LCI meeting insult to Peachtree City residents

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After another foray into the world of the Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) on October 22, we saw the Mayor and Council Members dodging negative comments and deflecting blame on who was responsible.

In review, this City Council has previously made our heads spin on numerous occasions. The logic behind their actions is somewhat sketchy and they often pitch an outlandish proposal and then go into hiding and denial mode when the public finds out about it.

No one on the City Council can give a logical explanation as to why they keep issuing the warning that we are rapidly running out of land to build corporate headquarters and light industrial (tax revenue positive uses) and then they keep rezoning applicable land to high density residential uses. Bewildering, indeed.

This Mayor and Council have consistently raised our taxes and city fees, openly stating they cannot figure out how to pay for city services without tax increases, and then they proceed to add thousands of homes and a huge amount of new citizens on MacDuff Parkway and elsewhere that will create a huge demand for more city services that we cannot afford.

They could structure a plan for solid revenue development with corporate offices and technology jobs, but they keep coming back with apartments, townhomes and condominiums instead. We have plenty of those now.

At the October 22 meeting, Councilman Mike King kept playing the dodge ball semantics game. Previously, King was replying to angry constituent emails saying that there was no such thing as a plan to demolish the Tennis Center and replace it with apartments (see Exhibit A) nor a plan to build apartments and retail shopping on Drake Field next to City Hall (see Exhibit B). Of course, those plans were created. In fact, I was warned by insiders that the errant plans were gaining steam and citizens needed to be vocalizing their opposition.

The game Councilman King is playing goes like this. After he is confronted by me and others at the Oct. 22 meeting, proving those plans actually exist contrary to what he was telling constituents, he shifts to saying it is the fault of city planning staff and the LCI Core Group committee, and the shocking plans were never officially voted on by the City Council. Duh, none of the plans have been officially voted on and the citizens are not foolish enough to wait until they show up on a council meeting agenda to speak up.

So Mayor Fleisch, Councilman King and the others voted on an LCI grant submission to the Atlanta Regional Commission, approved the planning staff to move forward, approved the contract with the urban planning consultants and then claim they know nothing about what is going on with the LCI planning. This either means they are lying, or the planning staff are negligent regarding keeping the City Council informed.

Copies of those plans were in City Hall and video of the LCI Core Group committee’s virtual-only meetings were available on the website. The mayor and council had plenty of access and after their dreadful Great Wolf Lodge project on top of an existing subdivision, the outrageous downtown city center plan and the reckless Calistoa mini-city plan at the end of our airport runway, it is not difficult to imagine they were guiding the plans from behind the scenes. This City Council recently doubled the number of homes on a Highway 54 East site after our Planning Commission unanimously voted against it, so, yes, things happen.

Council members, planning staff and the planning consultants all had to admit that they never considered the drastic changes to our school attendance districts that would result from the mass developments geared toward low income families. Likewise, all that I spoke to had to admit that off-loading the significant traffic from the mass developments would worsen the Hwys. 74-54 intersection.

The Westpark plan is another cruel joke. The city government wants to take a stellar corporate office area and rezone it to multi-family residential. The road access is already a problem there and adding thousands of residents whose families will be making multiple trips every day would be suicide.

The urban planning consultants were very honest, and the meeting attendees generally appreciated their admissions when something was amiss with the plans. Many of them openly stated it was unfortunate that adjacent subdivisions were not consulted in the planning process nor asked to be on the LCI Core Group committee. Oddly enough, there is no list on the websites that we could find of who exactly was on the “citizen” committee.

A disheartening point related to the LCI process is that our City Planner Robin Cailloux does not have a real understanding of Peachtree City and has moved to radically change our successful land planning formula. She speaks in planning cliches.

Cailloux consistently says the landowners are supposed to be given the “highest and best” use for their land. She obviously never studied the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Company argued back in 1926. The landmark decision concludes no one is guaranteed the highest and best use for their land, and they are required to build to the zoning required by the city.

Cailloux created an unfortunate sign that she displayed at the building entrance for the October 22 meeting (see Exhibit C) that shows her serious disregard for the city’s dramatic planning success over the decades. The title was “Dispelling some myths: planning facts” as if all the local citizens who have lived here for decades who disagree with her absurd plans were not telling the truth.

In huge bold letters, Cailloux writes on the sign, “No build just means No Plan” which essentially means she holds our current land plans in total disregard, and she considers all of our planning up to this point to be null and void.

