Reading The Citizen article on Peachtree City Mayor Vanessa Fleisch’s annual state of the city speech got me thinking about issues that I hope everyone in Fayette County is calling into question.
Fleisch could not give such a talk without making mention of the intersection of Ga. highways 54 and 74. It’s the project that the city officials over the years seem to not want to touch. Rest assured that the citizens want the city government to reach out and touch that issue in a big way.
A $10 million Georgia Department of Transportation project was allude to for the intersection, but the agency has admitted in a transportation committee meeting that the effort is a smaller “budget constrained” Band-Aid and not a long-term solution to what is ailing us.
Fleisch is beginning to echo Fayetteville Mayor Ed Johnson on creating higher density development in the area. In particular, Fleisch expressed a desire that “redeveloped areas have a higher density.”
Can we be honest for a moment and ask what does higher density residential development really get us? Fleisch implied that property tax revenue will increase, but what else increases? Of course, the cost of additional population pressure, more traffic, more students in schools and more wear on infrastructure is the price we will have to pay.
Using historical perspective, Peachtree City once had a dynamic plan to increase local employment opportunities and enhance tax revenue without having to talk about high density development. There was a clear plan depicting the land to the west of Hwy. 74 as industrial and corporate headquarters type uses.
Unfortunately, city officials began diverging from the plan, starting with the Planterra Ridge subdivision and later plastering all the land up MacDuff Parkway with residential units. The departure cost us most of the available land for future corporate jobs, increased traffic and placed additional pressure on our infrastructure. Those opportunities and the revenue were squandered.
The city also allowed a big box retail power center to be built on Hwy. 54 West and the city knew a decade prior that traffic congestion was going to be a big issue in that corridor. What is that costing us?
It has been disheartening to watch Fayetteville tee up one apartment complex after another, pushing small lots and high density. I understand the city-feel they want to create, but there is no way to relieve the accompanying traffic pressure and they know it. Likewise, those apartments are commodity products and will become a serious issue in future years.
Our congestion is worsening because of growing commuter traffic traveling through Fayette from neighboring counties. Imagine what high density development in our borders will add.
The elected officials should tell the citizens which jurisdictions we are trying to emulate. Then we can evaluate their level of taxation, traffic congestion, quality of schools and overall quality of life.
If you are in the real estate industry, the high-density development proposals are golden to your bank account balance. Conversely, the elected officials in Peachtree City and Fayetteville need to remember why the tens of thousands of homeowners in their jurisdictions moved here.
Errant decisions are painful, and most cannot be reversed without spending an enormous amount of tax dollars.
Peachtree City, Ga.
[Brown is a former Peachtree City mayor and Fayette County commissioner.]