Warning: Subversion of public access to the agenda for the Peachtree City Council is coming

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What happens in the minds of elected officials that they get so brazen as to want to silence anyone presenting an opposing view?

The agenda for the April 4 City Council meeting has been released and Peachtree City Mayor Kim Learnard is lowering the boom, again (see: https://peachtreecityga.portal.civicclerk.com/event/125/files/agenda/2912). More censorship and meeting violations are on the way.

Learnard will now be on her third city manager in three years (see: https://thecitizen.com/2024/03/25/the-city-manager-says-so-long-meanwhile-who-is-really-in-charge/) as she continues to stem criticism and eliminate agenda items she opposes.

Peachtree City Mayor Kim Learnard has made it abundantly clear that she does not like criticism. She will refute this by saying the claims in editorials, opinion columns, and letters to the editor are lies, making herself out to be a victim.

Well, here we go again

Learnard added agenda item “04-24-05 Ordinance # 1218 City Council Meeting Procedures and Rules” which is also being referred to by citizens as the “Government Censorship and Exclusion Act.”

Learnard is demanding a change to Ordinance 1218, Sec. 2-33 on agendas. To silence her critics and prevent any action of the council that she disagrees with, she is moving to change the ordinance to keep dissenting elected officials (her colleagues) and citizens from being able to get on a city council meeting agenda.

Learnard’s proposed change to section 2-33, subsection C reads, “Agenda item request. City staff with approval from the city manager, or the mayor and two Council members, or three councilmembers may request to have an item placed on the agenda…” This appears to also apply to the city council members as well as I can find no other section for submitting agenda items.

Learnard allows “approval from the city manager” only as the first option. Why should the city manager have that kind of power? We have witnessed that Learnard will keep going through city managers until she finds one who will do her bidding even though she has no more authority than the other four council members.

So, with the first option, a council member, a department director, or a concerned citizen taxpayer can get on the agenda if the unelected city manager approves. Seriously? Is that not what kept $10 million worth of infrastructure maintenance out of the public eye before the SPLOST vote?

Then there is the other option, “the mayor and two council members, or three councilmembers” which can say whether an item can be placed on the agenda. This is Learnard setting up the restrictive structure to block any items she does not want on the agenda. There is only one reason for her to do this as the current system has worked for decades.

Instead of simply filing a normal request for an agenda item in writing with the city clerk before noon on the Thursday preceding the council meeting, a group of three on the council will have to decide whether they agree with the item or not.

There is an advantage to the three-person censorship and exclusion wall Learnard wants to create. They never have to say they voted against an issue the citizens want if it never appears on an agenda for a vote. Remember, there is no requirement for the three members to disclose the items they are rejecting, acting without the knowledge of those who are outside of their little cabal.

Violating Georgia law, again

Learnard has already suffered one scandal with violating the Georgia Open Meetings Act multiple times by approving administrative variances in private with no public notice, no agenda, and no minutes of action taken (see: https://thecitizen.com/2023/07/24/councilman-calls-out-council-for-open-meetings-violations-gets-slammed-for-doing-it-in-public/).

With Learnard’s changes to ordinance # 1218, a majority of the city council will be meeting behind the scenes, polling one another in person, or voting via email or text message on whether they want to quash worthy agenda items, violating the Georgia Open Meetings Act.

Learnard is doubling down on dominating the public forum, state law aside. This is what happens when you have wayward intentions. There are no glaring problems with agendas, it’s a power grab.

I am getting word that Council Members Frank Destadio and Laura Johnson are expected to join Learnard on this subversion of state law, free speech, and transparency. I certainly hope that is not true. We will find out on Thursday.

Saving us from the TDK Extension

Council Member Suzanne Brown’s (no relation) resolution reaffirming the opposition to the TDK Extension project is back on the April 4 council meeting after being pulled from an agenda in March.

With the last version of the Learnard administration, the prevailing thought on the TDK Extension was “Destadio said Council all agreed that they would not be connecting and re-opening anything,” (see: August 4, 2022, City Council Meeting Minutes, p. 7) There are now three new council members and a fear that Learnard will attempt to re-initiate the extension project.

