OPINION — How the Peachtree City Planning Director and Planning Commission were out-maneuvered by a former city attorney —
An hour into the December 12 Peachtree City Planning Commission meeting we began the final agenda item: PW12-22-02 – Discussion about senior housing in Peachtree City and potential senior housing project at intersection of Walt Banks Road and Lexington Circle.
No explanation was included, just that. We were in the dark, so were the Commissioners. In retrospect, it appears someone was trying to take advantage of the process in order to help developers build more apartment complexes in Peachtree City.
Robin Cailloux, the Planning and Development Director, began the “discussion.” She explained the property being “discussed” is a vacant 4.5-acre parcel across Walt Banks Road from McIntosh High School, and immediately behind Sprouts Food Market.
She outlined a plan to put apartments for seniors on that property. There isn’t an official proposal because the property is currently zoned Limited Use Commercial (LUC), so it would need a zoning change to build an apartment building.
Ms. Cailloux tried to claim we are experiencing the “Silver Tsunami” with an increasing number of senior citizens. But I don’t agree. Some seniors choose to downsize their homes. Many combine that with moving closer to their children and grandchildren, which often takes them away from Peachtree City.
Ms. Cailloux showed a slide claiming “Senior apartments” have a higher rate of EMS calls, but lower impact on traffic and schools than apartments with no age restriction. Of course, she probably left off the best statistics for the impact of owner-occupied, single-family residential housing, because it doesn’t suit her narrative.
She said Cobb County has a “Multi-Family Senior Housing Ordinance” that’s been court tested. Cobb County is too urbanized so I don’t care what Cobb County did.
Then, Attorney Richard Lindsey (a former Peachtree City attorney) proceeded to show a video and power point presentation, to explain what they want to build.
But it’s not a proposal, it’s a discussion. Why did it feel like a proposal presentation?
The not-actually-proposed structure would have partially underground parking with four floors of apartments above. A total of 154 apartments were discussed though not officially proposed. Yet the video looked like a proposal.
Twenty minutes into the discussion, Mike Link, the Chairman, stopped Mr. Lindsey. He pointed out this wasn’t supposed to be a specific proposal, but rather a discussion whether a Senior Housing Ordinance would be of any benefit to the city.
Mr. Link then invited citizens to make comments in favor of the concept of Senior Apartments. No one spoke in favor of the proposal, I mean, the discussion.
People were permitted to make comments in opposition of the concept of Senior Apartments. Four people spoke in opposition.
The first speaker lives adjacent to the proposed site. She pointed out the distinction between Peachtree City versus Cobb County which has a Senior Housing Ordinance, and that we are not like Cobb County. She thinks a study should be done to see if an ordinance is even needed.
The second speaker lives adjacent to the proposed site. He’s new to Peachtree City, but interested in learning what they plan for his back yard.
I voiced total opposition to everything being discussed. We don’t need apartments, condos, townhouses, or mixed use, especially at this location. Traffic from McIntosh and the new Booth school is already a mess. Why would we add 154 apartments to feed more traffic onto Highway 54? I completely oppose the “proposal” being paraded as a “discussion,” and the ordinance.
If built, it would make the owner, developer and construction company rich, and leave us to deal with the traffic. And in twenty years, we’ll have another poorly maintained apartment building that’s under-occupied and they’ll be begging to remove the age restriction because of high vacancy rates.
The fourth speaker opposes any building that’s a four-story building on top of hidden ground level parking. She compared it to the new apartments in Fayetteville. I’ve seen them, I call them “The Projects.”
Commissioners then spoke and asked questions. Their overall assessment was that City Council should conduct some studies and then make a decision whether a Senior Apartment Ordinance is needed.
So, why do I think Planning and Development Director Cailloux, and Planning Commissioners were “out-maneuvered” by a former City Attorney? Mr. Lindsey specializes in Municipal Law. He should know the process and procedures. Why didn’t he submit a construction proposal with a zoning change request on behalf of the property owner? Why choose to go around the procedures?
Did he convince the Planning and Development Director to put the discussion on the agenda so he could help start the process to put a Senior Apartment Ordinance in place? If they put a Senior Apartment Ordinance in place, will they identify areas where Senior Apartments would be permitted? That way everyone could avoid those pesky Public Hearings where we get to object?
Instead, Rick Lindsey got a hearing with a handful of citizens. Ms. Cailloux scheduled it for him. He didn’t submit a proposal, post signs, or wait 30 days for a public hearing. He didn’t need to suffer through an entire room full of angry Peachtree City citizens who were “out for blood” because no matter how many times they tell their City Council that they oppose apartments, condos, townhouses, mixed-use, the LCI, or building the Great Wolf Lodge, the Planning and Development Director and developers keep trying to urbanize our city. And when proposals get rejected, they can’t be resubmitted for 180 days.
She may not realize how well he played her. She set it up and handed him the microphone. He showed a video and slides and was well along in his discussion when he was stopped. When Mike Link permitted a handful of citizens in attendance to speak, he learned that public sentiment was not favorable.
If Planning Director Cailloux claims he didn’t manipulate her, then what did she get out of this stunt? Why does it appear the city’s planning director wants this Senior Apartment Ordinance so much? Does it streamline the process for developers to build more apartments by claiming they are for seniors?
It seems Rick Lindsey out-maneuvered them. He knows the rules and how to skirt them. I bet he’s had enough discussions and interactions with our Planning and Development Director to know she seems totally committed to urbanization of Peachtree City.
Even a person without sight could have seen that.
If we’re going to preserve our city, then we need a Planning Director who is committed to preserving our city, not urbanizing it. She has got to go.
If you’d like to watch the Planning Commission meeting, click on the video below and go to the 59:00 mark to see the entire exchange. (https://vimeo.com/channels/peachtreecity/767106722)
Peachtree City, Ga.
[Suzanne Brown is retired after 21 years in federal law enforcement, has a BS from Cornell and an MS from Colorado State, and has lived in Peachtree City for 3 years. She often speaks at local government meetings during public comment time, pointing out various laws and regulations that need to be followed to preserve our communities, and in support of a patriotic agenda.]