Public Comment: Citizens petitioning their government — Feb. 16, 2022

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The First Amendment to our U.S. Constitution — perhaps its most famous amendment — is well-known for protecting religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. But there are two other essential, basic rights. Here’s what it says:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Local governments in Fayette County offer citizens opportunities to assemble and to speak at public meetings, and citizens often do just that — speak their minds to those who have been elected to govern them.

The Citizen intends to give these citizens another platform to post their petitions — right here on this local news website. This is the first edition of that effort.

During public comments to the Peachtree City Council Feb. 3, Joseph Smith had this to say:

About improving the city’s Comprehensive Plan: While updating the Comprehensive Plan for Peachtree City, we need to have a goal in mind. Something that informs every decision.

We also want to leverage our existing and historic strengths. We are “The City For Families” and “A Safe Place To Live.” Peachtree City’s demographic is 90% Family: Mom, Dad, Kids at 14 MPH. Our families have fun adventures together on “The Cart Path To Happiness.”

There are about twenty other towns around America trying to copy the success of Peachtree City. Do you know what people outside “The Bubble” say about life in Peachtree City?

Here are the top four I have discovered in my travels from Mississippi to Virginia: 1) Golf Carts, 2) Soccer Moms (who love their kids), 3) a Safe, Family Place to Live, and 4) a Big 4th of July Parade.

However, I am afraid that we are beginning to forget these things. The new City logo is a single seat and empty golf cart. Whenever I see an empty golf cart beside the path, I think “Dead Battery.” We don’t want the Comprehensive Plan to give us a “Dead Battery.”

We need to keep Peachtree City whizzing along at 14 MPH on “The Cart Path To Happiness” with Mom and Dad and Baby in the front seat and with more Kids (and even a dog) in the backseat.

The updated Comprehensive Plan needs to keep Peachtree City as “The City For Families” and a “Safe Place To Live.”

We also need to update our City website. Nowhere does our website describe the family culture of our City. I cannot find even one picture of our family life and we are advertising ourselves to be just like any other town.

We are unique and we need to advertise our greatest strength: Peachtree City is “The City For Families” and “A Safe Place To Live.”

Thank you for your consideration. — Joseph Smith of Peachtree City.

EDITOR’S NOTE: City Council took no action on the request.


 

Suzanne Brown let the members know what she thought about three topics at the Feb. 3 Peachtree City Council meeting:

About an opening prayer: “The United States Congress and the United States Senate open each daily session with a prayer. They have been doing so, since 1789.

This body, this meeting, is no different than the meeting of our national representatives.

Our country was founded with Judeo-Christian morals and ethics. Our Constitution and the Bill of Rights preserve our rights.

Yet, at Peachtree City Council meetings we find … no prayer. Why?

As I reflect on a personal level, I ask myself, Why don’t they have a one minute prayer immediately after the Pledge of Allegiance?

We need a one minute prayer that our elected officials, and all those in power within our City Government, will do the right thing. We want you to uphold the Judeo-Christian beliefs, ethics and morals that make America great. We want all of you to uphold our Constitution and act in the best interest of the citizens of Peachtree City.

Anyone who is atheist or agnostic can simply meditate during the prayer.

We need to pray for you … and with you. So, I say, ‘Dear God in Heaven, please guide our mayor and city council tonight to reinstate an opening prayer at every meeting. God, reach down into their hearts and heads to represent us in the best way. Guide them Lord.

‘Let a Council member, or someone in attendance say a 1 minute prayer to start every meeting. If no one volunteers, then have 1 minute of silence.

‘God, grant your divine guidance to this council, so they make the right decisions that will preserve our beautiful city for many years to come.

‘Thank you God. Let us bask in your loving kindness. But, please make them approve an opening prayer.’

About updating the city’s Comprehensive Plan:

When it was first incorporated Peachtree City designated ample acreage to be used for General Industrial growth and development. 