Understanding the TDK Extension

The TDK Extension proposed bridging Peachtree City over Line Creek to Coweta County and was initially recommended by the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce during the last years of the Lenox administration. At that time, the Chamber of Commerce was dominated by people connected to real estate development.

Afterward, my council was open to the possibility of the TDK Extension (also referred to as the “Coweta-Fayette Connector”). However, I thought the process was being rushed as we were still working with GDOT on a timetable to widen State Route 74 South.

Reliever of traffic congestion?

State Sen. Mitch Seabaugh (a Coweta County resident), Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, real estate developer and Chairman of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce Jim Pace, and the Peachtree City Development Authority (later disbanded for corrupt/illegal activity) were major advocates of the TDK Extension.

Seabaugh spent a great deal of time soliciting support for the project and secured support from the city governments through the Association of Fayette County Governments and the Fayette County Board of Commissioners.

The aforementioned parties always marketed the TDK Extension as a “reliever of traffic congestion” from the State Routes 74-54 intersection and State Route 54-West.

My council had received assurances from Seabaugh that the Coweta County government planned to leave the eastern portion of the county very rural and maintain the large farm and pasture lots.

We hired consultant Ed Ellis from the engineering firm Dames and Moore to formulate a possible design for the extension and bridge project, setting aside $200,000.

Major red flags, truth surfaces

A major red flag went up when I was contacted by an investment banker who was solicited to finance the newly proposed real estate development on the Coweta County side of the road extension. He told me that he had seen the preliminary plans and described the multifaceted development as “massive” and required around “$1 billion” to build.

The investment banker described the plan as containing more new retail shopping square footage than the entire Fayette Pavilion shopping complex. There was also a large amount of high-end office space and thousands of homes, apartments, and townhouses.

Obviously, this was not what the representatives from Coweta had told us. There appeared to be an intentional effort to mislead us and steal much of our retail business and sales taxes (keep in mind that Peachtree City is the sales tax cash cow for all of Fayette County).

The shortest route to jobs in Atlanta and elsewhere for those new Coweta residents would be the extension road immediately to State Route 74 North and Crosstown Road toward Fayetteville. The number of vehicles produced in the tens of thousands (10,000 vehicles was the low-side estimate by the end of year two on a 15-year buildout) plus the traffic back-and-forth to the new retail complex in Coweta could easily double the traffic congestion burden at the State Route 74-54 intersection.

Verification necessary

I set up a meeting in Newnan with Coweta County Commissioner Vernon “Mutt” Hunter who was responsible for the district in question. The Coweta County Administrator and Planning Director were also present. I brought City Manager Jim Basinger, Planning Director Jim Williams, Planner David Rast, and Engineer Troy Besseche to the meeting.

In that Newnan meeting, I asked Mutt Hunter directly what exactly was land-planned on the Coweta County side of the extension project. Hunter replied, “That’s none of your damn business.” At that moment, the Peachtree City contingent knew that the report of an enormous development just across the border was true. We all got up and left the meeting. The support for the TDK Extension died at that point from my council.

I outed the scam in a March 2004 letter to the editor, saying that Coweta and the developers intended to fool us into an infrastructure project designed to crush the city in several ways.

All the claims about the extension relieving traffic congestion were later found to be fraudulent and once the truth became clear the support for the project fell completely apart.

Jim Pace began running interference as did a political action committee created by the Pace and the Chamber of Commerce called Direct PAC. The corrupt Peachtree City Development Authority was also countering my claims. Even the Newnan Times-Herald began lambasting me, saying that I was thwarting progress and unwilling to relieve the traffic congestion.

Harold Logsdon decided to run for mayor off the public relations bump against me and became the pro-TDK Extension candidate. Logsdon won the election and the real estate developers for the massive Coweta planned development across the border thought it safe to reveal their true intentions since their candidate won, unveiling in the plans 2006 they had formerly kept secret.

The truth revealed

The first enormous phase called for 1 million square feet of retail shopping, 120,000 square feet of office space, and nearly 4,000 residential units. When asked, Ed Ellis from the engineering firm Dames and Moore replied that the traffic congestion from the Coweta side of the road extension would snarl Peachtree City traffic even more, offering no traffic relief by the second year of the planned development’s construction.

