Peachtree City at crossroads? ‘We’re not as good as we think we are’

Peachtree City at crossroads? ‘We’re not as good as we think we are’

Peachtree City faces steep decline; thus, city council must study annexing into eastern Coweta to build new city center, high-tech corridor, says Dar Thompson, PTC business owner and former mayoral candidate — Click here for full video interview.

To prevent an increasingly rapid decline in Peachtree City’s growth prospects, the city must look west to annex Coweta County parcels totaling over 1,600 acres, according to World Gym owner and former Peachtree City mayoral candidate Dar Thompson.

Once annexed, the city can develop the mostly raw land

Dar Thompson.
Dar Thompson.

into a “new city center and high-tech corridor” that would attract the shrinking population component of people under age 45, Thompson said March 29.

“The best way to put it is that we aren’t as good as we think we are,” Thompson said. “People aren’t moving here. Families are moving out. We’re in a dive (rather than a decline). We’re not attracting the families and the people we need to attract. The golf cart paths and the buffers aren’t what people want anymore. And you have a city that is aging and you have to generate revenue. There’s only two ways to generate revenue. And that’s to grow, or increase taxes.”

Thompson had his say on The Citizen Facebook Live episode last Thursday on the potential idea of expanding Peachtree City into Coweta County by annexing the former McIntosh Village property or the Fischer Crossing area along Ga. Highway 54.

The interview by publisher Cal Beverly centered on facets of Thompson’s recent letter to the editor referencing a potential expansion of Peachtree City into Coweta County.

Asked what people want in order to live in Peachtree City that does not currently exist, Thompson said you have to provide what younger adults want, the age group that is significantly absent in the county.

Similarly, said Thompson, World Gym has 12,000 members. Of those, 56 percent are over 50 years old. Normally in the fitness industry there would be about 70 to 75 percent under age 50.

“We can appreciate liking Peachtree City the way it is. But at the same time, things change, and you have to move with the times,” Thompson said, noting that he is 56 years old. “What we wanted growing up is not what people want now. We can’t tell them to just go somewhere else. They are going somewhere else or they are not coming here.

An indicator of things not being as they should is in school enrollment countywide. Thompson said there are significantly fewer children in first grade than in middle school and high school grades. If the county was growing those numbers would be the other way around, he said.

Thompson began by noting the increasing traffic woes along Ga. highways 54 and 74, especially Hwy. 54 that enters Coweta on the city’s west side. Thompson also noted the demographic trend that he said shows Peachtree City becoming a retirement community.

“What do you do with an aging city? Especially when Peachtree City is at a place where it is now, where it’s basically expanded all it can expand,” Thompson said.

Turning to the extension of TDK Boulevard and a bridge over Line Creek into east Coweta, Thompson said that project has been talked about for 20 years.

It was during the past 10 years that Peachtree City officials were adamant that a bridge not be built over Line Creek and TDK not be extended into east Coweta County. That time frame predates the Great Recession when Tom Reese proposed the expansive McIntosh Village residential and retail development.

The property in east Coweta today, totaling an undeveloped 1,552 acres, is owned by companies controlled by the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, known to most as the Mormon Church. The church-owned companies also own 104 nearby acres inside Peachtree City in Fayette County situated between the west side of the Falcon Field runway and Line Creek.

Noting that the TDK conversation is not new, Thompson said the question is how to improve Peachtree City, currently in a state of build-out, and how can the city be made attractive to new residents?

“The 1,500 acres (in Coweta) has always been there and everybody’s always pushed back against the TDK extension, no one has ever thought outside the box,” said Thompson of the previous stance that the large acreage would remain unincorporated in Coweta County. “The answer is you annex it in (to Peachtree City).

Thompson said an idea on annexing across Line Creek could be to build a city center and a technology corridor to attract needed businesses.

Thompson said that, in business, one has to look at all possibilities and one has to look ahead.

“I want to be clear. (Annexation) is an idea,” said Thompson. “I’ve never said this should happen. I’ve said ‘what if?’ It may be the worst idea in the world. It may be the best idea in the world. It may be somewhere in between. The issue is, the answer can’t be ‘no’ without looking at it, because we’re in a different world now than Peachtree City was in (a number of years ago).”

Thompson said there are two sides to annexation. One is growth and revenue and the other is for the protection and control of a city’s borders.

“The fear I have is that if we do nothing and stick our head in the sand, that the developer will build 3,000 or 4,000 homes, and the state comes in a puts a bridge there. Now we have none of the revenue and you may have neighborhoods that aren’t conducive to Peachtree City pushed right up against you,” Thompson said.

Thompson also maintained that expanding into Coweta would not inundate highways 54 and 74.

Publisher Cal Beverly interviews Dar Thompson on The Citizen Facebook Live videocast Thursday, March 29.
Publisher Cal Beverly interviews Dar Thompson on The Citizen Facebook Live videocast Thursday, March 29.

The bottom line, said Thompson, is that the idea of annexation should be objectively examined.

From a larger perspective on annexation, Thompson said the east Coweta area will be developed, and “sticking our head in the sand is not the answer.”

Making a supposition, Thompson said extending TDK would provide an alternative route for the significant number of Coweta residents working in the city’s industrial area, giving them another way to and from work rather than using the intersection at highways 54 and 74.

In terms of the overall annexation question, including Peachtree City and Fayette County’s current issues, Thompson said, “I don’t come from politics and I don’t work off of emotion. You can believe whatever you want, but you have to look at the numbers. Numbers don’t lie.”

Assuming theoretically that the Peachtree City Council was in favor of annexation, Thompson was asked what position the Coweta County Commission might take. Thompson said Coweta would benefit from the tax revenue on what is now undeveloped land, adding his belief that Coweta commissioners would be open to the idea.

Again turning to the large Coweta acreage across Line Creek, Thompson likened it to a gift.

“I’m not saying this is the best thing that’s ever happened. I’m saying it could be,” he said.

Continuing on annexation, Thompson said annexing the Fischer Crossing retail area at Ga. Highway 34 near Peachtree City is a no-brainer. That area contains a movie theater and Sam’s Club, among other retail businesses.

Thompson added that the owner of the Fischer Crossing property would be open to annexing into the city, adding that there might be an issue due to a parcel of property positioned along Hwy. 54 between Fischer Crossing and Peachtree City whose owner is not interested in coming into the city.

While hurdles exist, Thompson said it was his thought that Coweta would have no issue with Fischer Crossing being annexed.

Addressing the annexation obstacles in Peachtree City, Thompson said some of the people opposed will be vocal in their opposition.

“(The city) has to be transparent with the people,” said Thompson, assuming that the City Council would entertain the idea of annexation in Coweta. “You have to do what’s best for your city today, five years from today, 10 years from today. For the next 50 years. Wanting to be the last person to move here, then throwing away the key… life doesn’t work that way. Our mayor and council are going to have to make hard decisions based on fact.”

Asked how much time Peachtree City has, Thompson said, given the direction it’s going, it has 10 years. Something needed to happen eight years ago. Something has to happen now.

Thompson sang the praises of Peachtree City, also noting the beauty of the layout of the city.

“Peachtree City has been good to me and my family, and I and my family are invested hugely here. And I see that we are slipping further back, especially with the implosion of Coweta County, Pinewood, Fayetteville and Tyrone,” said Thompson. “We cannot sit back and say we’re better than everybody else and that’s good enough. Because the numbers don’t show it.”