Former Mayor: Council making big mistake with Livable Centers Initiative plan

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Dear Mayor & Council Members, I can assure you that you have angered the 425 homes of Planterra Ridge, representing approximately 1,500 Peachtree City citizens with the Livable Centers Initiative proposals.

Proposing multi-family development on land that should remain public greenspace is about as far from the Peachtree City model as I have witnessed in 25 years.

First, no one can find any evidence of the city asking local stakeholders (e.g., Planterra Ridge, Cardiff Park and others) for consultation prior to the creation of the LCI proposals. This is not a community-driven process.

My heart sank at the thought of building a multi-family development adjacent to Drake Field and in the West Park office area. Understand, please, that local citizens are straining to figure out why the City Council would even contemplate such proposals.

All of the LCI projects, residential in nature, appear to create an additional burden on the intersection at State Routes 54/74 (not even included in your LCI survey) and our already tenuous school attendance districts (also not considered in the LCI plan).

Likewise, the proposals exacerbate the residential-heavy tax base situation with the addition of more residents consuming more city services, driving up costs for all residential taxpayers.

One of the chief complaints about the city beyond traffic congestion is the lack of land for corporate headquarters. The LCI does absolutely nothing to address this problem, totally ignored.

Second, concerning the proposed LCI projects in Planterra Ridge, the Peachtree City Development Corporation gained rezoning approval with the provision of the preserved greenspace at the Planterra Way entrance. The Tennis Center was included to gain acceptance from the community. The subdivision was constantly assured that the green buffer would be preserved, and cut-through traffic would be minimized (I was personally involved in many of those meetings). We purchased our houses on the full-faith assurance of the city government regarding that site.

Major road congestion and cut-through traffic are significant concerns related to our safety and quality of life.

Constructing a road from the commercial shopping behind Cardiff Park to Huddleston Road and over to State Route 74 will add significantly to cut-through traffic in our subdivision, functioning to circumvent the 54/74 intersection with our subdivision being the path of least resistance and Huddleston Road already at a standstill pace. The city appears to be displaying an attitude of there is no need to be concerned about growing traffic congestion.

The consideration of demolishing of the Tennis Center, a venue promised with the residential rezoning for Planterra Ridge, after millions of dollars of taxpayer investment is unconscionable. Offering that the center is not profitable is unreasonable, especially since no recreational venue is profitable, nor were they intended to be so.

Third, you are beginning a process of creating the exact type of multi-family development that the City Council officially informed us was no longer a possibility at the time you removed the longstanding moratorium months ago.

Those new proposals, none of which have appeared in any of our previous land planning efforts, with absolutely no consultation from adjacent existing developments, are the anthesis of what you promised when you abandoned the moratorium.

Your constituents want you to please redirect your planning staff and LCI Committee towards more productive concepts that do not detract from previous planning efforts and city government agreements.

The city has a central theme of multi-use paths and golf carts. Peachtree City is unique and does not rely on urban walkable concepts. Residents stay off the roads and far exceed the traditional boundaries imposed by limited walkable plans. Is the city government losing faith in the multi-use path system and the benefits it provides?

The City of Fayetteville is already in the process of creating apartment units well beyond the market saturation point. Nearly all apartment complexes are owned by real estate investment trusts now and long-term maintenance is not where they focus.

We do an excellent job of attracting high income families and that is why we moved here. Likewise, when multi-family occupancy declines, it can be detrimental to the city in several ways.

Fourth, the so-called experts telling us what attracts young talent has been largely proven a myth.

Professor Richard Florida attempted to define a new economic class and claimed it is the future of our cities. Gullible land planners and government officials took the bait and are now being proven wrong.

Professor Florida’s book “The Rise of the Creative Class” was largely based on his observations and anecdotal evidence. An errant philosophical land planning movement began (with the aid of real estate developers) telling local governments that the Millennials and Gen Xers only wanted to live in dense urban settings, did not want to own an automobile, preferred apartment living and refused to live in the suburbs.

During the great recession, it appeared that Florida knew what he was talking about, but when the economy returned, he was proven wrong on all counts. (See: “Richard Florida Can’t Let Go Of His Creative Class Theory. His Reputation Depends On It,” and “The Curse of the Creative Class, Richard Florida’s theories are all the rage worldwide. Trouble is, they’re plain wrong.”