Knowing they had been lied to, a very angry Peachtree City citizenry went berserk starting numerous protests and creating an association of subdivisions to produce an organized city-wide campaign utilizing television news broadcasts and the newspapers.

The retreat

Exposed and embarrassed, the Fayette Chamber of Commerce and all the pro-TDK Extension propagandists ran away from the road project. It turned out that Rep. Lynn Westmoreland and others were receiving large campaign contributions from the real estate developers on the Coweta side of the border. The Peachtree City Development Authority was officially disbanded.

By January 2008, Mayor Logsdon officially announced in the city’s “Update” bulletin that he changed his position on the road extension and noted it was not in the best interest of Peachtree City.

By 2008, only then-real estate developer Jim Pace, at that time the former chairman of the Fayette Chamber of Commerce, still supported the project. The Fayette County Board of Commissioners returned Peachtree City’s seed capital of $200,000 back to the city. The administrations of Brown, Logsdon, Haddix, and Fleisch have all expressed opposition to building the TDK Extension.

The Coweta County Board of Commissioners approved the land plans and rezonings to build the huge development on their side of the border, proof of their intentions, which is probably what led to Logsdon finally running away from the road extension project because there was no way to create a counter-narrative after Coweta’s official actions. However, I do commend Logsdon for publicly changing his stand.

The traffic was predicted to be so heavy from the new Coweta development that Coweta’s zoning administrator said the approval of the giant McIntosh Village development should be delayed until the TDK Extension was built.

The developer agreed only to build a portion of the proposed development until the road extension was completed. The planned developments for Coweta are so large they required “Development of Regional Impact” approval from the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority. The impact on Peachtree City was obvious.

The regional agencies said the TDK Extension bridge had to be four lanes instead of two due to the amount of traffic that would be generated in Coweta. They also provided a list of expensive road projects in Peachtree City that would be needed to compensate for traffic from the road extension, including an extensive revamp of the State Route 74-54 intersection.

We should all expect a 5-0 vote in favor of the resolution opposing the TDK Extension.

[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.]

16 COMMENTS

  1. Even after telling the Mormons and Coweta no on the extension Logsdon and Pace still pushed developments by the golf course.

    Doug and I told him told no. Plunkett told him to wait. So Pace backed off and pushed other developments.

    There is a lot more background to that time than most people ever knew.

    Remember the development that Learnard pushed by the airport?

    Mike King was Logsdon buddy and supporter.

    Watch who they bring out for council in the future.

  2. On first look, Ordinance 1218, Sec. 2-33, eliminates our citizens’ rights to redress. I thought the Council rejected an earlier submission to amending the Council’s rules to allow citizen submissions to the City Council Meetings agendas There is no right for redress where it takes a majority of the legislative body to approve even considering an act of redress. I initially thought the previously submitted Sec. 2-33 change was due to the timeliness of agenda items’ submissions and the Clerk’s requirements to process the requests. This was one of those times when Mike King stood up for all of us. I can see where this will increase court filings against the City. This will create a government where the City Manager or Council’s simple majority can do what it wants with or without citizen input. Rather than electing representation, we will elect determination. Section 2 is worse. I’m digging a great deal deeper into this; it’s a shame to only have 28 hours to work on it.

  3. Haddix and King nailed it. It’s clear the mayor shouldn’t be trusted. She earned that distrust. Anyone who read the Citizen articles when Logsdon was mayor would know that the TDK road is a bad idea. Everybody knows the mayor trying to silence the citizens and her own council members is wrong, duh!

    Why are these things even being debated????

  4. Sorry for my rushed prior post. Here is a revised version.

    Since my name was evoked, I will comment.

    Doug Sturbaum and I absolutely opposed the extension.

    Councilman Kim Lernard and Eric Imker, without notice, went to the county commissioner Chairman and attempted to negotiate a disastrous resolution to the issue.

    I, with my staff met with the chairman and his staff to resolve the issue when notified what they were up to.