She boldly proclaims on the sign, “Individuals have property rights and they could rezone or build undesirable things according to the current zoning.” She must think we are fools.

First, no can rezone without a vote of the City Council. Second, the “undesirable things” they can build under the current zoning are the very things the City Council told us we needed, light industrial and the like. The real undesirable things, according to the taxpayers who fund her employment are the irresponsible traffic heavy, multi-family complexes she keeps wanting to force all over town.

Next, the ill-conceived sign says, “The city is not purchasing and assembling land to build these concepts.” In talking to the urban planning consultants, I was told that the initial focus was building on Drake Field and demolishing the Tennis Center because the city already owned those sites. And please do not blame the consultants as they were set up for failure by the city.

The last tragic statement on the Cailloux sign says, “Current zoning led to developments in the last 20 years that have caused traffic congestion because they serve the car.” That is the most thoughtless fabrication I have ever seen out of our local government.

Of course, Ms. Cailloux has not been here over the last 20 years. Most of the traffic laden developments including the Home Depot/Wal-Mart and the Overlook shopping center on Highway 54-W were opposed by the citizens and the City Council changed the zoning and forced them in. This current City Council is also responsible for the overdevelopment of the MacDuff Parkway corridor which should have been zoned light industrial and office institutional.

It is only when the city drastically deviated from the traditional land planning that we witnessed failure.

Seriously, how many totally half-baked plans pushed by this City Council and Cailloux have we had to fight off? Likewise, a building full of angry people on October 22 were wondering how they lack the common sense to think that families living in close to 2,000 multi-family units, new subdivisions and patrons of the proposed large retail establishments would not use cars to get around, but that is their position.

At the October 13 meeting, Cailloux used the example of The Avenues shopping center as her “walkable” example, the shopping center we all drive to. We are not fools, Ms. Cailloux, and the sign was brutally insulting to educated adults. “Walkable” is another cliche used in planning circles to attempt to convince the public that traffic from the developments is not an issue.

As if the cruel sign and the dodging and denying were not bad enough, Cailloux designed the public feedback component of the October 22 meeting so that the citizens could not opt for the “no build” option.

 

Mayor Fleisch kept telling people at the meeting they have three choices with one being no build. Unfortunately, Cailloux had little trash cans labeled with different elements of the plans attached to them. Everyone was asked to drop a ping-pong ball in the basket that best reflected their sentiment on the plans, but the “no-build” choice was intentionally left out, forcing only positive comments on the plans.

Not to be deterred, a local citizen refused to allow the deception. He went to his car and brought back a cardboard box and labeled it “no build.” The gentleman’s box was the overwhelming choice of the crowd and it could have been the unanimous choice had the box arrived sooner (see Exhibit D).

In response to the City Council not listening to the citizens who elected them, a petition in opposition to the appalling plans has been created. Please join your neighbors and let us hope we can end the foolishness.

Here is the link for the digital petition: http://chng.it/H4RxyFjJLm and please have each voter in your family sign individually.

Additionally, send them your thoughts via email to council@peachtree-city.org and tell them to (A) stop creating a growing tax burden for the taxpayers, (B) stop proposing multi-family developments, (C) reinstate the moratorium on rezoning land to multi-family, (D) follow our planned-village-style land plans, (E) do not make traffic worse for us, (F) focus on real solutions for the 74-54 intersection and (G) show some financial discipline.

Steve Brown

Peachtree City, Ga.

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

13 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve always wondered why these former mayors come out of the woodwork with an axe to grind? This Brown guy and that other hooligan, Don Haddix always whining and complaining about something. I think there’s a reason you are a “former” mayor.

    • Wonder no more Mr. Maxwell. Answer Guy is here.

      Former mayors appear unwanted because they can’t believe they are no longer in charge. Remember, 4 short years ago they were elected to office and most of them assume they gained 20 IQ points because they were elected. They are reluctant to give those 20 points back when they are unelected.

      Some – like Brown go on to get elected again somehow and they think they are due another 20 IQ points. Not true, but they think they are now up 40. Clearly this delusion stays in place when state and federal office beckon. People like Lynn, Newt and others keep adding IQ points up to an unreasonable level and we have what we have. Pretty sad.

      Fortunately we also have people like Matt, who have served, feel good about themselves and return to a regular life, happily shedding those extra IQ points.

