Wednesday, March 3, 2004
PTC gets another shot at Target plan
By J. FRANK LYNCH
Crowd control will be a concern Thursday night when the Peachtree City Council is confronted with a number of high-profile, emotional issues.
City spokeswoman Betsy Tyler said city staff will consider ways of lessening the crush of people expected at City Hall.
Yes, weve had cases of large crowds in the past and we want to make sure the interests of the residents are heard and they have an opportunity to attend, she said. Well look at our options.
The biggest: A formal vote to finally approve or disapprove a developers site plan to build a 265,000 square foot addition including a Target store at Kedron Village, an issue also pending in Fayette Superior Court.
Faison Corp. and Pathway Communities, the citys former developer, bypassed the council in October when the Planning Commission unanimously denied the project, following a loud and angry four-hour meeting jam-packed with homeowners from the Kedron Hills neighborhoods nearest the retail site.
The issue challenges the citys so-called big box ban on large-size retail establishments locating in the city.
Faison skipped the final, legal step in the approval process an appeal to the council - and instead took the matter to court. Just last week, Fayette County Superior Court Judge Christopher Edwards ruled that Faison had failed to exhaust all its opportunities for due process, and told the council to take up the matter once and for all.
Next biggest: The release of a report from a private consultant that recommends the citys emergency services department enter into an automatic aid agreement with the county. That would create an area outside the city limits that Peachtree Citys fire and rescue crews would cover on a regular basis, which has the EMT volunteer corps up in arms.
Potentially big: The council will receive information regarding a proposed property tax rate freeze for all homeowners age 70 and older, and what impact it would have on city coffers. Mayor Steve Brown has suggested giving tax relief to the citys large retiree population, but County Tax Commissioner George Wingo has reported that its not common in Georgia.
Additionally, Mayor Brown is expected to recognize Peachtree City Girl Scouts, and congratulate the entire Starrs Mill High School wrestling team for finishing the season ranked fifth in the state. Councilman Stuart Kourajians son, Tyler, holds the Starrs Mill record for individual wins.
The Target issue begs wrestling comparisons on its own, as opposition is expected to again turn out in full force to voice displeasure with Faisons project.
At the size proposed, Kedron Village would become the citys largest retail center, neighbors and city staffers say. In addition to Target, the complex would include four or five mid-size national retailers similar to ones in Fayette Pavilion, a number of boutiques, restaurants and office space.
But officers with the Lake Kedron Community Association whove filed suit against the project say theyre confident their concerns will eventually be heard.
We believe the mayor and City Council will do the right thing, said John Hedge, one of the leaders of the group, last week.
Group spokesman Tim Wedemyer said residents who live off Regents Park at Georgian Park, behind the proposed Target site, arent opposed to the store at all, just the access Faison wants to provide by extending Regents Park into the commercial area.
Were absolutely committed to opposing any extension of Regents Park across Georgian Park, Wedemyer said. If the road goes away, we can probably work with the rest of it, he said of Faisons project.
But simply making the road go away isnt as easy as it sounds, even with confirmation from the state Department of Transportation that an additional right turn in/out access point off Ga. Highway 74 is a possibility.
Since last fall, two new members have been seated on the council: Stuart Kourajian, and Judi-ann Rutherford, replacing Dan Tennant and Annie McMenamin. Its not known if the makeup of the new council will force a different outcome on the Target project had it been voted on in November.
City Manager Bernard McMullen refused to speculate on the outcome of Thursdays meeting as well as the impact the additional Hwy. 74 access would provide, calling the issue a pending legal matter.
Faisons lawsuit against the city to establish its vested rights to expand Kedron Village remains, even with Edwards decision last week.
A round two of arguments before Edwards was already scheduled for next Tuesday, and will proceed depending on the outcome of the councils decision this week.
While there have been a number of issues that have drawn overflow crowds in the past, notably the decision to locate Wal-Mart and Home Depot off Ga. Highway 54 West in 2001, Tyler said the City Council meetings have never been relocated for that reason.
This is where the meetings are advertised to be held, and this is where the people come, she said.
In other business, the council is scheduled to:
Appoint Marcia Brown pending passage of a background check for service on the citys Ethics Board. She replaces Steven Fraas, who was recently appointed to the Development Authority;
Consider adoption of a proposed change in the citys ordinance relating to the sale of alcohol in neighboring businesses when churches lease worship space in shopping centers;
Consider a request from residents of the Smokerise Plantation neighborhood to install raised speed bumps or other traffic calming devices to slow cars cutting through from Spear Road to North Peachtree Parkway. The citys staff is recommending denial;
Hear a report on amending the Recreation Departments fee schedule, including all youth sports, that would raise an additional $95,000 annually;
Participate in the swearing-in of Stephen Ott as the citys judge pro hac, providing backup to Judge Eric Maxwell.