From now on, your likes and dislikes are irrelevant; if a rezoning follows the city’s rules, it’s a done deal —
Remember Peachtree City’s Great Wolf Water Park rezoning fight in April 2015? After a massive citizen backlash and even an unprecedented golf cart protest procession to City Hall, a chastened City Council voted unanimously to refuse the change from a 38-acre hotel and conference center to an indoor water-themed amusement park that backed up to several residential subdivisions in Peachtree City.
If the new rules mandated for rezonings in the months ahead had been in place four years ago, it’s likely there would be a water park there today.
That’s the gist of an upheaval in the way rezonings will be handled because of a court-mandated change in rezoning law that will prohibit the latitude given to councils and commissions in the past.
The first part of that public notification came two weeks ago as City Manager Jon Rorie told the council members, in effect, the times were a’changing, and the old way of doing rezonings was over.
A second part of that change is likely Thursday night as the council will hear a presentation by city staff on the longstanding multifamily rezoning moratorium. No information about that discussion was included in the pre-meeting packet, but Rorie has been giving hints in several meetings already this year that the moratorium would almost certainly be found unconstitutional if it went to court.
The council already has been told that “Zoning decisions were based on certain criteria, not likes and dislikes from social media,” Rorie said. The statement read at the beginning of every public hearing said that both those in favor and in opposition were required to produce evidence supporting their positions. Rorie said he was very aware that opinions and emotions frequently flowed into those decisions, but, at the end of the day, council members were hearers in a quasi-judicial process.
“In Peachtree City, the mayor and council wore two hats: a policy hat and a judicial hat,” according to Zoning Director Robin Cailloux. Most of their work involved wearing the policy hat.
A rezoning required a public hearing, which was much like a court hearing, Cailloux explained. Council sat as the judge and heard both sides of the cases. Both sides were required to present evidence and facts to support their cases. Council then had to weigh that evidence and facts against the standards outlined in the ordinance.
Council was supposed to base its decision on those standards. Decisions should be influenced only by the facts and evidence and the standards in the ordinance. What should not influence those decisions were the number of people who showed up at a public hearing. However, she cautioned, that did not mean council should disregard the evidence and facts those people provided, but the sheer number of people on either side should not factor into council’s decision.
Remember Great Wolf? It’s likely the last big controversial rezoning decision in Peachtree City that crowds of residents will make any difference in the outcome.
Building on that background, the council is likely to be told Thursday night that if a property’s current zoning allows apartments, the legal outcome is almost certainly going to be more apartments, regardless of the way residents feel about them.
Rorie has pointed out that a multifamily rezoning moratorium is dead on arrival at any Georgia court. So despite there being no information about the discussion, the outcome is probably already certain: The city’s decades-old ordinance setting up such a moratorium is headed for the trash heap.
In other action, the council is expected to approve an agreement with the Peachtree City Water and Sewer Authority to jointly plan and cooperate in getting water and sewer to the site of the replacement Booth Middle School on Stagecoach Road.
But the question of who will pay for paving the dirt road on which stagecoaches once traveled and the two-lane neighborhood street of Carriage Lane to bring upwards of 1,500 students plus their parents and hundreds of teachers to a $46 million middle school is still an unanswered, multi-million-dollar question.
Below is the full agenda for the meeting Thursday night:
City Council of Peachtree City
REVISED MEETING AGENDA
Thursday, November 21, 2019
Call to Order
Pledge of Allegiance
Announcements, Awards, Special Recognition
Presentation of Lifesaving Awards – Police Department
• November 7, 2019 Regular Meeting Minutes
• Consider Alcohol License – Froyos & Vinos, 2864B HWY 54 West
• Consider Bids for Backhoe – Wade Tractor
• Consider Bids for F-350 Dump Trucks – Wade Ford
• Consider FY 2019 Budget Amendments – Housekeeping
• Consider FY 2020 Budget Amendments – Carryovers
• Consider Resolution of Approval for 2020 Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP)
• Consider Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Peachtree City Water & Sewerage Authority (WASA) for Infrastructure Evaluation
Old Agenda Items
New Agenda Items
• Public Hearing – Multi-family Rezoning Moratorium (Robin Cailloux)
• Certify Results of the November 5, 2019, General Election (Pam Dufresne)
• Consider Request for Brand Name Purchase for Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus and FY 2020 Budget Amendment for Fire Department – Ten 8 Fire Equipment (Chief O’Conor)