  2. I agree with Brown. RWM said sit back, listen quietly until the final plan is presented. I feel strongly the “presenters” have not earned that courtesy at all through their insulting actions thus far in this process(and these actions were all listed by Brown). Certainly time to vote them all out in my book. And all these LCI folks walking everywhere, give me a break.

  3. Much of private citizen Karen Brown’s diatribe could have been avoided if he (and others) had followed my advice back on Oct. 11 when I explained this was only a meeting to provide survey results, not a public hearing. Council was not expected to vote – nor is there anything to vote on.

    I certainly agree the new urbanists conducting the study are way off the mark of reality and their obvious biased one size fits all solution makes them a not so good fit with the long term PTC redevelopment project. Sadly City Planner Robin seems infected with that same bias – the one where everyone rents and strolls around downtown with their tablet and a huge Starbuck’s concoction. Her sign was a big fail.

    Her sign should have said, what I just said above – “This is a meeting to provide survey results. Sit, listen and keep quiet. You’ll be told what council thinks later – then you can respond. We are not rezoning anything – we are presenting survey results.”

    My advice was also don’t be a Karen, but I can see why she wouldn’t put that on a sign. Anyway, I see a need for a new city planner. Previous excellent city planners Rast and Williams would not allow a survey with an obvious pro-ARC bias to move forward. Maybe we need some more of that protection from our staff.

    Anyway, the mayor has started a discussion on redevelopment which is still the most important issue for the next 10 or 20 years. This misstep does not change that. And actually this misstep did produce a list of paradoxes that are very real and should be studied by anyone proposing solutions.

    And of course all you NIMBYs pitching your ping pong balls into the “N0-Build” box have a right to be heard, but the rest of us respectfully suggest there may be consequences to that position – which is essentially putting one’s head in the sand and not noticing the many changes underway in business, housing, demographics, shopping, banking, etc.

    I can’t comment on young Henry’s cut and paste job because I don’t understand what it is – except maybe something he meant to be put somewhere else.

    • The point I was trying to make is that the infrastructure costs associated with single family homes are more than the tax revenue the city gets. Which in turn results in the consistently rising taxes and inability to pay for services Mr. Brown was complaining about. One way to resolve this is to increase density, more tax payers on the same amount of street makes the math work. Another way is to change land use patterns, mixed-use and townhouses have that density and more tax income to cover the cost of the roads they’re on and can make up some of the deficit on other roads in the city.

      The costs associated with expanding city services to a new development on the edge of the city ultimately make it a bad financial decision for the city. Whereas the costs are much smaller for infill development like the LCI, because it’s in range of fire stations and close to schools. In the first case a whole new fire station might be needed, but in the second upgrades to an existing fire station might be all that’s required. Same thing with sewers, etc.

      • Understand the point and even the math, but you can’t sell high density based upon math. Need something sexier then that. Whole neighborhoods like Pinewood Forrest, unique design like those courtyard homes Chadwick is building in Tyrone or a price point currently in need (below $200k as of today) will get some support.

        I think you should team up with Eric Imker. He’s running for mayor, likes math and might be able to use you as his conduit to millennials – and believe me, he needs one. You could run for a council seat or fill the bound to be vacant City Planner’s job – vacant that is if he wins the mayor’s job.

        • I don’t really want to run for office, if I was an elected official I would have to be more diplomatic in my telling NIMBYs to shut up. I much prefer commenting on here and making the discussion more lively.

          • Ok, I hear you, but you can’t just use this forum to discuss this for your own entertainment like you were on Twitter or something. We are much more serious here – especially when it comes to zoning, redevelopment and density issues. Like it or not, this is our city and we love it.

            So, to repeat – You have a couple of options. #1 is run for office. You get nothing actually done by telling NIMBY’s to shut up. The last 30 years are proof of that. NIMBY Brown, is certainly annoying and self-centered (a Parveneu, according to Carolyn Cary), but he did do something – he ran for office won twice, lost twice, did some damage to city staff and the builders and developer as mayor (to him that’s an accomplishment). But he did actually do something to further his somewhat warped opinions. Normal people are always encouraged to run for office by us long term residents.

            #2 is about marketing. I said it before, but you should consider this seriously. Nobody cares about your opinion (or mine or anyone’s) at all when it is not backed up by facts or supported by a really great positive and helpful idea – hopefully something that has not been previously considered. To sell the idea of multi-family and the high density that usually accompanies it, you need a strong overwhelming reason to do it which makes everyone get off the “OH, the density” pearl-clutching and focused upon the good reason for doing a multi-family project.

