Mayor Learnard’s message to residents: She will push for annexation and ‘affordable housing’

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Peachtree City Mayor Kim Learnard prepares to deliver her State of the City address at the Jan. 4, 2024 Peachtree City Council meeting. Photo/Cal Beverly.
Peachtree City Mayor Kim Learnard prepares to deliver her State of the City address at the Jan. 4, 2024 Peachtree City Council meeting. Photo/Cal Beverly.

Peachtree City Mayor Kim Learnard had this message for city residents earlier this month:

“Residents no longer have the luxury of sticking [your] head in the sand and keep saying [you] don’t want Peachtree City to change, because everything around [the city] is changing, ” the mayor said in her state of the city address.

Learnard pointed out the following challenges:

• Unbridled growth in Coweta County, sending its increasing traffic straight through Peachtree City;

• Fayetteville is expanding its borders toward Peachtree City;

• Annexation and housing would be two priorities for Council in the coming year, Learnard said, zeroing in on what she termed “the lack of affordable housing for young people in Peachtree City and Fayette County.”

Following is the State of the City address delivered by Mayor Kim Learnard at the Jan. 4, 2024 City Council meeting (from the minutes of the meeting):

The Mayor presented the annual State of the City address, beginning by saying 2023 was a year of record collaboration and success.

The year began with the hiring of Robert Curnow as City Manager, and the first priority was to address the ongoing crisis in staffing, especially in the Police Department, where they were losing officers to other jurisdictions.

Council approved a revamped compensation package, and Learnard said she had sworn in seven new officers and they had not lost any staff to other agencies since.

The next challenge, she stated, was City communications, and they had hired talent in videography, graphic design, and creative content.

The results had been a beefed-up presence on social media, a new weekly City newsletter, and Mondays with the Mayor programming that updated citizens on hot topics. They had created videos for the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), the municipal elections, and the recreation master plan.

If a citizen wanted factual information, the Mayor stated, the City was your source.

City leaders held an off-site retreat in March where they agreed on core values such as professionalism, accountability, teamwork, honesty, sustainability, safety and security.

The next retreat would be this month, Learnard continued, and she viewed it as an opportunity for teambuilding and long-term strategizing that would help them discern where they wanted the City to go in the future.

Also in March, voters approved the 2023 SPLOST with 74% of the vote. It contained $67 million in projects. Orders had already been placed for fire vehicles and they were replacing vehicles in Public Works and Buildings and Grounds.

The Mayor reported that the Police Department received the prestigious Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) award for the 10th time. They added two new collision reconstructionists and launched a crime suppression unit.

In the Fire Department, the International Standards Organization (ISO) was completed, and Josh Teal was appointed to enhance public education and public relations. The Department now met on a regular basis with area schools, homeowners associations (HOA), scouts and other civic groups, and fire safety classes were planned for the Cresswind community.

The Engineering Department was working on plans for a Police Department expansion to provide administrative space, evidence storage space, and upgraded HVAC.

Infrastructure maintenance remained a priority, Learnard continued. Thanks to the SPLOST, the paving backlog had dropped from 10% to 5% while the overall paving condition index increased enough to rank it the highest among Peachtree City’s peer cities.

Six miles of multi-use path had been resurfaced, and about a half mile of path added. They were waiting for the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to grant the permit to use the SR 54 shoulder while widening the golf cart bridge over Lake Peachtree.

Sewer and stormwater work were planned for Huddleston Road in 2024.

Recreation improvements included a new Riley Field running track.

The City took over operations at the Tennis Center at the beginning of 2024 with only a few months’ notice from the previous operators. The Mayor said she was proud of the smooth transition.

Also, a company was contracted to assess the City’s Recreation facilities and create a new Recreation Master Plan centered around citizen input. She mentioned the ongoing effort to find a spot for new pickleball courts, noting they had $770,000 in SPLOST money to use for this. The Peachtree City-Fayette Pickleball Association had 1,000 members, she pointed out.

