent that no substantial public purpose is served by it, the municipality, by certification recorded in its minutes, accompanied by a plat or sketch, and after notice to property owners located thereon, may declare that section of street shall no longer be a part of the municipal street system and the rights of the public street shall cease. The property may be disposed of by the municipality as provided in Code 32-7-4.”

Caselaw says it is gross abuse of power to abandon a street to enable anyone, which I translate to mean malfeasance. The comments by Mayor Logsdon in the December Update newsletter clearly demonstrate a desire to abandon to enable, especially considering there was no move to abandon prior to the developer requesting abandonment.

“Dec. 1904.] MARIETTA CHAIR Co. v. HENDERSON. 161

Neither the general assembly nor a subordinate public corporation acting under its authority can lawfully vacate a public street or highway for the benefit of a private individual. The street or highway cannot be vacated unless it is for the benefit of the public that such action should be taken. The benefit may be either in relieving the public from the charge of maintaining a street or highway that is no longer useful or convenient to the public, or the laying out a new street or road in its place which will be more useful and convenient to the public in general. If the public interest is not the motive which prompts the vacation of the street whether partial or entire the act of vacation is an abuse of power and especially would it be a gross abuse of power if it is authorized without reference to the rights of the public and merely that the convenience of a private individual might be subserved. As the reason for vacating a highway must therefore 408 always be that the public interest is to be subserved.’”

This road was abandoned to enable the CCD Big Box development for which Doug McMurrain stated he could not make this development work without a Big Box.

As for the argument the Line Creek roads served no “substantial public purpose,” controlling development is a substantial public purpose. As well, it had not even been a topic of consideration before the request to abandon was made.

7. I will vote for the removal of the Special Use Permit from the General Commercial ordinance, only allowing for grocery stores, mainly existing ones, if and when the become subject to the GC due to renovations, etc, under very strict conditions.

As feasible, ordinances regarding retail will be tailored to promote Village Centers.

I will also vote to continue support for the efforts to back, support, redevelop and fill existing retail spaces by the Development and Tourism authorities. DAPC has joint efforts with such as Georgia Tech, the Chamber of Commerce and ENCORE already in place.

I began working with DAPC in January of 2008 when I removed them from the inactive status council had relegated them to in 2006 and tasked them for business retainment, filling of empty stores, redevelopment, seeking good-paying jobs and bringing WiMax to Peachtree City and more.

A lot of ideas and concepts are being developed to promote the Village Centers. This work will be encouraged and backed.

8. I will vote for the SPLOST even though I am not in support of every element within the county portion.

It should be remembered there is a difference between the Transportation Plan and the SPLOST. The Transportation Plan has many elements I totally oppose but are not funded by the SPLOST.

The [West Fayetteville] bypass is something I do not support, but it was funded via the current SPLOST and the money is in the bank already. The bypass was presented as part of the SPLOST before the vote. So defeating the SPLOST now will not stop that project.

As well, I don’t like parts of the Peachtree City Transportation Plan ratified in 2007. It too contains things like GRTA bus stations, which tie in with the county’s rail and bus presentations. But they are not projects slated for funding and would have to voted upon to proceed.

The SPLOST for Peachtree City has debt reduction that will aid in the budget burdens of these times. In addition it continues the over $2 million needed for cart path projects and maintenance and road maintenance. If we don’t get that, we don’t have the money to do the work without shutting down parts of Recreation to gain the funds to do the jobs. There isn’t fat left in the budget and very little meat.

We cannot pull it out the reserve fund to keep everything going. $2.25 million (1.25 mills) plus the $800,000 (.44 mill) for shortfall is $3 million (1.65 mills). Take that out of the reserve and it will be empty by September 2012.

So I am for the SPLOST because without it we are going to be facing some severe decisions on the budget and infrastructure maintenance of the city.

My long-term plan is to get the efficiencies established, lock the budget down and hopefully even roll back the millage rate once the economy recovers sufficiently. I want to make it tight on future councils so that any effort to go back to old ways of spending cannot happen without massive tax increases having to be passed. Get it clean and keep it clean. No more saying, “We are a rich city that can pay for anything and everything.”

9. I don’t fit the mold. I believe in openness, communications, being honest, being truthful and never forgetting before I was in office I was just another guy on the street and will again once out of office.

Being in office does not mean represent developers and special interests. My constituents are neighbors, friends, citizens on the other side of town, small business people and the like. Not the people who don’t live here, come in and buy property, build and take a big profit and leave, not having to live with what they built.

Being mayor is not a stepping stone to higher office. While working with state government is a reality, it is not the key to being a good mayor. A good mayor cares about the things like the impact of a cart path on a community, the road sign put in the middle of a yard that should have been put to the side, a wooded area being clear-cut and only sodded when it could have trees on it again, the impact of a proposed three-story motel staring down on homes from a very close distance and more. All things I have dealt with, as examples, the last two years as councilman.

Mayor and Council need to be in touch and in tune with the citizens. When a proposal comes before them that a handful of people support and a city full of people oppose, those who oppose should win unless there is a strict legal reason they cannot.

When an average citizen comes to talk about an issue, they do not get pushed aside or disregarded because a perceived elite wants something else.

So, my philosophy is government is about the masses, not the classes. The individual counts.

An elected official that is more concerned about donations and prestige from certain groups and people does not belong in office.

So, while the offices, duties and titles on council demand respect and do carry power, the person in the office may not. Respect has to be earned. I hope to earn it.

login to post comments | previous forum topic | next forum topic