As the end of their term-limited tenure comes to a close by the end of this year, Councilmen Phil Prebor and Mike King are in full “lame duck” mode and disregarding the sound, trusted development standards that have made Peachtree City one of the best places to raise a family and retire.
These two have an appalling track record on government actions concerning real estate development. As pawns of the local real estate developers, they have kowtowed to nearly every request to despoil our traditional planning standards.
The votes are indefensible
At a recent City Council meeting, King and Prebor voted with Mayor Kim Learnard to proceed with processing yet another annexation request where the plans do not meet the city’s standards. They do not have a suitable explanation for their votes in favor.
The best defense Prebor could conjure for his vote on the large residential annexation plan was that he likes houses and thinks we need more houses.
I am not certain Prebor even understands our traditional land planning and why it was so successful. After all, the only staff support the council members have is Planning Director Robin Cailloux who dislikes the city’s traditional planning and has acted to subvert the standards any chance she gets.
Let’s give credit to Councilmen Frank Destadio and Clint Holland for opposing the annexation proposal and defending our traditional land planning.
Cailloux and King have stated multiple times in government meetings that real estate developers are subject to the highest, most profitable use of their land. That’s absolutely incorrect and over half a century of U.S. Supreme Court decisions prove they are incorrect.
Our traditional village-style planning calls for more dense development at the core and the density lessens outward to the borders, calling for large estate residential lots.
King, Prebor, and Cailloux really do not care what has worked so well in the past. Nothing proves their neglect more than the Governor’s Square annexation and zoning. The land behind the Governor’s Square office park was annexed and zoned to the highest possible density when it should have been the lightest possible density.
The Planning Commission unanimously and fervently rejected the zoning request abomination. They proved that the plan was in complete disagreement with the city’s land planning documents. King, Prebor, and the rest of the Vanessa Fleisch administration approved the debacle anyway.
Not long after, King, Prebor, and the rest of the Vanessa Fleisch administration went vindictive and stripped the Planning Commission of all their authority, offering lies to the public for justification of their ruthless action (see: https://thecitizen.com/2021/02/25/demoted-planning-commission-can-no-longer-protect-residents-from-bait-and-switch-apartment-rezonings/). The current city council was backed into restoring the citizen volunteer Planning Commission’s authority with the support of Destadio and Holland.
King and Prebor pushed for more stacked apartment complexes all over the city even though the citizens continuously rejected the idea, and despite the fact we already have more units than average (see: https://thecitizen.com/2020/11/01/lci-meeting-insult-to-peachtree-city-residents/).
With the entrance of new Mayor Kim Learnard and her pro-apartment build position, she teamed with King and Prebor to intentionally alter our land plans to allow for more stacked multi-family complex construction. At the meeting, Councilman Destadio gave a brilliant analysis of why more apartment complexes were not needed.
King could not defend his position against Destadio’s criticism and attempted a leverage tactic saying if the pathway to more apartments in the planning was not approved, the city would be jeopardizing $2 million in building impact fees. That was incorrect.
King based his comment on vague remarks from Cailloux who had already twisted the truth several times before. Not a single piece of documentation or correspondence was provided to back up Cailloux’s claim regarding the state’s Department of Community Affairs (DCA) not allowing the city to make changes to the future land use plan prior to council approval and sending it to the state. It was a disgraceful tactic.
Cailloux also raised the bogus claim that there somehow was not enough time to allow for the deletion of the pathway to more apartments in the planning. That is ridiculous because the comprehensive plan review process was already past the deadline with DCA’s approval.
Cailloux observed the process for inserting the pathway to more apartments was “community-driven,” which is also laughable because they had to kill a highly supported moratorium on new multi-family complexes before making the change.
We pick up the tab
Learnard, King and Prebor’s answer for having to expand city services at a significant cost because of the annexations for futile residential developments is simply to keep raising the taxes over and over again.
The taxes from newly annexed residential developments will not cover the cost of providing city services and Learnard, King, and Prebor know it.
Adding a larger residential service area while staff and materials costs continually escalate is irresponsible management at best.
More developer shenanigans coming
There is another upcoming proposal to further obliterate our land planning on annexed land on Redwine Road to change the already poor zoning choice of R-12 Single Family to an even worse Limited Use Residential (LUR) Limited Use Residential (see: https://peachtree-city.org/1235/Current-Rezoning-Requests). This maneuver is designed to allow the developer to violate the setback requirements in our ordinances. Those should have been estate residential lots.
Both Prebor and Learnard support building stacked multi-family complexes on Huddleston Road in the heart of the major traffic congestion. Do not be surprised if Learnard attempts to rally the lame ducks for a vote on creating some destructive apartment complexes on Huddleston Road before they exit on January 1.
As I have stated previously regarding Peachtree City and Fayetteville, the overbuilding of apartments will kill our communities rapidly. Due to overbuilding in metro Atlanta, “rents are already flattening out.” “Now apartment owners have to contend with the wave of new construction that will follow a record in building permits last year. [Real estate analytics firm] Green Street predicts Atlanta occupancy rates will decline,” (“Sunbelt Building Boom Pinches Apartment Landlords,” Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2023).
I know that at least two city councilmen are angry with the bogus citizen survey dispatched by Planning Director Cailloux. It’s another weak attempt at smoke-and-mirrors ploys to force an opinion that fits the narrative Cailloux and Learnard want to project. There is no good reason for the council members not to approve all survey questions before they are released to prevent bias from Cailloux who openly does not appreciate our traditional land plans.
Ensure you know where the candidates stand on annexation and real estate development before you vote this October-November. It matters.
[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.]