2023 was the best season ever at The Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater, Learnard continued, and she also stated they had renewed emphasis on tourism after COVID, with several events planned for 2024.

The library ranked number two in circulation per capita in Georgia, and new programs and partnerships were being added.

The City budget stood at $51 million, with a 56.5% reserve. However, construction costs had increased 55% in three years, with information technology (IT) costs up 30%.

Asphalt costs were up 30% in the last 12 months. But, she reported, the City millage rate had not increased in the two years she had been Mayor, and there were no plans to do so over the next four years.

She mentioned the Zencity platform they were using for surveys and feedback and the newly-launched navigation app for the paths. A film ordinance was adopted that would encourage local filming while minimizing disruption.

The Flat Creek Boardwalk was repaired and restored following storm damage. Events at Drake Field, such as the Night Markets, Sunset Sounds and the Hispanic and Italian Heritage Festivals drew record crowds.

Peachtree City had been re-certified as a running -friendly community and a bike-friendly community, and the Mayor commended citizen Keith Larson for obtaining a partnership grant with AARP that enabled the City to mark six trails that were navigable by citizens with mobility issues.

2023 was a record year in bringing jobs to Peachtree City, Learnard stated, thanks in part to a strong partnership with the Fayette County Development Authority (FCDA).

The Danish company SP Meditech was bringing 200 new jobs, and there were so many expansions at existing industries that the FCDA had to create a new position to manage those projects.

CertainTeed was investing $140 million in its expansion, and several other industries were on deck for expansions.

Gerresheimer had announced another expansion. They already employed 270 people and would be building a new facility on 37 acres that would create 415 new jobs.

Clayton State University and Southern Crescent Technical College opened the Center of Innovation, allowing industries to partner with higher education for workforce training, as well as offering degree and other programs.

The coming year would bring tremendous challenges, Learnard concluded, saying Peachtree City did not have the luxury of sticking its head in the sand and declaring they did not want anything to change. Everything around them was changing.

She pointed out the unbridled growth in Coweta County and how they were sending traffic through Peachtree City. Fayetteville’s borders were inching closer to Peachtree City.

In early 2024 GDOT would begin a major rework of the SR 74/54 intersection. The displaced left turn project would take about 30 months to complete and reduce the number of traffic light phases from eight to four and improve the efficiency and safety of the intersection.

Annexation and housing would be two priorities for Council in the coming year, and the Mayor mentioned a presentation they heard from graduate student Taylor Pessin about the lack of affordable housing for young people in Peachtree City and Fayette County.

She noted that for the first time, Peachtree City had a majority female City Council. She said she was glad to have new perspectives on Council and pledged to do her best to lead by example.

She noted that this year was Peachtree City’s 65th year and they would be celebrating with community spirit and uncompromised excellence.

32 COMMENTS

  1. Hey mayor, I hear there’s a US Congessional seat opening. Come on, you know you want it! Given the voting record of our outgoing “representative”, you would fit right in. Just make sure you run as a republican!

  2. IMHO, the fallacy here is that until inflation subsides further and the housing market cools, all that will happen with annexation and high density new builds is that contractors and banks will continue to profit as 1350 sq ft will sell for $550,000 and over. Is this what the mayor deems “affordable”? If you think I jest, take a look at what the new homes behind Hwy 54 Publix are showing on Zillow. This feels like the Vanessa Fleisch playbook.

  3. The mayor should clarify how she defines “affordable housing.” Affordable to the City’s median income? The greater metro Atlanta median? Coming from the leftist hellscape of California, I can tell you that to a lot of people, affordable housing means free or subsidized to the extent that it’s essentially free.

  4. Well, it seems we have a consensus that the vision of this Mayor is out of sync with the voters. This election cycle seems to back that up. Time to start planning for her replacement! Well past time actually.

  5. So much for civility – if you don’t agree with her proposed changes (perhaps you think they won’t make PTC better?) – you have your head in the sand. Given up on persuasion and going right for insults. If the choice is between change for the worse or no change…

    As noted elsewhere – WTH (trying to be nicer) does “affordable” mean? Nothing like mushy generalities to improve a discussion.

