PTC mayor: denial of public comment OK

Fri, 01/15/2010 - 3:16pm
By: John Munford

Despite not allowing any public comment on the controversial big box request from Capital City Development at last week’s council meeting, new Peachtree City Mayor Don Haddix insists he will not be doing the same terribly often.

On controversial issues, Haddix expects the city council to hold special separate workshop or “town hall” meetings. And he will urge residents who have concerns about such issues to attend those special meetings that will be focused on those matters.

While Haddix agreed that city staff’s recommendation on certain issues is not available for workshop meetings, he argued that is an even better reason for citizens to attend workshops because their opinion has the potential to help shape staff’s recommendations.

“I will be opening up the floor for non-public hearing items,” Haddix said. The city is required to open up the floor for comments during public hearings when they are required by law.

Though public comment on hot-button issues will continue to be taken at council meetings even if there is no “public hearing,” Haddix said he will reserve the right to restrict or limit public comment on non-controversial topics.

“The citizens can get their most productive and open format possible with the workshop because it’s a loose structure,” Haddix said.

Haddix admitted that on several previous occasions, input from the public at public hearings during council meetings have caused him to change his opinion on a given issue, or raised enough questions to warrant the matter being tabled so further research may be conducted before a vote.

The city is having a special workshop on how to handle cellphone tower requests on Tuesday, Feb. 2, and Haddix said he expects there to be a good amount of citizens. When the issue was discussed in December, several residents complained about the possibility of the city locating cell towers on city-owned park land in residential areas.

When it came to CCD’s request last week for a 50,000 square foot store to be upsized to 65,000 square feet, Haddix said opening the floor up for public comment wasn’t necessary because of all the input council has received over the past two years on the topic. And while the three new council members may not have had the benefit of those 6,000-plus emails in that time frame from residents, each new council members has conducted their own research on the issue and also got input from citizens while campaigning for office, Haddix noted.

“We just beat it to death,” Haddix said.

The new council members, each of whom campaigned to further restrict big box (regional) retail stores in the city, are also thinking time is on their side with the CCD proposal. Although CCD currently has the right to purchase most of Line Creek Drive and Line Creek Circle, that right expires within five years if CCD fails to get an approved site plan from the city.

Without those streets, CCD would be unable to develop any large regional stores because of city regulations for road setbacks, officials have said.

CCD is authorized to build up to three stores each with a maximum size of 50,000 square feet. The total development is limited to no more than 175,000 square feet total on the 14-acre site.

The proposed shopping center is located at the southwest intersection of Planterra Way and Ga. Highway 54 West. The development has been of come controversy because of the road abandonment “enabling” big box development and also because the city council agreed last year to petition the Georgia Department of Transportation for a traffic light to serve the proposed shopping center.

DOT previously turned down such a light twice when it was requested by CCD, citing the proximity of the intersection to the existing traffic lights on Planterra Way and also on MacDuff Parkway. But after the city petitioned for the light (which was approved on a 3-2 vote with Haddix and councilman Doug Sturbaum against), the DOT ultimately approved the light.

The CCD site buts up against the Cardiff Park subdivision at the rear of its property, and residents there fought to negotiate significant buffers along the homes and other issues that were addressed by CCD.

login to post comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Submitted by JCAT on Sat, 01/16/2010 - 12:41pm.

All - we most certainly had public input on this looney plan to add a light between MacDuff and Planterra - as well as the road abandonments and all of the other concessions the old council and mayor made to their developer friends.

It was called an election.

Mr. Boone and Ms Plunkett's election results told a very clear story how most of us felt about this decision, and other decisions made by the old group. Mr. Haddix was about the only light we regular voters had in the previous long, dark tunnel of the previous mayor and (some) council members.

Hoosier Fan's picture
Submitted by Hoosier Fan on Sat, 01/16/2010 - 11:16am.

My November and December votes were based on a desire to see a new Council that would actually listen to the citizens of PTC, not just the developers wanting to influence Council votes.

While I believe the new Council will be more responsive - and will provide a wider variety of opportunities for public participation - the decision to not allow public comments on the first “hot button” issue of the first meeting of the new Council was unfortunate. It sent a bad signal to those who have been frustrated for so long.

It’s evident the Council has received some criticism for that decision or the Citizen would not have provided Mayor Haddix with an opportunity to respond.

I can only hope Council has learned from this experience that even with a clear mandate from the recent elections, all the voters have a right to be heard.

Submitted by Spyglass on Sat, 01/16/2010 - 1:31pm.

it was at the Mayor's discretion....and he denied it....I really don't know why folks expected anything different.

Hoosier Fan's picture
Submitted by Hoosier Fan on Sat, 01/16/2010 - 3:27pm.

Spyglass, are you certain the decision to not allow public comment was a unilateral decision by Mayor Haddix and not determined by the entire Council when the meeting agenda was prepared?

If you are certain, how do you know? What's your source?

JCAT's comment above is correct, but I think Council erred in not allowing public comment - especially after Mayor Logsdon's disasterous handling of public comments at the Council meeting regarding cell phone towers.

After the clear mandate from the elections, I doubt public comments would have changed the Council's 5-0 decision, but it's more of a perception and credibility issue after the arrogance of the previous Council.

Submitted by Spyglass on Sat, 01/16/2010 - 4:47pm.

The Mayor said it was at his discretion. I'm not sure if the Council was involved or not.

A quote from the article....

“I stated before there was to be no public input on this and I will stick to that,” Haddix replied."

TinCan's picture
Submitted by TinCan on Fri, 01/15/2010 - 4:42pm.

Wasn't it reported at the time that the activity by council regarding the traffic light was a vote not to oppose the developers request for the light? Was the report wrong then, or this report wrong, or is a bit of memory mush seeping in?

