‘Ready to move’ on MacDuff Pkwy. bridge

Layout of Wilksmoor Village plan from John Wieland Homes. Peachtree City Planning Commission document.

Public hearing March 24 for Wieland 238-home rezoning on PTC’s west side; bridge over railroad is key

The extension of MacDuff Parkway, all the way to Ga. Highway 74, may be closer to becoming a reality.

Officials for John Wieland Homes told the Peachtree City Planning Commission Monday that the company was “ready to move” on its $3.7 million share of the project as soon as developer Brent Scarborough is ready to proceed on the development of its portion of 782 acres annexed into the city in 2007.

Wieland reps said they believe Scarborough is close to an agreement with a builder to get started on its 650-home “active adult” development.

“If he gets to the point where he is prepared to move forward with MacDuff, we are prepared to move forward with MacDuff,” said Wieland Vice President Dan Fields.

The road extension’s price tag is in the neighborhood of $8 million, and much of the cost is tied up in a bridge that is necessary to cross the CSX railroad.

As a condition of the annexation, the road must be completely built before the city will issue any certificate of occupancy for either of the annexed parcels, both of which are north of the current terminus of MacDuff Parkway and west of Ga. Highway 74.

Both developers have agreed to fully pay for the cost of the road, which will provide a significant benefit to the city, particularly to those living in Wilksmoor Village, who currently battle traffic on Ga. Highway 54 West, since it is the only way in and out of their subdivisions.

Wieland officials appeared before the commission to discuss a separate proposal: to rezone an 87-acre tract from general industrial to a residential use to allow a 204-home subdivision.

Wieland also wants the city to allow 34 homes on a nearby 17-acre site that was once set aside for a new elementary school. Because that land was to remain open space without the school, the company has shifted that open space to the proposed 87-acre site instead, Fields said.

The 204-home subdivision would be age-targeted for residents 55 and up with price points north of $300,000 and the 34-home subdivision would not be age-targeted but would have price points upwards of $450,000, Wieland officials said.

The planning commission is slated to vote March 24 on whether it will recommend approval or denial of both proposals from Wieland. That meeting will be a public hearing, which will allow citizens to comment on the record for the commission’s benefit prior to voting on the requests.

The final say on the zoning matters rests with the Peachtree City Council. One particular area of interest for the commission is whether citizens are willing to accept more traffic on Ga. Highway 54 and particularly the intersection with MacDuff Parkway, which currently has significant back-ups due to traffic, residents have said.

“The 54 West corridor is a significant concern for the vast majority of individuals in Peachtree City,” said Planning Commission Chairman Frank Destadio. “From an emotional, political stance right now, and I’m speaking for myself only, it will be hard to vote yes to put more houses there until we see what that traffic study says on 54 West.”

Wieland officials said the 87-acre site would have about 40 acres of open space including an area along a stream on the property that will be ideal for children to go explore.

Other open space will feature “places to throw the baseball, throw the frisbee, things people like to do around their homes,” said Jeff Kingsfield of John Wieland Homes.

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"Planned" Community Concept

I wonder if large developments like this one were put up for a vote by the residents of PTC, how many would actually be built?

There is one essential fact that our elected representatives seem to continuously overlook. This is a planned community. People move here because they like the concept of planned communities because what you see is what you get. People move into planned communities because their home investment is protected because schools, roads, recreation, and other amenities like cart paths are all generally managed well. Home values improve because of all this and therefore residents are happy to pay for these features.

Now look at what is going on in PTC, is this a "Planned" Community any longer? Are our elected representatives attempting to protect this concept? If something like a large development or land annexation is proposed shouldn't the people that bought into the planned community concept have a direct voice in making this decision? There are certain things that transcend elected representation. We expect the mission of our elected representatives to protect our way of life in which we have invested.

We need to look seriously at how decisions are made that impact our way of life and our property values. We simply can't have a slow moving train wreck ruin our community. Life altering decisions should be decided by referendums, not the five people sitting on council. Let's not have anymore baiting and switching.

How about changing the rules Council, give the owners a voice in these decisions.

