Add sewer, and Fayette is gone with the wind

Cal Beverly's picture

The five Peachtree City Council members might be wondering what is the big deal about Peachtree City approving extension of city sewer lines to developments outside the city limits.

Herewith some pertinent history, which seems to have escaped the current council, three of whom are just two months into their terms and two of whom have two whole years under their hats.

Back yonder in 1996, Mayor Bob Lenox greatly desired that the city control what was then a developer-owned sewer system (Georgia Utilities) which ran lines only within the city limits.

Lenox and a compliant council, with then-City Manager Jim Basinger running interference, rammed through a $16.3 million bond-financed purchase of the aging system in February 1997.

The year-long saga involved lots of secret meetings, lots of criticism of the process by me in columns and editorials, ethics complaint filings, and an astonishing call by Lenox during a public meeting for a criminal probe by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation into The Citizen newspapers’ owners, including me, to inquire into the paper’s news sources and reports of the backroom dealings. The GBI politely declined.

(Just as an aside, it marked the first time I have ever heard of a public official at the state or local level calling for a criminal investigation of a newspaper for its reporting.)

Because of the controversy, the Lenox administration made some guarantees as the purchase was concluded. One of those public guarantees was that the newly acquired sewer system would never extend its sewer lines outside the city limits, except to those few parcels specifically listed in the purchase contract. Those parcels were owned by the developer selling the sewer company.

One exception was made later when the Starr’s Mill school complex was being built. School officials asked if they could tie into a sewer line that ran out of southern Peachtree City a few hundred yards to a subdivision named in the sewer agreement. Since the line ran across property which the school system now owned, the city said OK.

Now we discover that the city’s water and sewer authority (WASA) also approved extending sewer service to a a new church in Tyrone, near Peachtree City’s northern border.

Additionally, there was a flap last year when neighboring Senoia, less than a mile west of the Starr’s Mill complex, asked if WASA would sell sewer service to them for big new subdivisions being planned.

WASA made noises like it wanted to do that, citing a downturn in revenue since the closing of its biggest customer, Photocircuits.

The previous council said, “Hold on, WASA has to get council’s approval before it extends sewer lines outside the city.” Nothing much has happened to that trial balloon since then.

Recently, a church on the city’s southeast side asked to get hooked up to WASA’s sewer line. The county stepped in and vetoed that proposal.

Now a well-known Fayetteville developer wants WASA to sewer its planned residential subdivision in the same vicinity. The Peachtree City Council, seemingly ignorant of the sewer system’s history and promises made by previous administrations, approved the request.

The county commission last week announced it had not been asked about the idea, but indications are that the county will again veto any such sewering of the unincorporated county. The problem is, that may not stand up in court.

So, what’s the big deal?

Why not turn WASA loose to sewer as much of the unincorporated county as developers request?

Because your vaunted Fayette/Peachtree City lifestyle will be sewered away with all the new sludge from massively dense new commercial and residential developments that sewer lines will allow.

The only things standing in the way of Gwinnett traffic and Riverdale strip centers here in Fayette are zealously enforced county zoning restrictions and the need for at least one-acre lots to accommodate individual septic tanks.

Take away the septic tanks, add in sewer lines, and your county is gone with the wind.

That’s why the Peachtree City Council is so remarkably wrong on this breach of a long-standing taboo. The council, in extending sewer service beyond the city’s zoning laws and the city limits, will be acting as the prime agent to destroy the unincorporated county’s land use plan and zoning restrictions.
Are the council members simply unaware of the implications of these sewer line extensions, the unintended consequences, not to mention the public promise made at the dawn of the publicly-owned sewer system?

Are the rookie council members too dense to foresee what forces they are about to unleash into the county?

Do they care?

Forget about annexing. Peachtree City (and Fayetteville, should it be so inclined) can undermine and make moot much of the county’s careful land planning just by saying yes to out-of-city sewer lines. It will permit a domino fall of vast and unintended proportions.

These rookies seem to have no clue about the damage they are about to do to all Fayette residents, including every single soul who currently has a Peachtree City address. The rookies must wake up, get a clue, and say NO before the damage becomes irreparable.

They must keep the promise made to Peachtree City residents nearly 10 years ago that the city intended for the system to serve only city residents. They must stick with the intentions of the original purchasers not to make the city system a tool for out-of-city developers to get rich with.