We need to stop following the illogical trendy disasters and recognize that Fayette County (Peachtree City) has been in the top two in Georgia on all positive statistics since the late 1980s. We still attract well-educated, civic-minded families and retirees with one of the highest median household incomes and home values in Georgia. We do not need to homogenize our development patterns and in-fill our greenspaces to resemble DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett and Cobb Counties.

Here is another reference regarding errant land planning concerning Millennials and Gen Xers:

“Breaking news: Millennials are getting older. And as they enter the next stage of life — marriage, kids, higher salaries — Gen Y is beginning its exodus from busy cities, just like the generations that came before it. Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau earlier this week show that some 27,000 millennials between the ages of 25 and 39 left big cities like New York, San Francisco and Houston in 2018 for greener, and less expensive, pastures, the Wall Street Journal reports. Chicago, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon, are also seeing large numbers of residents leave. That marks the fourth year in a row that there has a noticeable decline in the millennial populations in major cities.”

Lastly, why is the mayor stating in the newspapers that our current system no longer works? As someone who participated in previous LCI efforts that worked in harmony with the city’s planning theme, I can assure you that this current go-around will meet with stiff resistance.

Steve Brown

Peachtree City, Ga.

[Brown is a former mayor of Peachtree City and served two terms on the Fayette County commission.]

42 COMMENTS

  1. What Steve Brown puts PTC in the most sensible way: “The city has a central theme of multi-use paths and golf carts. Peachtree City is unique and does not rely on urban walkable concepts. Residents stay off the roads and far exceed the traditional boundaries imposed by limited walkable plans. Is the city government losing faith in the multi-use path system and the benefits it provides?”

    You can’t apply traditional studies or methods that work ANYWHERE else to PTC. We’re different, and that’s exactly why the majority of us chose to live here. If you change the concept now, and give up on what makes PTC unique, you risk losing everything. Henry, you’re not the voice of reason.

  2. Excellent comments above stating the LCI is NOT what Peachtree City needs. I really can’t add anymore to what’s been written. LCI moves away from what makes PTC the beautiful community it is. It will only add to the traffic congestion which no one seems to be able to resolve. LCI is all about supporting the real estate community not the citizens of PTC. We need new leadership at City Council.

  3. Livable Centers Initiative? What a hoax! Multi family housing development on public greenspace does not equal community reinvestment. Rather, it is private enterprise designed to line the pockets of a few investors. Let us not confuse real estate development with community investment. Our proximity to the airport, low crime rates, and good public schools attract residents. Our community parks, playgrounds, and recreation centers help to keep residents here. We don’t need to create new “livable centers” in our planned community. Instead, we need to invest in our community amenities. Kedron Aquatic Center needs to be replaced with a new state-of-the-art aquatic complex to serve our residents. The Peachtree City Tennis Center needs to be maintained to serve our impressive number of local tennis enthusiasts. Perhaps more importantly, our youth depend on these public facilities for training and competition in their respective sports. Our library and amphitheater need to be maintained for our residents to enjoy. Our 100-mile network of multi-use paths for pedestrians, cyclists, and golf carts needs to be maintained. The preservation and maintenance of these amenities should be the focus of any redevelopment planning in Peachtree City.

    • It’s not building on community green space most of the land is parking lots, light industrial or unused land. Drake field will still be there, the whole point with developing near drake field is people want to live right next to it, and building over it contradicts that. The city isn’t spending much on this redevelopment, it’ll mostly be the developers who pay for the new roads and utility lines.

      • Gee Henry…I guess I have to jump in on this, too.

        -Higher population density next to parks and public areas = less personal happiness for most PTC residents who value the special places.
        -Developers want to develop = they will develop everything allowed
        -Developers live somewhere else = you gotta’ live with it and they don’t
        -Let’s develop areas in better places already set up with infrastructure.

        • Higher density does not equal less personal happiness. Dutch children are the happiest in the world, because the bike lanes allow them freedom and independence that kids in the US don’t have until they get a car. Denser development allows kids to get to more places. This also has a benefit for parents as dutch children bike to school and extracurriculars, parents don’t have to spend all afternoon driving to pickup and drop off their kids. I don’t know anyone who would be happier with a long commute into Atlanta over a 10 minute walk to work.