PTC Observer

Robert W. Morgan
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Owners/voters/citizens by any name simply do not care

It is a nice idea giving the people some input into these very large community-altering decisions, but the simple fact is they don't care. A well known planned community syndrome (here and elsewhere) is that residents of planned communities are real good at the Live, Work and Play mantra, but not so good at being involved or even voting. Look at how pitiful of voter turnout is.

The assumption when one moves into a planned community is that since it was planned, someone will continue to plan and oversee everything. Not so. You can see from our own experience the developer goes belly up because of greed outside the city, the city staff directs its focus from planning to policing, development authority is disbanded, industrial recruitment is outsourced to the county, even building inspections are outsourced, Planing Commission is just reactive and for the last 8 years no one with any real relevant experience has run for mayor or city council.

And to be fair, overseeing the long-range planning needs of a planned community is a huge job for even a qualified group of people. 5 part time elected folks will never be up to the job.

At least Wieland is an experienced and focused builder/developer, so there won't be any shoddy workmanship problems. Hope Scarborough finds someone as good for his parcel. That being said, who in their right mind is going to fund and build an $8million bridge and road before they can sell the first house? That deal will have to be reworked. I hope the city has someone who is capable of negotiating something reasonable.

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Voter Wisdom

So, because we few people turn out we should give up on voter wisdom and allow just 5 part time people to decide? Or alternatively, because we have experienced and focused builder/developers we should let them decide?

I say no matter how poor the turnout is, it's better to give the owners, the people that have their investment in their homes a chance to voice their opinion. Even if they choose not to, it's an opportunity to decide that we simply don't get now.

If the council wants to fulfill their obligation to protect our community, then they should let the voters decide on large issues like this. Referendums work because very large issues are decided by the people that have the most to lose or gain, they give a voice to the community.

Robert W. Morgan
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I suppose you could be right. Let's put it to a vote

But of course the vote should be (or should have been) to annex - yes or no. The voting should be on the really big issues. Wieland's site plans in and of themselves are not that big a deal.

Even on annexation, there is so much misinformation and ignorance and knee-jerk reactionism on the subject, I'm not sure what a few hundred people voting yes or no actually tells us. It could provide the 5 part timers with political cover so they can say they just voted the way the citizens want. It was so much better in the old days when community leaders were in abundance and they all pitched in and contributed their wisdom and sometimes their dollars for the common good. I remember many times the mayor or council or even the staff quietly asked private citizens for their input and help on various projects. No grandstanding or rushing to the first microphone or reporter to weigh in or score points - in fact no political BS at all.

But those days are gone and we are now in the middle of the decline of what was really a wonderful community.

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H & F answers

1. The location in question is next to vast residential tracts, putting industrial there makes no sense in this day and age. This is the reverse of Planterra where residential followed industrial. But more to your point, if we need industrial in FC, what and where? Office park or manufacturing? Redevelop or rezone? Sounds like someone needs to take Crayolas to a map.

2. From the annexation days it does seem the cost has gone up $2MM. I know that is not for speed bumps. But the question comes with the Coweta Connector, how do we manage the traffic on Mac Duff to allow the 5 day a week commuters do get in and out, not to mention the buses. Sounds like we need a plan.

3. At one point, they were talking Point University there which would have needed housing for young people. But again much to the chagrin of our visioning friends, we are talking about houses that start "from the low $300s" with the senior housing starting even higher. But that does seem to set the right question if we are going to put in "affordable housing" where? what kind? what's the plan? Should we figure that out before we fill up more land?

4. We have a senior center it is called the Gathering Place plus many houses of worship with social amenities I do not think we need more overhead. But therein lies another problem. According to Market Street our visioning consultant, we need to get younger as a county. Don't necessarily disagree, but how when we are about to build a monster 55 and older community? If we are saying our old plan needs to be updated, shouldn't we stop and make a new plan instead of digging a deeper hole?

The school is another great point. My first concern in my educational quests was the building of Centennial Elemntary 10 years ago. It was not built, however, FCBOE is jonesing to close PTC elem as it is old and has narrow halls. I don't understand that but I am not that smart.