Mark this well: Where the city sewer line goes, ever more dense development will follow. Any developer with property within 500 feet of a sewer line has the right under state law to demand to be hooked up, inside or outside the city.

WASA bean counters will be happy and rookie council members will still be smiling, while you are waving goodbye to what you thought Fayette was supposed to be.

login to post comments | Cal Beverly's blog

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Submitted by TomCat on Thu, 06/01/2006 - 9:54pm.

Well, the PTC "sewerheads" are smelling sweet right now. The PTC City Council, after lengthy discussion, Q&A with believe it or not, additional comments from citizens, voted 5-0 to DENY the proposed sewer agreement with Senoia. I am thankful for the comments and concerns of council members who understood and carefully considered the issue before them, but our good Mayor must not have been in the same room - although he never left his chair!?! At least the Mayor had the sense to "smell" how the discussion was going and voted correctly. Be forewarned PTC - there are foxes in the henhouse and they are not our friends!

Submitted by Sailon on Mon, 03/06/2006 - 8:20am.

Most developers have people on their payrolls who are experts in such matters as one acre lots for sewers, 1/2 acre for density, unlimited (how small) lots for hovels, and so forth. Of course they have others who do surveys with transits, check out railroads, factories, stinking things, traffic, schools, and all other things known to offend man.
They then take the good items, if any, and promote those---leaving out the rest. They know all of the problems before the first house is built. Some of these are good Christian folks (and Jewish, and Muslim, etc.) too. The buyer must beware! Our officials don't usually want to know-----if it produces taxes. Developers spend enormous sums for public buildings with their names upon them, for lawyers, and belong to all the snobbish society functionalities. It is a game. Much like the Abramoffs, and many, many corporate officials. Cynical? Why, yes.

Submitted by did not know on Sun, 03/05/2006 - 6:03am.

I agree with Cal. People move here for 2 things, schools and natural beauty. Put sewer in the county and you make it a developers dream. They can build on 1/2 acre lots and get very rich and we are left with ruined schools and ugly over crowding. The essence of the schools are the teachers. Put them in overcrowed classrooms and they cannot teach. Build 1/2 lot tract houses and the beauty is gone. Don't lisen to the siren song of the developers. If we keep the sewer out of the county, you keep the 1/2 acre lots out. I live in Tyrone and am victim of the developers and previous Town council members, as well as Town manager. I moved here, paid a high price for my home, only to see them ruin our schools and standard of living for Wieland and other developers. He has built a sub of houses that are way too big. Therefore, you have in some cases, more than one family living in the same house, further straining the system. Then to add insult to injury, some of these half million dollar houses are ..for rent! Now who do you think has a whole lot of cash to pay 3000.00 a month rent for a house, but no credt to buy one? Ask someone with the DEA.
We have a glut of houses in foreclosures now due to 'creative financing' of some developers where you move in with 'nothing down' and Delta and the Ford plant, aint helping either. Is it fair to taxpayers already here that can't unload their houses to build more?
Let's look at who gets happy here with the 1/2 lots/sewer. Developers! They get nasty rich! Your kids get the short end of the stick with the schools. The beauty of nature you consoled yourself with on your way to work, is gone. And you? You get to pay higher taxes and storm water run off fees, while the developer kids are in private schools and the developer himself, is laying on the beach somewhere drinking a cool one! Wake up!

Submitted by fcteacher on Sun, 03/05/2006 - 11:00pm.

After 10 years, I still live on a dirt road (Brooks), and I like it that way. The minute I hear word of stuff like this happening in my neck of the woods...I'm out of here. Who needs it?

onevoice's picture
Submitted by onevoice on Mon, 03/06/2006 - 10:26am.

I'm with you too, fcteacher. I agree who needs it?

Submitted by McDonoughDawg on Wed, 03/01/2006 - 9:52am.

I'm curious, maybe I missed it, where did it say the density of the development would be less than 1 acre per lot if sewer was added? IF that's the case, I agree with Cal. If not, he's blowing smoke. Seems a benefit to me to most everyone to have less septic tanks in the ground.

Submitted by skyspy on Fri, 06/02/2006 - 7:15am.