          Developers want to make a profit. They only develop what there is demand for. If we rezoned all of PTC to allow for 40 story apartment towers tomorrow, none would get built because there isn’t demand for that high of a density of housing in PTC.

          Personally I would love to live in a mixed use development, it’s just that there’s such a high demand for prewar mixed used that those neighborhoods are extremely expensive and there isn’t much mixed use anywhere else.

          PTC is the place with infrastructure, we have water mains and sewers. The mixed use is located right on the crossroads of two state highways. Where else is this available?

          • Two things Henry –

            You ask where else you can find water and sewer and two highways? Well almost anywhere and you can add in density and tall buildings and corner groceries and walkable neighborhoods and voila! you have a city. Such urban areas already exist and if all that stuff makes you happy, I’d suggest it is easier for you and your unhappy kids to move than it is to convince 36,000 of us to play upset the apple cart with our land use plan and zoning.

            Secondly, Dutch children are probably very happy. Walking everywhere is healthy. I suspect much of that happiness comes from legal marijuana and genuine liberal sexual heaven in Amsterdam.

            Send us a postcard Henry.

          • Henry Vorosmarti -Where you been, PTC has more bikes, walkers and carts than any place I can think of other than the Villages in Florida. PTC was walkable before any other city..I know tons of people who walk , bike and cart to the stores..People who live in Glenloch can walk to Beef O’Brady’s, Big Daddy’s, Fresh Market and all the shops. People who live in Braelinn can walk to Kroger or Publix and Mike and C’s or Johnny’s. People who live in Planterra can walk to dozens of stores and restaurants. Where you been?

          • People can walk to Publix or Kroger, but how many people do you know that actually walk there to get groceries? Or people that walk to restaurants? Most people drive their cars and a few people drive carts. People certainly can walk, but they don’t. Have you though about why people don’t use the paths for more errands?

            I’ll tell you, it’s because it’s too far to walk and just not convenient. No one wants to walk 2 miles carrying groceries. The idea with mixed use is that it’s much more convenient to walk places because the grocery store is only a few hundred feet from your front door and the streets are safe so you don’t have to worry about kids playing in traffic because there is none.

  4. You don’t really speak for all 1500 people in Planterra anymore than you did in the 1990’s with that ridiculous statement about “nobody told us there was an industrial park back there” in the aftermath of the Photocircuits chemical spill.

    Nevertheless, last week both Mayor Fleisch and Councilman for life King have stated no one wants to tear the Tennis Center down and replace it with apartments. They may still have their eyes on Drake Field for as long as this questionable “we need a Town Center” movement is on the table, but that will fade since too many people like it as the new dog park and weekend evening entertainment venue. Creating a designated and regular food truck venue will keep that open recreation space for a good long time.

    This multi-family stuff came up because the uber-libs of the millennial generation that create technology rich surveys that pass for grant money assistance are always and forever fascinated with the myth described in your letter that their entire generation hates suburbia and will impose their urban cluster dream onto suburban communities and transform them completely. That ain’t gonna happen here. You must’ve noticed their residential over retail multi-family (or mixed-use) was a default solution to almost every location in the survey. Again a dream, a myth kept alive by a small minority in the millennial camp – although it must be stated that the majority of millennials would prefer to rent vs. buying, but that will work out without the drama. 2% interest rates and lax qualification requirements for a mortgage will convert some to buying, but they will buy and renovate (or someone will renovate for them first) and that will solve that problem without a grass–roots movement to change the dynamic of an entire city.

    It must be acknowledged that PTC is underserved with a very low % of multi-family housing vs. single family and there will certainly be some adjustments as older areas are redeveloped over the next 50 years – but total transformation? No. Think about it. What does it take to convert an area from single family suburban style to multi-family urban style? Using Planterra as an example, it would take 435 individual homeowners to all like the idea (impossible) or for housing values to fall to the point that an acre of land (2 or 3 Houses) could be purchased for $150,000 and the houses demolished so that 8 or so multi-family units can be constructed in their place and share the $150,000 cost. Even if all that happened, the end result would be multi-family that would cost more than the houses that were being torn down. No developer would try it, no bank would ever finance it.