    Can she explain why we should want annexation? Because Fayetteville is doing it? Because Coweta traffic runs through PTC?

    This reads like it might be a tantrum in reaction to the recent Council election results.

  6. When Mayor Kim says she wants Peachtree City to have “affordable” housing what she is really saying is wants to drive your property value down and take away the equity you have built in your housing investment. She intends on accomplishing this is though over building and converting low density rural areas into high density low value housing. Fayetteville is doing exactly the same thing. Look no further than their council’s push to put 250+ homes/duplexes into just 30 acres just off of Gingercake.

    If people want a “cheap” place to live, Clayton or Fulton Counties is just a short drive away. Why these idiots have their hearts set on making Fayette look like Clayton, Fulton or Coweta is beyond me. I guess we should follow the money if we really want that answer.

  7. PTC is NOT a small town. not even close. I grow up in a small town of 17,000. Small towns don’t have 5 Chic-Fil-A restaurants. My small town had 1 McDonald’s. My town didn’t have over 100 miles of paved multi-purpose cart paths. My small town didn’t have the Navy’s Blue Angels, flying at its Air Show. My town didn’t have an Air Show. My small town was located in the middle of Central Illinois, 188 miles south of Chicago and 139 miles east of St Louis. My small town wasn’t home to a multitude of international and domestic corporations. We didn’t have a Target, 2 Publix, 2 Kroger’s, 1 Home Depot, 2 Starbucks, or 3 Dunkin Donuts. We had 1 High School, 1 Middle School, and 3 elementary schools. My hometown didn’t have 2 golf courses, in its city limits. My small town didn’t live in the shadows of Marvel Studios. The #1 industry in my small town was agriculture. We weren’t a bedroom community for the largest Metropolitan Statistical Area in Georgia. The county I lived in had a population of 46,000. Fayette County has a population of over 321K. PTC needs, desperately, affordable housing for entry level professionals. No one, who is a 1st year professional (teacher, police, firefighters, medical, etc) can afford to work and LIVE in the 30269. The medium home cost in 30269 is $650K. The medium rental cost in 30269 is $2,500. In my small town, the average house costs $160K and I could rent an apartment for less than $1,000. NO, PTC is not a small town. And most likely stopped being a small town over 35 years ago.

    • I will concede PTC is not a small town. The 2020 Census suggests small towns have a population of 5,000 or less. I believe the median home for sale asking price is about $650K and the selling price is closer to $550K. Given a $2.5K median monthly rental rate, an entry level professional will probably need a roommate to purchase or rent a home in PTC. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I had five roommates in college, and at least one until I got married at age 32. By then, I had worked long enough and saved enough to purchase a house.

    • I mean why would we want educators, ems, or law enforcement to afford to live in the zip codes they serve? Imagine having people who work in your community that can also afford to live in said community… that’s communism. I only want people with capital to afford life in the burbs. You know real professions like being a landlord or selling pillows on tv. These jobs are the backbone of our society not these government employees that leach off my hard work and want to live next door. Ick!

      /s

      • There’s surely nothing wrong with living in the same community that you work, but I would guess that this is the exception more than the rule. Let’s not dumb down our city just so people with smaller wallets can move in. Nothing wrong with having something to aspire to.

        • How exactly would we be “dumbing” down the city by allowing the people who work here to live here?

          Teachers, cops, garbage collectors etc.. are busy serving a community and are being excluded b/c people like you would rather see a wall built than a dinner invitation sent.

          Telling public servants to ‘work harder’ so they can aspire to being your neighbor, as if the work they do isn’t more important than most of the b.s. {EDITED} jobs other PTC homeowners have.

          • Allowing? They can live here if they want to. The question is, are they willing to make the sacrifices necessary? That’s up to them, not some “affordable housing” initiative.

      • So if they live 10 miles away, it’s a problem because why exactly?

