Council’s Hwy. 54-74 decision a traffic boondoggle for Peachtree City

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I am interrupting the history series on Peachtree City to issue a wake-up call.

We know an elected official’s success is contingent upon his/her ability to comprehend and influence the issues of the constituents. Politicians must recognize the everyday concerns of those who elect them to office and act accordingly.

Many times, the local voters must realize a personal consequence of a governmental action before they are compelled to act. Unfortunately, by the time we feel the sting, it’s too late.

We are about to get stung.

Our city council is taking us headlong into what could be as much as a $12 – 14 million boondoggle.

The intersection of neglect and bad decisions

It is with great sorrow that I disclose that a majority of the city council of Peachtree City is in favor of going ahead with an atrocious Highway 74/54 intersection project introduced by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT).

It is vital to note that GDOT devised the intersection mitigation project and not the city government. The city has done next to nothing for the past 20 years.

Several years ago, GDOT introduced the project at the county government’s transportation committee meeting. I was present at the meeting and challenged the effectiveness of the proposal. It was immediately clear that the low-budget project proposal did zilch to resolve the core congestion issue with east-west traffic.

It was revealed in the committee meeting by a GDOT engineer that the project was “budget constrained,” meaning they had some funds remaining in an account and it was designed to the budget, not toward a long-term solution. GDOT is going to require the city to spend millions of our city tax dollars on the boondoggle as well.

GDOT’s own material says, “Traffic patterns for those coming from Hwy. 54 will not change.” We are smart enough in Peachtree City to comprehend what “will not change” means.

Mayor Kim Leonard is advertising to the public via video on Facebook that the city is looking forward to proceeding with the substandard displaced left turn project at highways 74 and 54.

Why on Earth would we proceed with that project? GDOT is going to tie up our roads for approximately two years, causing even more frustration, and we will still have traffic congestion when they are done.

Even worse, GDOT will say don’t come back to them anytime soon because they already gave us millions of dollars.

This would be a great opportunity for the mayor to show some leadership and work for a serious, viable, long-term solution for the intersection. She is blaming her predecessor’s prior approval of GDOT’s poor excuse for a project as though there is nothing she can do about it. There is plenty she can do about it!

Learnard could start by questioning the viability of the low-budget GDOT proposal that only addresses the lesser north-south flow. Next, she can work on behalf of the citizens to secure the meager funds allotted from GDOT and use them for design and right-of-way for a genuine solution.

It’s lamentable, and we will be forced to watch this local government trainwreck because the city government lacks leadership and makes excuses. The Highway 54-West corridor has been a series of errant government decisions over decades, exacerbating the misery each time, and now the Learnard Administration piles on.

Instead of being assertive and not tolerating such ridiculous proposals that are wasteful and jeopardize solving our most significant issue, our city council is debating how big the Peachtree City logo should be on the GDOT traffic signs for the Band-Aid transportation fix. It’s pathetic.

This will be a permanent marker in the city’s history as one of the most irresponsible and foolhardy non-accomplishments ever attempted. From experience, Learnard will undoubtedly claim it’s her predecessor’s (Vanessa Fleisch) fault as though she is powerless to do the right thing.

Do the newest councilmen Frank Destadio and Clint Holland have an opinion on the fiasco? There are no statements on the record at council meetings from either thus far.

Erosion of standards and false assertions

A large portion of Peachtree City’s success is based upon being unique, creating strict development standards, and enforcing those standards.

Several council meetings ago, I was glad to see a return to enforcing the city’s zoning ordinances. The addition of Councilmen Frank Destadio and Clint Holland is bearing some fruit in that regard.

Over the last decade or so, the zoning ordinances were simply considered rules that could be broken. Variances were granted over and over again. Granting a variance should be the extreme exception.

The problem with constantly approving variances is the ordinances are eventually rendered no longer enforceable, causing a losing battle in the courts. The previous council, including carryover Councilmen Mike King and Phil Prebor on the current council, granted nearly every variance requested.

While King and Prebor voted in favor of the variance on the recent meeting agenda, Destadio cited the rationale for protecting the sanctity of our zoning ordinances. We have the ordinances for a reason. Holland and Learnard joined Destadio, and our ordinances were defended, finally! Hopefully, this is the new trend.

On several occasions, I have heard King and the city’s planning director Robin Cailloux promote the false claim that property owners are entitled to the highest, most-profitable use of their land. This is the classic excuse used to give real estate developers anything they desire at the expense of the citizens and the community.

Do your job, no excuses!