They used the philosophy that if we had good jobs here, many of the workers would want to live here too. 

Over the years we have seen GI zoning changed to commercial, and residential to include single family, low medium and high density housing, and requests for mixed use.

I do not support rezoning any of the existing / remaining general industrial property to any other use. 

We desperately need to update our infrastructure so that all properties have fiberoptic cable to offer industries a competitive option which lets them consider building and expanding in Peachtree City. 

Why did NCR move?

Some counties surrounding Atlanta have enticed corporate and industrial growth and expansion because of an investment in their infrastructure. 

When companies come to the Planning Commission and City Council with requests to build or expand, we need to be accommodating to them so that they build or expand.  All industrial growth should be carefully considered and encouraged because it means more jobs. 

We don’t need late night bar hours.

We don’t need mass transit into Atlanta.

We don’t need mixed use property development.

We don’t need any more housing.

We don’t need to change any GI property to build more restaurants or bars.

We have quite a few vacant commercial properties.  

We need to be cautious about what we allow in those properties. 

But we must  stop  rezoning … 

We need general industrial growth.

About a requested residential zoning variance:

Zoning Variance for 104 Country Club Court — You buy a big beautiful house and want to put in a pool … a super huge pool that’s 24’ x 45’, with a big pool deck, a sundeck, and water features. You apply for a building permit for the pool and fence. Your contractor cuts down almost every tree in the back yard for the giant pool. And you realize that without the trees, you can see the Flat Creek Golf Course Maintenance Barn and the rickety wood fence on your back property line.

Is it your fence or their fence? If it’s your fence, why not replace it with a 12’ tall privacy fence to block your view of the maintenance barn? I bet the variance for that would get approved to hide the eyesore. If it’s their fence, have you asked them to replace or repair it, or make it taller? Are there any Code violations there? Can Code Enforcement help to make them fix any of the eyesore?

Your application says, “The location of the proposed pool cabana was purposefully selected to hide the view of the golf course service barn from the applicant’s home.”

The Cabana needs a Zoning Variance because the pool can infringe into the rear property setback, but the structure cannot. Robin’s team does a report. And we end up at this Public Hearing.

The Planning Department’s memo stipulates that Section 1207 of the Peachtree City Zoning Ordinance states the City Council SHALL NOT GRANT a variance unless all of the following findings can be made.

For Part B, the staff comment is, “There is no evidence of practical difficulties of unnecessary hardships created by the strict interpretation of the ordinance.” So, you DON’T MEET the part B criteria.

And for Part D, the staff comment is, “Granting this variance would not constitute the granting of a special privilege inconsistent with the unique circumstances and limitations of this lot.”

I completely disagree with the staff’s OPINION on that one.

The cabana infringes into the rear buffer because the cabana and the pool are so huge — so, that’s a special privilege. It is not solely due to the limitations of the lot. The lot is an odd, wedge shape. countless properties in Peachtree City are.

That fact does not mean you can build a huge structure into the buffer just to hide your rear neighbor’s junk.

Every Council member should have made a trip to inspect the property, to fully understand what is proposed. If you didn’t, shame on you … you should recuse yourself from voting. It’s your job to know everything about a proposal before you vote.

Concerned citizens, like myself, read the report, picked it apart and asked Robin to answer questions I had. I made a trip to the property. I took pictures. Yup, the fence is rickety and the Golf Course Maintenance Barn is not what I would choose to look at either. You cut down the trees in the rear setback that were shielding your view. That’s not a reason to build a huge structure into the setback.

Have you asked the Golf Course to repair and repaint the barn structure. To clean up the equipment sitting outside? Or to build a tall fence?

Can Code Enforcement help with any of the issues with Flat Creek Golf course? If they are violating codes, Code Enforcement can help.

You propose a 22’ x 36’ cabana to block your view. It will be 23 linear feet into the setback, and just 7’ from the back property line. Over 400 square feet will be in the setback. That’s not acceptable. No details are given for the structure’s height.