        And I notice we’re not talking about making housing in PTC affordable just for these loyal gov’t employees, but in general? If it’s really about police, fire & teachers let’s target those specific people, although I still don’t see a problem if they live a few miles away.

        • I will specifically like to see our public safety employees living in the communities they serve., I think we should explore housing stipends. It’s costly, but it’s less costly than wage/salary increases to combat tight housing markets.

        • @ Estaban
          Ten miles away is not a problem! Did you know that if teachers/bus drivers/custodians/cafeteria workers/etc work in FC but don’t live in FC they are allowed to bring their children to Fayette County schools? It is a good deal if you want the FC schools but don’t want to pay the high home prices & taxes. As an MHS student once told me, “We’ve got the best of both worlds….MHS education and Coweta County taxes.” I’m sure he heard one of his parents say that, but he did repeat it to me and I found it annoying as I was paying FC taxes.

    • gplanman, I looked into the population statistics and cannot find the same numbers that you posted. Where did you get your data?
      You said, “Fayette County has a population of over 321K.”
      In 2020 it was 119,483. And in 2022 it was 122,030.
      While that doesn’t qualify as a “small town” it’s a lot lower than 321K.

      Peachtree City is home to just under 40,000 people, which is about 32% of the Fayette County population.

      I’m not sure where you got the 321K number, but it doesn’t appear to be accurate compared to the census date I found.
      Here is the link I used:
      https://usafacts.org/data/topics/people-society/population-and-demographics/our-changing-population/state/georgia/county/fayette-county/

  8. I saw the mayor’s speech and thought it was good for the most part. There were some decent accomplishments by Council and city employees in 2023.

    But the mayor lost me in her agenda for 2024. And she just couldn’t resist going to the Dark Side to accuse residents of collectively “sticking our heads in the sand” about change (not defined) that according to her, we must all go along with (or else?).

    Does the mayor think we have our heads in the sand because we would like to maintain the good things about PTC? Does she not want to preserve our green spaces, larger lots, cart paths, excellent public safety and zoning ordinances (when not given frequent variances) that protect property values?

    And who says that just because other cities are doing something that PTC needs to follow along? PTC is distinctive BECAUSE we are different than so many other suburban cities. I lived north of 285 for 20 years and witnessed the traffic, crime, lack of zoning consistency and tax increases that sprawl brings.

    Where does the mayor’s priority for “affordable housing” come from? By definition, she is focusing on people who are not currently PTC residents. That’s not your job, Mayor.

    Besides, “affordability” is so subjective as to be meaningless other than as a bumper sticker. The main reason so many are shut out of the current real estate market (and not just in PTC) is due to high interest rates caused by the over-spending and money printing of our federal government. Obviously, the mayor has no impact on rates.

    But let’s play along. How does she plan to make PTC more affordable? It sounds like she wants to expand our city’s limits to add multi-family units or pack single family housing on postage stamp lots. How is that going to improve quality of life or property values for current residents?

    You opened the topic, mayor. What specifically do you propose that will pull our collective heads out of the sand and make PTC more affordable? How will this be a benefit to us current residents? Looking forward to your explanations.

  9. This is disheartening. “Affordable housing” is bunk for a small town like PTC … more people, more problems. That’s the path of our surronding municipalities and why we don’t want to live in them. We already have a favorable mix of affordable housing. Do we want to lessen the desireability and financial value of our neighborhoods? All one has to do for housing here is get a job and save their money. If one lives here and finds they cannot afford it, move, get a roommate or a second job. A perspn can pickup an additional $30K a year working in fast food retail. If that doesn’t satisfy one’s indulgence, join the military and use the benifits for a mortgage down payment. Life is hard. Try living it the old fashioned way; it may just work.

    For a City Council having three engineers, we certainly try fixing things that already work for us. Annex properties to provide affordable housing is not the path to making PTC desireable for its already established residents. If one wants to increase PTC’s value to its residents, reduce retail (and opportunities for second jobs), enforce all traffic regulations, increase fines, place emphasis in making PTC a garden community (get rid of the deer), and show respect for the present.