February 22, 2021 will go down as a sullen day in Peachtree City’s history as the voice of the public crumbles even more.
The taxpayers have been holding their breath waiting for the opportunity to release our current City Council (Fleisch, King, Prebor, Ernst and Madden) from their duties. However, at this point, you must wonder whether there will be anything left standing by the time they head out the door.
The City Council decided to strip our long-valued Planning Commission of their authority. They wanted to remove the last official body that could raise a sanctioned objection on real estate development proposals not in keeping with our traditional land planning.
February 22 was the first evening watching de-feathered and beaten Planning Commission bird attempt to fly. It was not pretty. It was “mission accomplished” for the City Council.
This new proposed format is nothing but “duck and cover” for the mayor and council. It eliminates the pressure, knowing selected citizens on the Planning Commission will not be casting a vote in the best interest of the taxpayers. It allows for all kinds of “backdoor” changes on plans heading to the Council meetings that citizens will never know about because there was no Planning Commission vote to finalize the details.
Unfortunately, the Planning Commission’s new chairman has the least time living in the city and demonstrated the least amount of competency on government land planning, not that it really matters since they have been stripped of providing any value to the taxpayers.
The February 8 Planning Commission minutes have Chairman Michael Link attempting to polish the draconian mandate from the City Council by saying, “The idea [on the losing authority in the new format] was for the public to be informed and have input.” He continued, “They should walk away knowing the real details and facts and feel like they gave their input.”
Nothing could be further from the truth than Chairman Link’s analysis. For example, there was no more information offered than what would have been provided previously when the Commission cast a formal vote on the plan. Likewise, public input was virtually quashed as there were only two citizens in the audience with Chairman Link allowing only three minutes for citizen input and then sit down and be quiet.
As far as knowing the “real details and facts,” we know absolutely nothing. Let me tell you how this scam works. The developer can present any plan he desires and there can be hours of comment on the plan during the Planning Commission meeting, but it is meaningless.
Following the Planning Commission meeting, the developer can then create an entirely new plan, a “bait and switch” if you will, sight unseen by the Planning Commission and present it to the City Council for a vote.
And let me tell you, this current Council would gladly vote on it because that is how they can pass the outrageous apartment complex developments they so desperately want to force on us under the radar.
The City Council stripped the official public hearing and vote on behalf of Planning Commission because that official vote is the bonding agent that keeps the developer’s plan intact on its way to the City Council for an official vote, no surprises.
As someone with 25 years of both practical experience and intensive research in local land planning and transportation efforts, I am deeply saddened to see the City Council stoop so low.
For many years of the city’s existence, the Planning Commission meetings were the only government venue where the citizenry had an actual voice. The Planning Commissioners were the ordinary men and women, many with knowledge of land planning, and they were outside the fray of the backdoor dealings of the elected officials.
Citizens could show up to a Planning Commission meeting and know there was a level playing field. Many of the Commissioners were not afraid to raise a red flag on harmful proposals that did not conform to our land plans and were outside the will of the people.
A vote cast by the Planning Commission carried some weight in the community. The Planning Commissioners often respected citizen input and it showed in their work. They were the antithesis of what we received from most City Councils.
That is gone.
Our City Planning Director and apartment building enthusiast Robin Cailloux who was in lock step with the City Council on breaking the Planning Commission, deemed it important that “people not stand up for or against something” at Planning Commission meetings from now on. How pathetic.
The dirty work of the current City Council continues.
Peachtree City, GA
[Brown is a former mayor of Peachtree City and served two terms on the Fayette County Commission.]