OPINION — Author Mark Twain’s actual quote in the New York Journal June 2, 1897 was this: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” The quote itself has been “greatly” exaggerated.
Thus — with trepidation — I begin a report on and a remembrance of a central feature of Peachtree City, Georgia. Should I describe this as a requiem, a tome usually reserved for someone or something that is dead? Or should city staff plan a new arrival party? Surprise coming below.
With no credit or thanks to Hillary Clinton, I have participated in rearing to adulthood two sets of children in a village.
From the first day I arrived in Peachtree City in the first week of January 1977, I — and two sets of kids — have enjoyed life in the one subdivision west of the railroad tracks (pre-Walmart, pre-Planterra) and in Aberdeen Village. I’ve resided these past 46 years (sequentially) in two villages. Now I’m seeing signs that the villages of Peachtree City might be going the way of the ivory-billed woodpecker — if not extinct, then, at best, rarely sighted.
Here’s the clearest sign of their endangered status: As of Aug. 17 it is difficult to find any mention of “villages” on the official city website. I don’t know when the story of our city disappeared from easy access on the site that’s supposed to show ourselves to the internet world. But I reported the missing villages to the City Council Thursday night during public comment. Nobody called 9-1-1.
As I write this two days later, I looked up “Peachtree City History,” and there were our missing villages — in history. They get two sentences: “The city was planned to be developed into villages, each with its own shopping areas, recreational facilities, and elementary schools. Peachtree City’s current villages are Aberdeen, Braelinn, Glenloch, Kedron, and Wilksmoor.” That’s it.
Search the city site yourself for other mentions of “villages.” They are buried in the site archives. One telling quote from the 2022 Comprehensive Plan Update: “[Village Center] Locations not defined or mapped” and “… it is clear that some work must still be done with the community to flesh out the Village Concept” …
Really? Reader, do you feel the need to get the “Village Concept” fleshed out? After 46 years of village life, I think I’ve got it “fleshed out.”
Here’s my point: The central defining feature of this “planned city” was its villages with their village centers. But even a determined visitor to our city’s website would be hard-pressed to discover that information.
So what does that suggest? A deliberate downgrading by those in charge or just sloppy site maintenance? “Please don’t delete our city’s history,” I requested of the council.
But if our villages were being downplayed on the city site, what do you make of this startling news buried in the council’s packet for last Thursday’s meeting?
It seems the city planning department is ready to move on from our five village centers (or six, since the city staff has redefined the industrial park as the sixth village).
I asked the smiling City Council Thursday night, “Do we now have a seventh village center?” The smiles continued. The council typically does not respond to public comment queries, and followed its typical pattern Thursday.
The seventh “village center” suspiciously shows up in a staff recommendation to move forward on an 11-acre, 21-home annexation request adjacent to Shiloh Mobile Home Park on the city’s east side.
“Staff Comment: The property is located within a 15-minute walk of the Lexington Village Center. Given the property’s proximity to the Village Center, higher density small-lot residential similar to what is under construction now in the Towson Village is an appropriate land use.” That is from the council packet for the council Aug. 17.
Well, now. City staff has created a new village center to buttress an annexation request. Thus my related question: When did Lexington Village join Aberdeen, Glenloch, Braelinn, Kedron and Wilksmoor as the newest village?
Did City Council hold a secret ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the official addition of a seventh “village center”? Will the city now erect a sign for the city’s newest village, even while signs at existing villages deteriorate and disappear? Okay, I’m exaggerating.
But this is my suspicion: Maybe the notion of “village center” can be useful under certain circumstances if its aids a preference for residential density. And if there’s no “village center” handy, then just make one up.
Why is the council going along with this sketchy approach to annexation?
Why allow ANY annexation into a city that’s purportedly “built out”?
Taxes paid by the annexed homes almost always fall short of the city expense to provide police, fire, ambulance and other services. So why do it?
Should not EVERY annexation include a very simple checklist: (1) How much in taxes will the annexed properties produce each year versus (2) how much will the city pay in providing services for the annexed area and in dealing with traffic issues created by the annexation?
If it’s way positive revenue for the city (unlikely), consider annexing it. If it’s negative for the city, say no. How simple would that be? But I never hear a council talk about annexations in those simple terms.
By the way, annexations are not a constitutional right. No property owner has the right to demand annexation. And no city can be forced to annex land (unless the legislature steps in). It is always at the discretion of the city or town council. So why is there so much annexation without publicly declaring the answers to my two checklist questions?
I’m a village guy. Let’s protect our villages.
[Cal Beverly has been editor and publisher of The Citizen since 1993.]