The United States Supreme Court has been consistently clear that landowners are not guaranteed whatever they believe to be the most profitable use of their property in opposition to municipal zoning regulations.

Likewise, land use controls that do not approximate the extreme situation of an outright appropriation, i.e., that do not substantially destroy the value and use of the property, should be viewed as outside the scope of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. We are paying Cailloux a handsome salary to defend our ordinances, and I wish she would act accordingly.

Many of us are tired of the phony excuses used to justify subverting our city zoning ordinances. The constant push for more multi-family complexes is equally irritating. The mayor’s willingness to approve a multi-family complex for a campaign fundraising contributor, citing in the vote to approve changes to the comprehensive plan that had neither been made public nor officially approved does not bode well for the city either. It’s rotten politics.

In their last special called meeting, they discussed annexing a Tyrone property which they will most likely propose to build another multi-family housing complex on in direct conflict with decades of city land planning calling for the lowest density housing on our outer borders. At least three of the rapscallions just do not care about our standards.

If a majority of the city council settles for an underfunded intersection project that provides little to no congestion relief to just kick the can annoyingly and thoughtlessly down the road with the claim that “it’s not my project,” the citizens get to choose which label is suitable: negligence or incompetence.

Similarly, asking our elected officials to obey and enforce our local ordinances is not an extreme request, and their oath of office mandates it. If lame-duck Councilmen King and Prebor cannot summon the willpower to defend the ordinances they swore an oath to uphold, please do us a favor, resign, and end your last term in office 11 months early.

The one thing I have always loved the most about Peachtree City is the high expectations from the citizens. We should not have to beg our city council members to adequately represent us and act in the best interest of the citizens.

[Brown is a former mayor of Peachtree City and served two terms on the Fayette County Board of Commissioners. You can read all his columns by clicking on his photo below.]

20 COMMENTS

  1. Ask Peachtree citizens, “What’s your biggest problem?” A majority answer, “Traffic.”

    Peachtree City struggles with traffic on the Highway 54 corridor that connects Coweta County, and Fayetteville. Quite frankly, Peachtree City is in the way.

    Will “Displaced Left Turn” lanes on Highway 74 solve the problem? No.

    And according to this article, GADOT has admitted that.

    Then why is the Peachtree City Council pursuing this?
    Is it just so that it “looks” like they are doing something?
    Is it to placate commuters and Peachtree City residents?
    Will construction delays for over two years make anyone happier?
    In fact, the project will exacerbate the issue because the project will not fix traffic on Highway 54, not even a little.

    We have two Peachtree City Council members who are “term limited / lame ducks” who will be out of office at the end of this year. Phil Prebor and Mike King have nothing to lose if they let this project continue, except their personal reputation. Maybe they don’t care about that.
    It seems Mayor Learnard is okay doing the project. Perhaps she hopes voters will forget her part in all of this before her next election in 2025.

    Is doing nothing better than throwing $10-14 million tax dollars in the trash?
    Using the excuse that it’s progressed too far to stop it is a pile of dung.
    We all know it.
    It takes a brave person to stand up and say, “No. We can’t do this because it is not a solution.”

    Looks like Clint Holland and Frank Destadio are the only two brave enough to try to stop the project that won’t fix the problem. The other 3 are fine throwing our tax dollars into a useless band-aid that isn’t even being applied close enough to the wound to help.

    City Council is supposed to prudently spend our tax dollars on projects that fix the traffic.
    Displaced Left Turns are a waste of money.
    GADOT knows it.
    Peachtree City Council knows it.
    Citizens know it.
    Clint Holland and Frank Destadio need one more brave Council member to do the right thing.
    There has to be a better plan. They need to find it.

    Write to Mike King, Phil Prebor and Kim Learnard and tell them to vote to stop this project while we still can.

  2. On the westside of McIntosh Lake is a lot of real estate, primed with some initial infrastructure for residential and commercial development, waiting for access to TDK. It’s not like Coweta will open any of their right-of-ways to east/west traffic. Extending TDK is probably the quickest way to make Peachtree City unliveable for many of its citizens.

    • Well maybe it’s about time we start having discussions about what we’re going to be able to give and take with Coweta County. This might need to be a multi-faceted approach to solving the 54/74 dilemna. Keeping the status quo isn’t solving our issues. Would allowing a 2-lane TDK extension into Coweta County be that bad? Especially if it came with the caveat of “only if” we get a North PTC bypass and only if we get an 85 interchanged added at Palmetto Tyrone Road? I mean – I have to think there was major gnashing of teeth over 74 going from 2 lanes total, to 6 lanes, in the mid 2000’s? That seems to have worked out pretty well. How about 54 West? I remember when it was a single bridge over the RR tracks all the way into Coweta…..before Best Buy was opened. Now we have 4+ lanes and it’s brought progress and shopping options but more traffic – we have to keep evolving. This p*ssing match of standing our ground and standing still while the problems worsen isn’t helping anyone.

