OPINION — Shut the front door! Mayor Kim Learnard along with Councilmen Mike King and Phil Prebor are at it again, this time with the Crown Plaza Hotel (formerly Dolce and Aberdeen Conference Center) on the Aberdeen Parkway.
The hotel on the exquisite 38-acre property nestled in amongst residential subdivisions and corporate office buildings got hit by a sour economy by means of a dysfunctional federal Covid response and the owners want to recoup every nickel they borrowed for the site. The lender might already have possession of the property.
It was King who spilled the beans at the last council meeting, acknowledging discussions have commenced and our menacing Planning Director Robin Cailloux, no doubt, is already working on a high-density, multi-family, mixed-use plan for the site. They could care less about the homeowners in the area and the impact on their quality of life.
Don’t say that I did not warn you that King and Prebor were going to attempt to drop some development bombs on us on their way out of the term limit exit (worth reading: https://thecitizen.com/2023/06/12/council-lame-ducks-making-questionable-votes/).
Learnard, King and Prebor’s answer for having to expand city services at a significant taxpayer cost due to their ultra-dense residential development will be simply to keep raising the taxes repeatedly.
The taxes from most new residential developments will not cover the cost of providing city services and Learnard, King, and Prebor know it.
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).
A really bad track record of carelessness and abandonment
In 2019, Mayor Vanessa Fleisch announced it was time to force high-density development and added traffic congestion on the citizens. (“Mayor Fleisch calls for higher density in redeveloping older areas,” The Citizen, January 24, 2019). The article states, “Fleisch said the Great Recession taught city leaders that initiatives pertaining to redevelopment, increased density and annexation should be adopted.”
Councilmen King and Prebor got on the radical redevelopment train and are still riding it today.
The Vanessa Fleisch administration and Councilman King were full steam ahead on the Great Wolf Lodge project once proposed for the Crown Plaza Hotel site. “Councilman Mike King became the water park’s chief water carrier, apparently irking Mayor Vanessa Fleisch at one point, mainly because she wanted a more direct role in the fait accompli,” (see: https://thecitizen.com/2015/04/21/trail-wolf/).
The terms “backlash, uprising, or protest” are often used to describe the response from the taxpaying citizens against the local government officials constantly pushing inappropriate and destructive multi-family projects.
Then-Councilwoman Kim Learnard was a solid vote against the Great Wolf Lodge, but my oh my, how her perspective on dense multi-family complex development has changed today.
There were others along the way, including the large multi-family complex project Calistoa in the middle of the industrial area and at the end of the local airport runway. At the public hearing for the Calistoa residential project, those in attendance with extensive knowledge of the industrial sector, transportation infrastructure, economic development, and airport operations all agreed the development plan was a bust. The city council was forced into retreat.
Another unfortunate apartment complex favored by the city council was a complex proposed in the industrial area behind the gas station on TDK Boulevard next to the railroad tracks. The city council and the developer were trying to sell the project as “luxury” apartments. The taxpaying citizens revolted, and the elected officials backed down.
Notice that all these sites could be used for revenue-rich corporate uses, but the fix is in, and the city council kept going for the most burdensome and ridiculous use instead. The Fleisch administration will be forever known as the council that killed the golden revenue and high-paying jobs goose by rezoning industrial and corporate zoned land to residential.
The pinnacle of the reckless insanity was the 2020 Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) proposal. Current Councilman King and Prebor along with the rest of the Fleisch administration projected to build apartment complexes on public parks and greenspaces, including tearing down the Tennis Center and replacing it with a multi-family complex.
They had multiple dense multi-family complexes proposed on Huddleston Road in the heart of the most congested traffic in all of Fayette County (see: https://thecitizen.com/2020/11/01/lci-meeting-insult-to-peachtree-city-residents/).
LCI was so antithetical to the Peachtree City way of life that a mutinous rebellion ensued. Every ounce of the taxpaying citizen hostility was justified.
They learned nothing
King, Prebor, and the rest were beaten back time after time. Did they repent and acknowledge that the citizens moved to Peachtree City for the highly awarded traditional village-style land planning? Of course, they did not.
In July 2022, it was another townhome complex voted on MacDuff Parkway.
Mayor Kim Learnard, King, and Prebor voted to amend our comprehensive plan to allow apartment complexes to be built nearly anywhere in the city.
Learnard did an unscrupulous favor for an election campaign contributor, with no disclosure and no abstaining, by voting to rezone a large commercial tract for apartments with no limit on the number of units.
The Crown Plaza Hotel site
At the last city council meeting, King began pleading on behalf of the owner of the hotel site, claiming financial hardship. He is making excuses to make a much larger stacked residential project on the site through redevelopment. King cannot leave the homeowners in that area alone.
King and Planning Director Cailloux often lie that the landowner-developer is entitled to the most profitable use of zoning on their property. It’s totally false, and the U.S. Supreme Court has many rulings defending local zoning regulations and protections.
The site would make a great corporate headquarters location, quality site, lower traffic numbers, and is more suitable for the surrounding neighborhoods. Count on Learnard, King, and Prebor pushing multi-family residential there.
So, gear up for the next taxpaying citizen revolt.
[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.]