John Munford's picture
Submitted by John Munford on Fri, 01/15/2010 - 10:59pm.

The development agreement approved in '08 said the city would not oppose the traffic light. Then at a later date council voted (3-2, the usual) to ask DOT for the light.

The story on the light vote is below. You can also go to, click on mayor and city council/meeting minutes/2000s/2009/Feb. 5 2009 meeting.

PTC OK's new 54W light on 3-2 vote
Thu, 02/05/2009 - 8:56pm
By: The Citizen

DOT Atlanta office has final say on approval for signal

Peachtree City will apply for a new traffic light on Ga. Highway 54 West to serve a new shopping center.

A vote of the City Council tonight was split 3-2 in favor of seeking the light, which would be located at Line Creek Drive in between existing lights at Planterra Way and MacDuff Parkway.

Voting for the motion were Mayor Harold Logsdon and council members Steve Boone and Cyndi Plunkett. Voting no were Don Haddix and Doug Sturbaum.

City Engineer David Borkowski noted that the traffic light "is not a done deal" because it must be approved by the Atlanta office of the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Several conditions were attached to the approval, including a requirement that the developer have the traffic lights in the corridor resynchronized, and the installation of a "loop" for traffic coming off Planterra Way and turning right onto Ga. Highway 54.

That loop will allow such traffic to be included as a turning movement as part of the signal's operation. Currently when traffic backs up in the morning drive time, cars often have difficulty turning right onto Hwy. 54, residents have said.

The city is also requiring that all costs incurred by the city's engineering department be paid for by the developer.

The light is being sought on behalf of Capital City Development which has city-approved plans to build a 175,000 sq. ft. shopping center on the south side of Hwy. 54 at Line Creek Drive.

The traffic light has previously been turned down twice by the local DOT office in Thomaston because the signal was deemed too close to the other ones at MacDuff Parkway and Planterra Way.

The development has been the source of some controversy because the City Council previously agreed to sell most of Line Creek Drive to CCD for a minimum of $500,000. Without ownership of the streets, CCD would not be able to build the larger-scale stores because of the city's setback rules.

TinCan's picture
Submitted by TinCan on Sat, 01/16/2010 - 6:32pm.

Thanks for doing the "leg work". I completely missed the second step of that process. Probably not the last thing I'll miss either.

John Munford's picture
Submitted by John Munford on Sat, 01/16/2010 - 8:16pm.

Glad to help. After TinCan brought it up I needed to refresh my memory anyway so I figured might as well share!

mudcat's picture
Submitted by mudcat on Sat, 01/16/2010 - 4:24am.

Good summary John.

Seems to me that without the lucrative big box lease that McMurrain was hoping for, it will be financially unrealistic to build that loop road and resynchronize the traffic lights - which of course assumes they are already synchronized and that would be hard to prove, but that's a different subject.

Council should send a signal (pun intended) to DOT that they oppose the traffic light and get that totally off the table. It is stupid to have another light so close to the others for just one side of the highway and solely for the benefit of one developer.
McMurrain will then sell the property or just give it back to Joel Cowan if he hasn't actually closed on it and the next developer will do something less intrusive under the control of the new council.

Ok with you Mr. Haddix?

Submitted by chrissy314r2 on Fri, 01/15/2010 - 4:08pm.

UMMMM, I think that City Counsel meetings are so the public can participate in the governing process. Town Hall meetings are held at odd hours when average people (voters)are working. What a nice trick to play on the people whom elected you.

mudcat's picture
Submitted by mudcat on Sat, 01/16/2010 - 4:04am.

The city council (spelled this way) meetings are public so the public can observe how their elected representatives perform their duties. They are held at 7PM so people with day jobs (generally speaking) can attend after work. Naturally laybouts and welfare recipients and house-husbands can attend as well. Retirees - especially David's Mom are welcome as well.

Public hearings are open to the public and the public is allowed input - both pro and con on the subject being discussed. Public hearings are scheduled weeks in advance and advertised, so interested parties can attend and provide input.

Town Hall meetings are obsolete except in Massachusetts and they date back to the 17th and 18th century. Town Meetings allow almost constant public input on every little thing. It is as close to a Democracy as you will ever see. They have also been phased out in favor of a representative form of government where we elect people to handle things for us - as the Constitution so clearly describes.

The issue discussed last week was a developer who has a written agreement with the city that specifies what he can and cannot build (size-wise) wants to change that agreement. The council members voted to not allow a discussion about those changes to proceed. Since 4 of them actively campaigned for office stating they were against said changes and we voted for them and elected them, that's how we participated in that decision.

Did you vote chrissy? Are you even registered?

birdman's picture
Submitted by birdman on Sat, 01/16/2010 - 9:25am.

You know, I agree with you, but Brown would have ripped Logsden (or any other Mayor) apart for denying public comment on such a big issue. So it'll be interesting to see if he comments on "his man." Additionally, it's hard enough to get people to City Council meetings. But Haddix' plan to only allow comments at workshops, generally in the past, held on weekends and odd hours will certainly limit the "public comment." So much for transparency and open govt. and public input.
Let's see if Brown is a man of principle as he likes to believe or just a whiny loser like I believe.
It's going to be a long four years.

mudcat's picture
Submitted by mudcat on Mon, 01/18/2010 - 7:18am.

But now that she's gone, I get your point. The brownone will have to comment on Haddix's plan at some point from his not-so-bully pulpit and as you point out, he sure would have gone after Logsdon or Lenox (and did).

Remember, Haddix is 100% correct and legal in what he did - even chrissy knows that now, but the brownscribe's take on it will be very interesting.

I do think webcasting the meetings is big positive step. It is unlikely we will ever get people attending council meetings in any significant number, but at least now people can watch the actual proceedings, hear the actual comments, arguments, etc.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.