  3. This displaced left turn lane is obviously only a solution to the issue of “blocking the box” and it does not solve any of the 54 W traffic issues. Why are we not talking about some sort of northern bypass around Peachtree City? The right-of-way is there, it’s not terribly hard to envision a northern bypass starting at 54E and Tyrone Road, with the route following Tyrone Road up to Dogwood Trail, then on Dogwood west across 74, around Lake Tyrone and just N of the aggregate quarry, connecting to Minix and then eventually back down to 34 at Sams / Costco. For heavens sake, it doesn’t take a genius (only someone with Google Maps) to figure out there’s opportunity there to utilize existing infrastructure, to add to it, and to take some of the load off the 54/74 intersection. Add in another 85 interchange at Palmetto Tyrone Road and 85, and you’ve got solutions that actually make some common sense. Is there a reason these ideas don’t get kicked around?

      • Coweta County returning the favor to PTC….why doesn’t PTC allows the connection of 74S to Coweta via TDK Blvd and on to McIntosh Rd? That would take a chunk of traffic sitting on the 54/74 intersection.

          • Doug, that traffic is already coming into PTC but through the clogged 54 corridor.

            They displaced turn pockets being proposed will NOT work if the traffic backs up more than the displaced lane will hold.

            54/74 was problematic when I moved to PTC in 1997 and everything that our elected officials have done in that corridor has done nothing but make the problem worse.

            Contrary to Mr. Brown’s assertions to the contrary, there was a viable plan for the TDK extension many years ago, it would have added another option for traffic entering and leaving PTC.

            Again, that traffic has always existed but comes through the 54 corridor adding to the perpetual congestion.

            Until another route into/out of PTCT is found this problem will never be resolved.

            Just my less than humble opinion.

          • Bernie, I agree with you. The traffic has been there for more than two decades and probably closer to three. It was beginning to build up in 1993 when I wanted to build a wall around Peachtree City. I think “the viable plan for the TDK extension” fell through when retail started escalating and the residents, I being among them, realized we were starting to lose much of the “bubble’s” charm. You may remember the fight over the Kmart.

            The traffic on Highway 74 had already been routed from Senoia Rd. Shortly thereafter, the AMOCO gas station moved across Highway 74 and became a truck stop at 74/I-85. The CSX Fairburn Ramp became operational and a second set of tracks was installed in Peachtree City.

            What was once a 10 minute drive into Fayetteville became 15 – 20 minutes. Now many of use use Redwine Rd. State Highway 85 became a mess and people began dying because they couldn’t get to the Southern Regional Medical Center.

            But, back to the roundtrip route of Fayetteville to Newnan, we lost an opportunity when we allowed Rockaway Rd. to intersect Highway 74 and Holly Grove Rd., rather than Redwine Rd. Our Recycling Center became much smaller, the residences on and about Holly Rd. and Robinson Rd. (from the south parkway to Redwine Rd.) began experiencing much more traffic with resulting Peachtree Citizens moving out and away from Peachtree City.

            I don’t want the same to happen to the north Braelinn and south Glenloch villages. I will rather the traffic backup from Macon to Chattanooga and Birmingham than to see more of it within our city and villages. As far as I can see it, we can condem and bulldoze 75 to 90 percent of our retail and be better off than we are now. It’s amazing to me how our population has remained somewhat stable and yet we require so many more municipally supplied services and infrastructure than before. Go figure. I guess there is some truth in small towns and rural areas have become “colonies and sanctuaries of the metropolis.”

            viable plan for the TDK extension became a “no-go”

        • My study is history and a few land records. Dar, this is the same conversation we had a couple to a few years ago. Have you seen the history of the area around the Reese Rd to McIntosh Trl buildup? It started happening when Pathway Communites purchased the land and the Fayette Chamber of Commerce “suggested” the TDK Blvd extension to create a better business environment on Crosstown. You are a builder/developer and you understand what the TDK Blvd extension will do to Crosstown and beyond.

          • Among other things, Dar.

            It became seemingly apparent you were more interested in investing along the Crosstown Dr/Robinson Rd corridor than a smoother east/west traffic flow between Coweta County and Fayetteville.

