Another secret project from Fayette Development Authority seeks Fayetteville OK

Highway view of 178-acre annexation request. Photo/Google Map.
Highway view of 178-acre annexation request. Photo/Google Map.

NEWS ANALYSIS — Fayetteville’s City Council will be asked this coming Thursday to approve the Step One part of an annexation request for 178 acres directly across Ga. Highway 54 East from McCurry Park, one of the county’s major recreation areas.

And what’s coming there? The FCDA is not telling the public. It presumably is telling Fayetteville officials but likely is requiring them to sign legally binding nondisclosure agreements. Additionally Fayetteville Mayor Ed Johnson sits on the FCDA’s board of directors and knows what the FCDA is wanting to put on the 178 acres.

The official annexation request says, “Their application does not identify the intended zoning classification or the proposed use of the property.”

The city’s Step One process contains this introductory language: “Step One is intended to allow the applicant an opportunity to provide a general overview of the proposed annexation and identify how the request complies with the established goals of the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Approval of a Step One application does not indicate City Council support of the proposed annexation; it simply allows an applicant to proceed with submitting their Step Two application.”

Surrounding parcels are zoned in the county for “low density residential” and A-R Agricultural Reserve, while the southern boundary of the annex request has county and city zonings of Light Industrial and M-1 Industrial.

The annexation request also has not been studied extensively by city planning staff. “The city’s two-step annexation process does not allow for Staff to make a recommendation on a Step One annexation request. Staff is therefore not providing a detailed analysis or a formal recommendation,” the application form says.

Some recent applications to local governing bodies from the development authority for rezonings and annexations have been equally obscure. For example, the county commission was asked to rezone land with few details about a proposed U.S. Soccer center. They rezoned and earlier this month ground was broken for the soccer center.

In the current application before the Fayetteville Council, nobody’s talking publicly about what is intended for the mostly undeveloped land east of the city. The FCDA is the agent for the owners Edna Cochran Jackson, Trustee, with a Jonesboro, Ga., address.

The property is said to have been appraised at a value of $1.462 million. What it would be worth to a developer is not being disclosed, nor is whether the FCDA will get a slice of the action as it did with the big data center project now nearing completion in the center of the county — a $75 million slice.

What’s in it for local government is large increases in property taxes. “The total of capital expenditure over the life of the project is projected [sic] is currently undetermined, but given that the property currently only generates $3,129 in tax revenue, we expect a significant increase [in] tax revenue for the city of Fayetteville once the property is developed,” the city’s report says.

One thing the city staff apparently does know is this: “There are no proposed residential housing units.” With no residential rezonings likely to emerge from this project, what’s left are commercial, office and industrial zoning uses.

One thing the public might want to know: Unlike zoning requests, there is no state constitutional or state law requirement that any city must annex anything. Annexation is not a property right. Once annexed, however, the property owner has some legal rights to rezoning.

Questions the public might ask of the City Council are these:

• How can the council determine whether the undescribed project is or is not “compatible with the established goals within” the city’s Comprehensive Plan without knowing publicly what the developers intend to do with the undeveloped property? The application for annexation states this requirement: “Review based on compliance with the city’s adopted comprehensive plan.”

• If the council members don’t know any details about what’s coming to the property, how can they approve advancing to a Step Two of the annexation process?

Some answers may be forthcoming at the council meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday evening at City Hall on Stonewall Avenue.

Overhead view of the proposed annexation area on 178 acres east of Fayetteville and across from the county's large recreation area at McCurry Park. Graphic/City of Fayetteville.
Overhead view of the proposed annexation area on 178 acres east of Fayetteville — outlined in green — and across from the county’s large recreation area at McCurry Park. Graphic/City of Fayetteville.