            Dar Thompson had such a project near Sprouts and the NIMBY’s on city council zapped him with a technicality in the LUC zoning, but it was a great reason to do multi-family.

            I am all for it and I know the issue will be raised during any redevelopment discussions, so start practicing.Will it be cheaper? Better? Attract different people to our city? Accommodate renters? Win some design award (like Seaside FL)?, replace obsolete shopping and office sites? Increase walkability? Get everyone to sell one of their cars? In other words, you have to have a reason to do it to convince people you are not just experimenting with their neighborhood.

            Think about it.

          • I would like to move out of my parents house at some point and due to a lack of housing in my price range here I’ll probably move up closer to ATL. Also companies rarely promote people internally these days. Once I get enough experience to be get a better position than entry level engineer, I’ll move companies. Not sure when that’s gonna happen, but I don’t want to run for office when I might not stay in PTC for a full term.

            My idea behind commenting on here was something along the lines of your second point. Don’t let NIMBYs go unchallenged, let other people see that there are people who support the new development and by arguing with NIMBYs maybe convince some of the people on the fence that the LCI project is good for PTC.

  4. Peachtree City does NOT need apartments or other developments suggested by the LCI, City Council, and Ms Cailloux . You don’t solve traffic problems by creating more traffic. You don’t solve tax or service problems by creating a need for more services. The LCI = insanity. It is betrayal of trust. Thank you.
    Mary Ann Browning

  5. Excellent summary Mr. Brown.
    (A) stop creating a growing tax burden for the taxpayers,
    (B) stop proposing multi-family developments,
    (C) reinstate the moratorium on rezoning land to multi-family,
    (D) follow our planned-village-style land plans,
    (E) do not make traffic worse for us,
    (F) focus on real solutions for the 74-54 intersection and
    (G) show some financial discipline.

    These are absolutely in line with policies I’d hope to bring to city council after next year’s election.
    Eric Imker

  6. “This Mayor and Council have consistently raised our taxes and city fees, openly stating they cannot figure out how to pay for city services without tax increases, and then they proceed to add thousands of homes and a huge amount of new citizens on MacDuff Parkway and elsewhere that will create a huge demand for more city services that we cannot afford.”

    May I refer you to “The Growth Ponzi Scheme” by Charles Marohn. The following is an excerpt from it.

    “The engineer’s estimate for the project that we received last July was $354,000. That included the reclaim and base course ($250k), the finished wear course ($80k) and the addition of Afton Hills Court ($24k) to the project. I know the final numbers differed from this amount, but for the sake of this analysis you will see that the precise numbers will not dramatically change the conclusion.

    If the City of Afton were to dedicate 10% of the property tax revenue to capital improvement projects – which would require a 10% cut in spending or a 10% increase in revenue – then we would have an annual contribution from Afton Hills towards capital improvements of $4,473.

    Total Property Tax Paid to the City: $44,473

    10% Dedicated to Capital Improvements x 10%

    TOTAL $ 4,473

    Some simple math demonstrates how 10% of the budget dedicated to capital improvements is not going to bring the Afton Hills project into balance with the adjacent tax base.

    Project Cost: $354,000

    Annual Contribution from Affected Property Owners at 10% of Tax Revenue: $4,473/year

    Time to Payoff[1] = $354,000 / $4,473 = 79 years

    Since the roadway – properly constructed and maintained – would only be expected to last between 20 and 30 years without another significant improvement, dedicating only 10% of revenue to capital improvements means the city will need revenue from some other source to maintain Afton Hills drive over the long run.

    If the City were to increase property taxes to recover this amount from the residents of Afton Hills, it would require an increase of 46%.

    Current Annual Revenue from Afton Hills: $44,473

    Additional Annual Revenue Needed from Afton Hills: $20,320

    Increase in Taxes Collected = ($44,473 + $20,320) / $44,473 – 1 = 46%

    The obvious question at this point is: what do we do? Some possibilities:

    Evaluate the current land use pattern and its implications. Every time we add a development like Afton Hills that has more long-term maintenance liability than revenue-generation capacity, it creates an imbalance that needs to be made up somehow. To stop digging the hole deeper, a change in the pattern of development needs to happen.

    Seek ways within the pattern of development to make more-efficient use of existing infrastructure investments. While Afton residents have indicated that they do not want additional density, it may be possible to locate new development along existing infrastructure in a way that is compatible with the character of the community. Where this is done, the City would be adding additional revenue without incurring additional maintenance liability.”