    That’s the ultimate test of how strongly people believe in their idealistic principles – does it pass the common sense test of practicality and the realism of current economics. The answer here is no and no. It is the same logic that when applied to dopey ideas like the New Green Deal make it clearly not feasible. Be better to worry about something else.

    • They’re not going to build over drake field, they’re building on the strip of grass between 54 and the parking lot next to drake field. It’s not transforming PTC it’s about creating a diversity of housing options. You’re planterra ridge example makes no sense. Of course Multi family will always cost more than single family homes. Single family homes (SFH) only need 1 kitchen and all that stuff, whereas multi needs several. To use your numbers 8 kitchen counters and cabinets and washing machines cost 8 times as much. The LCI development is infill development, taking under used land and putting developing it. Correct me if I’m wrong but 8 units per acre is a city imposed limit and quadplex can fit on one large plot, if city zoning laws could be bypassed. That would probably be profitable for developers and banks because it doesn’t require any different construction techniques than a single family home, whereas a taller 8 unit building would. The price per unit would be cheaper because the cost of the land and the structure of the building (both costs are relatively fixed in the case of a quadplex vs SFH) is spread across 4 units.

      A lot of more dense development makes economic sense, it’s just that the city zoning laws have distorted the market, by limiting the types of housing allowed. 4 townhouses on the same amount of land as one SFH makes practical sense, more efficient use of land, easier to get places. They also make economic sense they’re being built all over the place, and that wouldn’t happen if developers didn’t think they could sell them and bank’s didn’t finance them.

      • There is also value in exclusivity. What you see as distorted, I see as having carved out value where little value once existed. You propose giving our invested value away. Henry, you are still selling snake oil.

        • We agree that house prices are artificially inflated die to lack of flexibility on the supply side. I don’t see why that’s a good thing, it makes it harder for people to buy homes and spend a larger proportion of their income on housing which is especially painful for those who rent. I think that being inclusive is better than being exclusive.

          • Inclusive is like diverse, multi-faceted, all-in, politically correct, and across-the board. Such words and characteristics do not demonstrate value, within themselves. They bring value to the table when used with a subject (read actor) for a specific setting or purpose. Without a common cause, inclusiveness will breed fragmentation.

          • If anything a more diverse neighborhood is less fragmented because instead of everyone being living with only people like them, they interact with people they otherwise would not have. Instead of being a repugnant cultural other, people with different ideas to you become your neighbors and friends.

          • Not so Henry. People are naturally insecure, defensive, and protective of their cultural values. Diversity only works when common interests supersedes personal fears.

          • You are living in lala land, new condos and houses will be high end..300k and up..not your liberal idea of diversity. Apartments will be 1700k a month and up..I am against the development because the traffic infrastructure can not support it, not afraid of diversity. I keep making a point that new zero lot townhomes or houses will be gobbled up by folks in their late 40s,50’s-60’s and 70’s with cash, not kids in their 20’s and 30’s. When Cresswind was built there was a waiting list of 55 plus folks with cash.

          • Your Cresswind example is a perfect example of why we need to build this. If we don’t build this a developer will build more houses somewhere else, you can’t block all new construction because you don’t like it. At least with this plan it has a much lower number of daily car trips per person when compared to an equally sized “traditional” single family development. We have plenty of capacity left on 54 and 74, it’s not like 85 in the middle of Atlanta. Assuming that you’re right that only older folks will move into the townhouses, they’ll maintain the PTC atmosphere of the LCI zone by counterbalancing younger folks in the apartments.

      • OK Henry. You said in paragraph one “correct me if I’m wrong” – therefore I will.

        Henry, you are wrong, jaw dropping stupid and intellectually ill-equipped to discuss anything about real estate development, redevelopment, density, multi-family uses or anything connected.

        Stay in your lane where I once thought you had some potential – long range planning and millennial dreams. Don’t get involved in the details. Let the professionals handle that.

        • I’m not trying to put the real planners out of a job, only making an argument for multi-family housing based on what I’ve read. There certainly is a lot of complexity to be considered, but the vast majority of the time a unit in a multi-family building is going to be cheaper than a single family home on the same plot of land. This is irrelevant when it comes to the LCI plan, because none of the land being developed has a house on it. You said that you would correct me but you didn’t correct any of my wrong assumptions or arguments. You just called me stupid in three different ways. Personally, I find being called stupid doesn’t convince me that you’re right and I’m wrong. But that might just me being a “snowflake”.