            Other than Harold Logsdon, from Steve Brown on, I believe has been pressured to extend TDK Blvd and each one rejected the proposal. I also believe every City Council member has done the same. They have understood in even greater detail than I as to what extending TDK Blvd would do to us. As on local great American patriot said, “I’ll be (expletive deleted) before I let Coweta County make a door mat out of Peachtree City.”

            It’s bad enough for our city to be divided in half by Highway 54, we don’t need to divide the souther half into quarters.

          • Doug-First of all, I have never looked at investing in property anywhere near the Crosstown corridor. Not sure where you get your information. Furthermore, 80% +/- would not crossover Hwy 74. The answer is to annex in the 1600 acres, now you can control growth. Even the current council has made statements that at some point the government is going to step in and build TDK at which point the 1600 acres will not need to annex into the city. Remember what happened at Fischer Crossing, PTC did not annex, now all that money is going elsewhere outside of the city. Some of us are playing chess while others are playing checkers.

          • Dar, I apologize. If you have never planned to invest in the Crosstown corridor, you will know better than I of your plans. I only remember I once told you to build your own municipal pool if TDK were extended. I still suspect that if you were to see an investment opportunity along the corridor you will take advantage of it.

            A TDK extension will provide more than Sharpsburg/Newnan and Fayetteville traffic. It will include most of everything along the Hwy 54 corridor (Luthersville, Hoganville, southeast Newnan, Moreland, Turin, and everything in between) going into and from southeast Atlanta (read Riverdale, Hapeville, Rex, Stockbridge, Jonesboro, McDonough, Gampton). With the projected increased density of the area, 20 percent of the traffic crossing Hwy 74 will become a lot of traffic. We cannot annex everything and we actually don’t want to. We want to maintain “the bubble,” or at least our small town. We have to pay a lot of money to insure safety for the Crosstown/Parkway intersection now, imagine how that intersection will look if we were to extend TDK.

  4. Steve, hoping that you could provide an early 2023 update on SpeedBumpGate?

    In the past few Winter 2022 months, there have been noticeably **NEW yellow markings along cart paths** from in front of Gretchen’s former house, at beginning of Lake PTC spillway to in front of Drake Field to behind bowling alley near Aberdeen and alongside Flat Creek Rd, just to name a few. Also, there are still speed bumps that cover the path (versus proposed ADA-compliant gap in the middle) – wasn’t the Council to address and revise these existing ones? i.e. path alongside Gretchen’s former home and the one on path before the bench leading towards the dam.

  5. I agree Peachtree City should not spend $12 – 14 million on an intersection of State Highways when arguably the expenditure will not help. If engineers do not agree, give priority to the jurisdictional engineer. In the case of State Highways 54 and 74, that is the State’s engineer. It’s the State’s jurisdiction and the State’s responsibility to provide any necessary funding. However, if a municipality wants something added to the State’s requirements, the municipality should provide the additional funding. If I’m correctly following the conversation, we are talking signage and not talking $12 – 14 million for signage. I personally think creating a well-timed “No right turn on red” signal for Highway 74 southbound traffic turning right (west) traffic onto Highway 54, with an additional well-timed blinking yellow signal will help clear the intersection for Highway 74 northbound traffic turning west onto Highway 54.

    I also agree we should consider zoning ordinance variances as a last resort to meet a “qualified” requirement, whatever our elected officials finally determine as a “qualified” requirement. That is where “elected” comes into play. It is better for government’s to maintain flexibility to meet jurisdictional demands without being fluid or being so rigid as to constrain (or handcuff) its constituency. I’m finding difficulty in keeping up with the many proposed changes. On a smaller scale, I believe local government should give residential code variance requests the highest consideration and only secondary to safety and neighborhood objections.

    I still have faith and confidence in our Mayor and City Council. I do not think I could better represent Peachtree City citizens.

    • A big chunk of traffic sitting on the 74N trying to turn left onto 54W could be avoided if there was a connection to Coweta County via TDK Blvd. All those cars trying to get to Newnan would have an alternate route. So easy to see, I simply don’t understand why this is so difficult to understand by our luminaries in City Hall.

      • If you’re already at TDK your alternate route to Newnan is State 85 and Hwy 16. I do it all the time. And the problem with the 74/54 intersection is mostly the east/west traffic and not the 74 north/south traffic. If you’re turning left from 74N to 54W it’s all the traffic lights that slow things down and the already existing 54W traffic. Also, it seems the traffic lights on 74 are not synchronized(i.e. the lights change to stop 12 cars on 74 to let out one car turning onto 74).