    I laid my proposal and table which everyone at County found acceptable. It gave them the dam area, access to the lake for inspections, gave the county right away in the airport to the airport, gave the intersection to Peachtree City and gave a thin piece of property around the lake Peachtree city.

    For any extension you now to take place now requires approval of Peachtree City, the county, the state and the Mormon church, which owns property on both sides of the lake.

    Once again Learnard is trying to be the powerbroker.

    You Cannot trust her.

  5. Holy cow! I’m glad you’re paying attention to what is happening! This just goes to show you that it all begins on a local level and this is why this country is in the state it is in. It will be very interesting to see who votes for urbanizing Peachtree City more than it is and who thinks it’s a good idea to stream massive amounts of cars past an elementary school? Can’t wait to see which council members support this.

    How did this woman become Mayor? Did she run on the platform that she was a republican when in all reality, she isn’t.
    This is the reason everyone must be aware of local government happenings. Thank you Steve Brown for keeping us informed.

  6. Steve Brown is the little boy who cries wolf. He offers no facts to support his mass hysteria. He offers pure speculations and his misguided opinions, which have been wrong, more times than not. Listening to Steve is hazardous to your health.

    • Likely so, gplanman, but first let’s be sure that Council Members as individuals may place an agenda item at will. If not, then we may have a legitimate grievance. Throughout my tenure I could on behalf of any citizen place an item on the agenda, and I would hope each Council Member would refuse to suborn themselves otherwise.

    • It’s not likely that Steve Brown is wrong. City council meetings are the only public forum that citizens have to address the entire council on the record. Once you remove that option… the council can do whatever they want.

  7. Thanks for the notice on the agenda change proposal, and the history on TDK.

    I plan to attend the council meeting to hear the reason for adding bureaucratic hurdles to get on an agenda. Council meetings should be an opportunity to engage with PTC residents and vice versa, not shut us out.

    As far as the TDK extension goes, you show that most people have seen for years what an awful mess of traffic it would unleash on PTC. People will take all sorts of routes through the city, not just the main ones.

    I lived through 20 years of stop and go traffic to get anywhere in the northside suburbs, and it sounds as if some people want to recreate that here. Looking to Council to make a strong statement against it this week.

  8. Since my name was evoked, I will comment.

    Doug Sturbaum and I absolutely opposed the extension.

    Councilman Kim Lernard and Eric Imker, without notice, went to the county commissioner Chairman and attempted to negotiate a disastrous resolution to the issue.

    I met with the chairman and his staff to resolve the issue when notified what they were up to.

    I laid my proposal and table which everyone a County found acceptable. It gave them access to the dam area, to the lake for inspections, gave the county right away in the airport to the airport, gave exclusive control of the intersection of the street Sydney and established a very thin piece of accounting property around the lafe Peachtree city.

    For any extension you now to take place requires approval of Peachtree City, the county and the state.

    Once again Lernard is trying to be the powerbroker.

  9. Concur with the citizens and council agenda items.
    On the TDK part; in 2009 council took it upon themselves to acquire all land along the east side of Lake McIntosh that could possibly be used to make the bridge connection. The vote was 5-0 including Mayor Haddix and councilmembers Sturbaum, Fleisch, Learnard and Imker. Any of the names sound familiar?
    They all knew 100% the damage that could be caused by allowing unfettered TDK traffic coming into PTC to GA74.
    They did not want to turn Crosstown Rd into another GA54. One was enough.

  10. I’d love to hear the Mayor’s reasoning behind this change to getting items on the agenda. Why is the current system not adequate? What events happened that led her to try and enact this change? If she can justify it and back it up – let her. If not – then maybe there’s some smoke here. But I’d love to see the council slow this one down, put Kim on the spot, and make her back up this request with some evidence.

  11. Thank you Mr. Brown for this article. I wish this current mayor could be thrown out. This is a time for the newly elected council members to show their support to the people that voted them into office and do the right thing and not side with the mayor on this subject. The people overwhelmingly voted for Johnson and S. Brown to get a majority to vote against this mayor and her devious ways. I am begging all the council members to please remember the reason why you won and stand up to this mayor.