          • Henry, I don’t think anyone is calling you stupid, even if it’s warranted. I think some of us are seeing you as trying to put square pegs in round holes and calling it better. We aren’t trying to save the world here, we are simply going to live our lives the way we want. An engineer normally knows that “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” If you don’t like it here, move away and don’t try to change us. You will gather little support and a lot of people who don’t like you. Shame on me, but I fall in the latter group.

          • What do you call this if not calling me stupid? “Henry, you are wrong, jaw dropping stupid and intellectually ill-equipped…” I am trying to save the world, the most effective way to combat climate change is to reduce our dependency on cars. Use less carbon emitting ways of getting around like electric carts and bikes. I like it here, I like being able to ride my bike to work on a separated path from car traffic. I just want PTC to be the best it can be, and in to me that means leaning into the walkabillity provided by the path network and building human scale neighborhoods instead of car scale neighborhoods.

          • I apologize. It appears I was wrong. Some of us are calling you stupid. So now you have another agenda to justify your musings, climate change. This we add to greater population density for increased property valuations and less traffic, reduced police funding to pay for larger paths, and replacing our Tennis Center with multifamily residences. Do you have any more bright ideas from the mass media media to enhance your PTC experience? This reminds me of my kids when they were young, what we do is hardly enough; we want more.

          • One thing I would like to see is biking to school encouraged for middle schoolers. Have FCBOE install bike parking and officially endorse it. We already have safe paths and can reduce school traffic. The percentage of kids walking and biking to school is at an all time low, it’s not because kids are lazier these days it’s that it’s too far for most kids to walk and there’s nowhere for kids to lock up their bikes.

          • Okay Henry, I not only agree with you on kids riding bikes to school, I encourage kids to walk to school if they live within one mile of the school. That was the rule when I was school age. My grandson, age 8, rides his bike to school every chance he gets. I follow him and secure his bike to my golf cart until he is dismissed from school when I meet him with his bike. If more kids walked, or rode bikes, to school, the FCBOE might save money for bus drivers, and the kids will get more exercise. Of course, we need everyone to keep the children safe, including the cops that some hate.

          • In the Netherlands 65% of kids under 12 and 80% of kids 12 to 18 walk or bike to school. I see a lot of people complaining about kids these days sitting around at home after school staring at their phones, but when they have no practical way to get to their friend’s house what are they supposed to do and their phone becomes the only way they can talk to their friends outside of school. Getting more kids to bike gives them more independence. The mixed use/ denser development combines well with this as a small group of friends might all live in the mixed use development making it much easier for them to hang out with each other than kids living in a single family home development. Combine this with the low car environment of mixed use, so that parents can let their kids play in the streets so to speak with out having to worry about cars hitting them.

          • Do you see how these parts all work together to make a neighborhood that’s really nice to live in even though it’s denser than a SFH neighborhood? That’s what urban planning is all about, making places people want to live.

          • Fruit salad again, Henry. Bicycling has nothing to do with your mixed use/ denser development combination theme. As you stated, “with this as a small group of friends might all live in the mixed use development making it much easier for them to hang out with each other.” That doesn’t lead to greater community diversity. It leads to cliquishness, excluding the single family residents out of the clique. We experienced problems with this type of arrangement before. Kids living near the Taco Bell used to hang out at the Taco Bell, creating a nuisance and compelling potential customers to avoid the area.

          • Bicycling has everything to do with denser development, for trips below ~2 mi biking takes about the same amount of time as driving. This is because cars have to find parking and for short trips there’s lots of starting and stopping meaning that the avg car speed isn’t that much higher than biking. By having more things close to each other, it more trips fall into that ~2 mi radius and enables people to choose between driving or biking. As opposed to how it currently is where everyone has to drive. Your Taco Bell example is an perfect example of how PTC lacks public space for kids to hang out. Cities have to work for everyone and that includes teenagers. The Taco Bell parking lot isn’t a good place for them to hang out, so instead of trying to prevent them from hanging out there we should make a place that they would rather hang out. On excluding kids in single family homes, they’re always going to be isolated because of the fundamental flawed design of those subdivisions but that doesn’t mean that we have to isolate all kids so that they’re treated “equally”.

