As all of you should know, Peachtree City has a long officially documented history of maintaining an appropriately lean percentage of multi-family housing. That is not NIMBY, it is rational, intentional planning.
As we are witnessing today, back during the Bob Lenox administration the real estate developers found plenty of financing available for the construction of multi-family housing. In fact, the pressure from developers towards building more multi-family complexes in the city was so strong that after several sizable developments were approved, the citizenry pushed back hard, asking the City Council to refocus on traditional neighborhoods in the planned village tradition.
Our community was facing numerous negative impacts, including trailers behind schools and grinding traffic congestion.
By overwhelming demand from the constituents, the City Council, heeding the wishes of the citizen taxpayers, implemented a moratorium on multi-family construction while deliberately and intelligently defining the direction of future development moving forward.
Those same citizen taxpayers had to foot the enormous bill to build additions on to local school buildings and implement expensive transportation mitigation projects to stem traffic congestion at the Highways 74-54 intersection and Highway 54-west.
The multi-family moratorium was supported and upheld through the Brown, Logsdon and Haddix administrations.
Unfortunately, the most recent administration of Mayor Vanessa Fleisch, a real estate agent, moved behind the scenes to create a radical redevelopment pattern focusing almost exclusively on urban style multi-family complex development, a significant departure from the long successful planned village scheme.
They pushed for the Calistoa “mini city” to be built at the end of our airport runway, virtually guaranteeing future problems for our citizens in aviation and our aviation businesses at the airport.
Two of the most outrageous actions ever taken by a City Council transpired during this time. First, the council moved to use taxpayer funds to sue any citizen in the courts who spoke negatively of the government’s efforts.
Second, the City Council and city planning staff blatantly lied to the public in a council meeting when they voted to remove the multi-family moratorium, stating there was no longer any property available that was zoned for large apartment and condominium complexes, therefore, claiming the long held moratorium was unnecessary.
A short time after, Mayor Fleisch and her council colleagues tried to force-feed us an urban development vision that included tearing down recreation facilities, uprooting protected greenbelts, and abolishing public parks to construct thousands of multi-family units on those sites through the Livable Center Initiative (LCI). Obviously, there was massive pushback from the citizens once again.
The two incumbent council members up for re-election, Terry Ernst and Kevin Madden, were both soundly defeated as the local taxpaying voters made their displeasure over the destructive development proposals known in the voting booths.
Another huge mistake was hiring a Planning Director who abhors the traditional style of village development that continues to be one of Georgia’s greatest development success stories. Director Cailloux’s constant attempts at “urbanizing” Peachtree City have been the bane of our existence. (See: https://thecitizen.com/2020/11/01/lci-meeting-insult-to-peachtree-city-residents/)
Robin Cailloux would be better suited going back to Atlanta and working on projects like the failed Atlanta Streetcar that she cultivated prior to her current employment.
Many of us truly appreciate council members Destadio and Caola listening to the constituents and acting accordingly. Their firm stance opposing the high density multi-family housing in the midst of other problems the city is facing is admirable.
The City Council’s lie regarding no need for the multi-family moratorium continues with a developer wanting to build 36 units on just six acres off of MacDuff Parkway.
Director Cailloux has espoused the philosophy that developers deserve the most profitable zoning and projects possible at the expense of current citizens and our infrastructure.
Somehow the tables have been turned and we the citizen taxpayers are now responsible for the financial success and total reduction of risk for real estate developers. The developer, Brent Holdings, said as much, “A 36-unit townhome development involves the least development risk and provides the greatest flexibility to succeed.”
Here are some common sense suggestions for the council to consider. First, be public servants, not development tyrants.
Second, stop trying to urbanize Peachtree City. If we wanted that type of development, we would have moved somewhere else.
Third, jump off of the multifamily development train. We don’t want to be an homogenized, look-alike, failing suburban wasteland like other parts of metropolitan Atlanta with their failing schools, crime and traffic gridlock. Stop trying to emulate those other areas.
Multifamily housing complexes are now commodity projects owned by Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT) outside of the state. The owners care little about our community. The product is cyclical in nature, and when leasing rates are down they become a tremendous burden on the communities where they reside.
There are some members of the City Council who have promised one thing and once elected done the opposite. Be honest and listen to the majority of citizen taxpayers who moved to Peachtree City for specific reasons and desire to stay out of the urbanization mode.
How many times do the citizens have to push-back before you heed their instructions?
Peachtree City, Ga.
[Brown is a former mayor of Peachtree City and a former two-term member of the Fayette County Commission.]