Unless you are on city or county sewer you have to have at least a 1 or maybe its 3 acers for septic tanks. The developers can shove three homes on one acer if sewer is added. If sewer is not available they have to use the rules for septic tanks. That adds up to less money for developers and more density and lower standard of living for us.
Go to some of the new cluster home subdivisions in PTC. If they wanted to listen to their neighbors flush the toilet why not live in a condo?

mudcat's picture
Submitted by mudcat on Wed, 03/01/2006 - 7:42pm.

He may not have actually mentioned it, but Cal and almost everyone else knows that sewer does mean more density - sometimes lots as small as 1/5 acre. That being said, density is not bad if managed properly. All of Peachtree City has density. But because of good management and leadership by the developer and Mayors Morgan, Frady, Brown (the real one) and Lenox we have open space with our density.
Let us see if Mayor Logsdon can insist upon dedicated open space, cart path connections and design standards consistent with those of Peachtree City before he invites someone in to share our sewer.

Leadership, Harold!

How come you don't have a picture, McDonoughDawg? Let us see you in the fur.

Submitted by skyspy on Fri, 06/02/2006 - 7:22am.

How could you lump Lenox in with the other good honest mayors? He is responsible for the big boxes the tennnis center fiascoe. Not to mention the cluster homes of Ashton and Wilshire. His motto was if there is a tree growing there is a Walmart or apartment homes to build.

PTC Guy's picture
Submitted by PTC Guy on Sun, 03/05/2006 - 10:17am.

I actually do not agree adding the sewer lines demands there will be more density. The density would have to be allowed by the county.

I don't agree to extending the lines into the county. This blurs the line between county and city. Allows people to try to grab the city services at county standards.

Not good.

Either city or county living. Don't try to shop for what you want from each leaving the "bad" parts to others.

ptctaxpayer's picture
Submitted by ptctaxpayer on Mon, 10/19/2009 - 7:46pm.

Hope you get elected "PTC Guy" !!! You go man....

ptctaxpayer's picture
Submitted by ptctaxpayer on Thu, 10/15/2009 - 8:34am.

Candidate "PTC Guy": Sewer Update? PTC Guy said no to sewering the county three years ago. I hope you get Beverly's point now how the sewer going in to the county WILL allow higher density. The county will not be allowed to say no. Give us an update on your position since yer on the ballot. Beverly was so totally right on this whole issue.

Submitted by did not know on Sun, 03/05/2006 - 11:15am.

The reason Cal is right, is it goes like this, told by a lawyer who does nothing but sewer contracts. If you give one developer sewer, and another buys the land across the road, and you don't provide him with sewer as well, so he too can build on 1/2 lots, he can then turn around and sue you and win in court. As ugly as it sounds it is true. These developers are circling Fayette like a pack of hungry sharks looking for a loophole in the law. This is the loophole. Look at Tyrone, they break their own laws right n left and don't have a leg to stand on in court. Fayette county has stood firm on its laws, and never strayed. That is why they will do better in court against the developers, untill someone does what Peachtree city is about to do. Then they have opened Pandora's box.

Submitted by McDonoughDawg on Sun, 03/05/2006 - 12:25pm.

I don't see it. No where does it mention the County letting them build on 1/2 acre lots. Not that I see anyways. Point it out, if I'm missing it.

Submitted by did not know on Sun, 03/05/2006 - 8:10pm.

that is a given with sewer....If you have septic, you....MUST.. have at least 1 acre..that is the law...the reason, the only reason, developers want sewer is that you can put houses on 1/2 lots....or even less. Nothing would please them more than to have sewer in Fayette county...they are waiting, and baiting, someone to step over the line and give it to one, so the can all sue and get it for the restto carve up this place and live happly ever after on the proceeds. That 'one step over the line' by ignorance, for for money, or whatever, would ruin this could never end it. If you have the ability, and sewer gives you that, to postage stamp this area, we are gone, they then have the legal right to build whatever they want and the county commissioners can't do anything to stop them. This is the deal...the beauty of this county and the quality of the schools all hinge on how strong/honest our comishes are at keeping these developers under control. You can say what you want, but Greg Dunn has a will of iron and that is what we need to keep these people at bay. You might say our future hangs on how strong these guys are.

Submitted by McDonoughDawg on Tue, 03/07/2006 - 9:08am.

I think that's crazy. No way they can cover even 5% of the County with Sewer. It's just not feasible.

tortugaocho's picture
Submitted by tortugaocho on Thu, 10/15/2009 - 4:23pm.