          • Wrong again, Henry. Denser development does not provide anymore of a need for bicycles than suburbia. Your mixed-use, multi-family ideals are supposed to create communities so everything is within walking distance. That does not necessarily preclude bicycle use, it just makes for congested sidewalks (or multi-purpose paths). Bicycles may in reality become encumbering in such areas. Also, our villages with their commercial zones generally, if not absolutely, fall within your two mile radius criterion.

          • Bikes don’t belong on side walks they belong in bike lanes and shared paths. You’re right that it doesn’t increase need for bicycles but it allows for people to decide if they want to bike or drive. Better to have bicycles encumbering an area than cars. The issue with the villages as they currently are is the paths to get there, they might be 2 miles as the crow flies but could be closer to 3 miles on the paths. The paths are also pretty steep in places and are not built to national standards for bike paths, discouraging people from riding on them.

          • Henry Vorosmarti Driving kids to school has nothing to do with distance or availability of paths it has to do with the American Media fearing the parents of the bogey man. Kids are often being driven to school because mom fears the kid will get scooped up..I know plenty of kids who could easily walk the 1/2 mile but their parents are scared.

          • You’re right, we have the lowest crime rate ever right now. However, it’s perfectly reasonable to be worried for kids safety if they have to walk along the side of the road where cars are going 30 mph, which isn’t unheard of on residential streets in developments.

          • Henry Vorosmarti I disagree with your last comment..MountBrooke is right next to Peeples Elementary and the kids would not come close to a roadway yet they get dropped of by a bus.

          • I’m all for kids walking to school, there are some legitimate and a lot of not so legitimate reasons for kids not walking to school. Overall it’s kids walking to school is good and FCBOE should encourage it.

  5. There are many young professionals in their 20s that work at places like Panasonic in PTC who would like to live in PTC. However, there is a lack of affordable housing in PTC and as a result they have to commute in from Newnan or Atlanta. Not everyone wants to live in a large single family home, especially the millennials moving to the suburbs because they were all just starting their careers in 2008 and haven’t been able to save up enough money for a 400k house. The townhouses are a affordable starter homes, so that instead of paying rent to some landlord in a city they pay their mortgage and get a large proportion back when they sell it to move. There is a strong dislike for single family homes among the mid-20s age group, their experience growing up was everything being to far to walk or bike effectively making them dependent on their parents to get anywhere until they could drive themselves. They want to own a house but still want to live in a neighborhood where they can walk to the grocery store. Most people don’t like driving but we design our cities in such a way that the only practical way to get anywhere is a car.

    Multi-use paths are not a replacement for walkable development they compliment each other. The distance from where I live to the nearest grocery store is just over 2 miles walking on the paths. Theoretically it is possible for me to walk there and walk back with a weeks worth of groceries, but it’s not practical. Mixed use makes that distance a 1/4 mile at most which makes it much more convenient. It allows people to decide what they want to eat for dinner each day because the store is only a short walk away instead of having to plan out a weeks worth of meals in advance. The paths allow for longer trips like commutes.

    You say that this process is not community driven, yet they have been asking for the communities input since February. It isn’t feasible to include the public in every decision, but they can get a sense for what the community wants and work towards that. Did you got to the meeting at drake field over labor day weekend? I was and I talked to the people working on it and shared my opinions with them. The tennis center is far from the only place to play tennis in PTC, there are courts at all the country clubs. I can’t say this for certain but I don’t think that there is such a demand for tennis courts in PTC that removal of the city operated courts would overcrowd the others.

    You mention traffic and how this will only make 54/74 worse. That is not true. 15,000 people commute into PTC everyday and 12,000 commute out of PTC everyday. The LCI would allow some of those 15,000 to live in PTC and make use of our multi-use paths to get to work or still drive but not have to go through 54/74.

    I don’t understand what point you’re trying to make with the quote about millennials leaving cities unless you think that PTC and NYC are basically the same. It proves that millennials are moving to suburbs like PTC and we ought to build housing that they can afford.