Remember, this request fails to meet the six criteria that SHALL be met before you approve a variance.

So, it doesn’t meet the standards. Why are we here?

Maybe they need to modify the Code to say that if you fail to meet all 6 criteria, your request will be automatically denied and not sent in front of Council.

As a new City Council, all eyes are on you. Stand strong right now, or suffer an onslaught of other requests.

We have to trust you to preserve our greenspaces and buffer zones. It’s a priority to us and must be upheld to ensure our city continues to be the community so many people want to live in because this City Council will do everything to preserve it.”

So, can they build a pool cabana without infringing into the rear setback? Yes. Will it be as big as the pavilion they proposed? No. But that’s not the issue.

Can the homeowner solve the problem without the variance? Yes. Can they find another way to block their view? Yes. Can they rebuild the trees in the buffer zone? Yes.

I say: Plant the right trees and shrubs along the property line where the fence is. Replace the fence with a taller one. Have the Flat Creek Golf Course fix the eyesore maintenance barn by repairing it, painting it, replacing the blacktop, or have them build a big fence on their side.

This council must draw the line now at the beginning of their tenure. Let everyone see that you will not approve zoning variance requests. That they are wasting their time submitting requests.

The zoning ordinances are there for very good reasons … legal reasons, logical reasons, sensible reasons. Every future request will use this variance against you if you approve it. I say … vote, NO.

Oh, and by the way, I did not see any permit posted in front of your house. For construction to commence and continue that permit must be clearly posted. And remain posted.

It’s not.

Question for Robin before hearing:

Although I only see the fence permit, # PPO21-0055, approved in October 2021. It clearly states, ‘Install 5’ ht, painted steel pool fence $9,000.’

There is no Permit number, or listing in October 2021 for the pool. Seriously, I do not see the pool permit … and I searched every month from now back to March 2021. If there is no permit, then we have another whole issue … a very different issue.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The council voted to approve the variance.


If you have comments to make at public government meetings in Fayette, email them to me with the subject line “Public Comments.” Include the date and the governing body you made the comments to. Lose the all-caps emphasis and just do normal upper and lower case. The comments will be subject to standard editing practice.

Let’s hear from you exercising your right to petition your governments. — Cal Beverly

6 COMMENTS

  1. I must say I am shocked that council approved this variance! Why have an ordnance? Why have rules to guide approval. MS. Learnard’s flowery words always seemed too polished and politically astute rather than sincere. She said a lot about protecting our Greenspace and aesthetic. This doesn’t fit.

    Strike, and I fear we will see a lot of multi family development like that terrible stuff going on at Petrol Point.

  2. I get Joseph Smith’s plea (above) on improving the city’s Comprehensive Plan as a “City for Families” and a “Safe Place to Live,” but that vision for a new City logo to include Mom and Dad … and Baby in the front seat of a golf cart traveling at 14mph as he describes it; well, it’s just not a very good visual when presenting a message of safety too within the same sentence. Time to think things through a bit more Safety Joe.

  3. I like the idea of posting these. Its good to get wide feedback on these things.

    The first point about “messaging” is kind of word salad though. I honestly don’t think changing that stuff would make any difference. Decades of being a soccer mom haven has pretty much set this stuff in stone at this point.

    The point about prayer is a terrible idea, and pretty nonsensical to the concept of freedom of religion & freedom from religion. It’s a talking point that the crazies in Newnan are trying to force into school board meetings as we speak. Government is not the place for this. And if you’re going to audibly say Christian prayers out load in a public meeting – be prepared to accept people from (every) religion audibly saying their prayer at the same time while you are trying to do yours. If you want to say a prayer from every religion, and then do a moment of silence for atheists to reflect, that’s the only route that isn’t spitting in the face of others with differing views on religion.

    We live in a diverse community, and people need to learn to accept that everyone has rights and that your personal preferences are yours alone.