McDonough Developer Dawg---- I hope that if the sewer does come in and Developer/Lawyer/Banker prostitutes bring in more apartments (because you can't zone them out, you can only force them on septic if you have no sewer) I hope that the 5% of the county that gets the apartments, spas and check cashing joints are next door to your house.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Wed, 03/01/2006 - 6:11am.

Been puzzled by Cal's support of Steve (30%) Brown in the last election and unlimited access he gave Brown before and during the first election four years ago. Now in his sewer essay, Cal's reason for his unholy alliance with the king of self promotion emerges.

Cal was upset because he wasn't included in the secret meetings Basinger, Lenox and Pace (yes Jim Pace) conducted in order to negotiate the sewer system purchase from the developer. Cal believes he has a right to be involved in everything and his nose got out of joint over his exclusion. Then shortly after - along comes Brown on his open government anti-big box crusade and Cal sees an opportunity to support this loose cannon and live out his fantasy of bashing Lenox, Group VI, PCDC and the old guard - all without having to put his own name on the more idiotic opinions. Perfect!

Submitted by fayetteobservers on Mon, 03/06/2006 - 9:59am.


Bobby just don’t get it....Open meetings aren’t about etiquette—it’s about following the law. Uncontrolled sewer is a very serious risk to responsible land use planning. Any time you have a growing community you have the pressure of lawyers saying “Open up the zoning. Rezone. Times are changing.” Sue, sue, sue....Then you add to that sewer— they can do a million houses (or apartments) on an acre. Sewer makes it more profitable. Drop $100k on legal fees, throw a few lousy $200 campaign contributions out there and you got the program going. Take someone on one of these boards and appoint them to the Chamber board, make ‘em feel like a somebody. Then you get WASA to actually make the argument that by having new customers they make more money. And then we will have a repeat performance from Lenox bringing us more unintended Section 8 apartments that were “a mistake”. I agree with the previous post: Pike County is the next Fayette County; Fayette County is the next Clayton County. The strange thing is this--- Senoia may start getting that Riverdale feel before south Fayette county, much like Fairburn has done.

H. Hamster's picture
Submitted by H. Hamster on Sat, 03/11/2006 - 7:38pm.

The price for rezoning is much more that a $200 campaign contribution. Brown's price was allegedly a condo on the Gulf Coast from Doug and Vince (RAM Development for you newcomers) and he and his family will be there for spring break. Fortunately, so will I with photos and deed records. Read your paper in April or May and you'll understand and be entertained.

Look for Harold to take the same kind of deal from the good old boy crowd at Lexington Circle - watch carefully what happens.

Submitted by McDonoughDawg on Tue, 03/07/2006 - 9:10am.

Give me a break. Are you actually trying to compare Pike to Fayette? Have you even looked at demographics/income/housing values of the two? I'll say this, IF I move South again from Peachtree City(which is not likely), It will be to the Beach. Not to some God Forsaken county like Pike.

2ndly, the simple fact of the cost of land/housing will prevent Fayette Co from ever resembling Clayton in any reasonable fashion. Just my opinion, I've been wrong before. I've lived in Clayton, Henry and now Fayette, and there is NO comparison.

Submitted by fcteacher on Tue, 03/07/2006 - 5:42pm.

Obviously, you've not been doing your homework. Do you know who's been moving to Pike County over the past 15 years? Do you know how much land has gone up? You must not own an airplane, a stable of horses, or be able to work from your home office. And yes, I'm well aware of the demographics/income/housing values, as are many others. I only wish that I'd bought some land back when it was affordable.

Submitted by McDonoughDawg on Wed, 03/08/2006 - 5:33pm.

Land has gone up everywhere in the Metro ATL. I don't see the benefit in continuing to move out. There are many areas that land has gone up MUCH more than Pike Co. Greene County comes quickly to mind. Along with most any northern metro area County.

I know the area, and the market very well. I've been selling land/homes in the Southern Crescent since 84.

The car plant that looks like it's a go for Troup will be a benefit to all the Counties in the area. But if you think Pike will control things as good as Fayette has, you are in for a rude awakening. Fayette has done better than any metro county, by far, in managing their growth. You can't stop it, so you may as well control it as much as possible.

Comment viewing options

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