The current mayor and council in Peachtree City are going up in smoke and they seem intent on pouring gasoline on the blaze. The new LCI 2.0 being sneaked through the new update of our Comprehensive Plan is a dirty trick played behind the backs of the citizenry.
The Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) proposals issued by the Fleisch Administration in the second half of 2021 were horrible and received overwhelming criticism from the citizens.
They had the audacity to propose tearing down beautiful public parks and sports facilities and replacing them with apartment buildings. They cared nothing about creating even more traffic congestion through ultra-dense development while totally ignoring current congestion problems.
The worst part is both the city council and the city planning department lying to the citizens about the LCI. Planning Director Robin Cailloux intentionally told the citizens in a public meeting there was no longer any chance of seeing land zoned for multifamily residential housing, and the mayor and council abolished the city’s long standing moratorium on multifamily residential rezonings.
That lie surfaced at the exact same time the city’s yet unpublished LCI plan contained thousands of newly planned multifamily units.
Why is that planner still working for Peachtree City? She shows complete disdain for our award-winning village planning concept and she wants to urbanize every green space we have remaining.
After the LCI plan crashed and burned in 2021, Current Mayor Kim Learnard and Council Members Mike King and Phil Prebor are now working on an end-around of sneaking the multifamily housing units in piecemeal and altering zoning through the Comprehensive Plan review process.
Three members of the city council recently approved 36 multifamily units and are poised to annex the land behind that facility and build even more such units. Council Members Frank Destadio and Gretchen Caola voted against the multifamily proposal.
Former council members Terry Ernst and Kevin Madden lost reelection bids for not respecting the wishes of the constituents, but the rest of the council did not heed the message.
This new effort we refer to as “LCI 2.0” because it perpetuates the sneaky tactics they were attempting to achieve with the same goals as the previous LCI is promoting multifamily residential buildings four stories high and up as in-fill and site redevelopment projects. This is patterned off of more dense urban development, the kind we chose not to reside in when we moved to Peachtree City.
If you are new to Peachtree City and Fayette County, here is a little history on the subject.
As Peachtree City grew in population, all sorts of real estate developers came to town to cash in on our success. They did not care about the community nor the well-being of the citizens, just made a nice profit and moved on.
Trailers began accumulating in large numbers behind local schools and keeping pace with municipal infrastructure was difficult as best. The well-educated citizens of Peachtree City began to rebel against the proposed plans for even more dense types of residential development.
We were paying tens-and-tens of millions of dollars for school expansions and new schools through additional bonds and sales taxes.
As the Bob Lenox Administration approved one new apartment complex after another, the citizens complained about school overcrowding and increased traffic congestion and other issues. We moved to Peachtree City to escape dense urban living.
The public objections became so loud that the Lenox Administration created a moratorium on rezoning to or construction of multifamily developments. The moratorium stood for over 20 years, renewed annually, as the city government attempted to cope with infrastructure issues and service delivery.
The focus started to revolve around the will of the citizens. Our city was so specific on our desire to maintain our exceptional quality of life that the public sentiment was actually codified into our city ordinances.
Article 3 in our ordinances says, “The purpose of this ordinance is to promote the health, safety, convenience, order, prosperity and general welfare of the present and future inhabitants of the city; and to assure the development of the city in accordance with the land use and thoroughfare plan as adopted, and as amended from time to time; to protect the population from the danger and inconvenience of traffic congestion; to prevent overcrowding of the land and the undue concentration of population; to facilitate the adequate provision of transportation, water, sewage, schools, recreation and other public requirements; to regulate with reasonable consideration the character of existing and future uses of the land in order to promote desirable living conditions and neighborhood stability, protect property against blight and depreciation, secure economy in governmental expenditures, and protect against floods and other natural hazards” (boldface added for emphasis).
The previous city council under Mayor Vanessa Fleisch ushered in the era of elected government elitism, favoring real estate developers over the citizenry, extinguishing public input, endangering established subdivisions, and not giving a darn about what problems their actions would cause for the city’s future.
The Citizen ran an article entitled, “Mayor Fleisch: Peachtree City’s ‘village concept is changing,’” and boy-oh-boy did she want radical change with dense multi-family buildings on preserved green spaces and the loss of recreational amenities.
This city council (Fleisch, King, Prebor, Madden and Ernst) literally tried to convince the citizens that the land plans that have made us one of the top ranked cities in Georgia on all positive metrics from the late 1980s to the present are a failure (even though you can sell a home in about 48 hours because the demand is so high).
They pushed for several destabilizing projects such as the Great Wolf Lodge to be built on top of an adjacent subdivision and 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.
They attempted to force an urban downtown building project near City Hall that brought on citizen fury and ended with a thud.
The Fleisch Administration neutered the Planning Commission as the citizen voice on planning issues by removing any authority they had.
Each time, the citizens protested loudly and pushed the city council back. You would think the constant drubbing from the citizens would have the holdovers King and Prebor changing direction, but they are content to follow the real estate developers over the taxpaying citizens.
So here is what we should reasonably demand from our elected officials in Peachtree City. It’s not difficult and costs nothing.
(1) Approve a resolution that guarantees the city council will not sell our protected greenspaces, parks and recreation venues to developers to build thousands of apartment units;
(2) Restore the Planning Commission’s authority, including public hearings and a formal vote on proposals;
(3) Do not support any development proposals that cause harm to any of our subdivisions;
(4) Stop converting General Industrial and Office/Institutional zoned land to residential and secure future high-paying jobs;
(5) Create meaningful citizen input at all public government meetings and stop holding a timer and forcing people to speak their comments in 2-3 minutes;
(7) Offer an official apology and cease conducting official business in a backroom outside of a public meeting; there was no vote on installing path speed humps nor removing them;
(8) Reinstate the moratorium on multi-family housing and dispose of the zoning changes in the comprehensive plan that allow for them;
(9) Immediately withdraw any changes to our official plans now pending DCA approval and ordinances that allow for multi-story mixed-use development with multifamily residential and;
(10) Humble yourselves, respect the taxpaying citizens, show some leadership, do not lie and do not destroy our successful award-winning community concept that attracted all of us to live in Peachtree City.
[Brown is a former mayor of Peachtree City and served two terms on the Fayette County Board of Commissioners.]