I do know that PTC, Kedron and Crabapple are full. If we close PTC where do the kids go? We start fruit basket turnover as that 500+ kids ripples like a wave? Maybe, like Mike Satterfield argued to the planning commission, we need part of the 17 acres for PTC Elem 2.0 and close the old one and maybe sell it. I know a church that would buy it and open a Christian School. But again, shouldn't we have a plan going in?

A lot has changed since the annexation meetings. 54 was either being or was just 4 laned. That helped with traffic for a while but now it is a disaster. If MacDuff is extended without a comprehensive traffic study all we are doing is making the problem worse. There was a time PTC was known as a Planned Community and not a cross roads for people going to and fro.

Take Care

n

Husband and Fat...
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Neil

More questions:

1. The developments back there like Centennial are nice. And I can certainly understand people preferring hundreds of $300k homes developed for the seasoned homeowner rather than industrial or small lot affordable homes for young families or apartments geared toward temporary workers. However, the plan was always industrial and since we need industry here, someone needs to compare the potential tax ramifications for each scenerio. Besides studying the traffic issues, one also must consider the rail line. What happens two weeks after occupancy when someone complains about the train whistle at midnight? Do they demand the city do something like concrete sound barriers?

2. Your right about the commuters. This "shortcut" around the 74/54 corner will entice lots of traffic. Will no thru way signs keep people out?

3. We can't make a developer build affordable housing if they don't want to . There's more profit as the price goes up and just like you and I, we want the best return on our investments. It's clear to me that a lot more investigation and planning is needed before approval.

4. It doesn't sound like there will be a heavy influx of school age children, but there is a potential if the houses don't sell quick enough to the desired age range to start marketing to a different crowd. So, whose to say a school might not be needed. The Gathering Place is great, but can it handle 600 more folks who desire classes, games, and camaraderie? Won't we need more ammenities for this age group? $8M is a lot of money for the road and bridge, and the developers can pat themselves on the back and think they are doing everyone a favor, but as a business professional, they haven't offered enough to the city/county to just change our master plan. As of right now, they haven't wowed me. Maybe a state of the art sports complex with another senior center and police/fire annex bldg?

It may be a great plan, but council, commission, and BOE have a lot of questions to ask before this drastic change moves forward

NeilSullivan
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H&F Mac Duff II

1. I agree we need industry, but the plan was always... falls flat in the current day. Too many one offs and band aids have made the old plan untenable and the visioning folks suggest we need different things. We should refresh our plan based on current needs then evaluate the offer on the table.

We have two concentrated industrial places in PTC, one on Dividend and one further up on 74 toward BSC this one is right on top of the natural disaster of 54/74. Do we need mor ethings moving around there? My house is in the middle on Centennial away from the tracks and Mac Duff you do hear the train sometimes but it was there first. Centennial has been here 10 yrs and no one has talked barriers that I know of, although some people were upset that the City did not notice the train siding going up until it was done.

2. No thru signs are as good as Obama's redlines. No real teeth in them. They have them at Taco Mac/ Long Horn but that stops no one. With golf carts crossing Mac Duff twice to go to Walmart or YNot I see some serious problems coming.

3. I agree we cannot force a builder to build something they do not want, but we have no clear plan on what to do where. Honestly more density down Mac Duff is like putting 10 lbs of sausage in a 3 lb casing. If Fayette County is going to do affordable housing, where? Lets make all these decisons in concert so that the needs everyone are met.

4. We do not know about the mix and this is what concerns me. "The Manor" part of Centennial is higher priced and supposed to be less kids but their demo looks just like cheaper Centennial. Unless the price point is seriously different, we should see some kids. People move to FC for the schools imparticularly the MHS district.

The Gathering Place is nice and I agree we need to provide some amenities to all demographics, BUT, at what cost? What is the level of service for kids, young families, mature families and seniors and at spend level? Outdoor ball fields are at one cost where indoor facilities cost more. How do we use what we have? Should the city provide this. Growing up in the north, most of the social amenities were covered by churches, Knights of Columbus, VFW, Sons of Italy all of who had their own facilities. I am really torn on this and not too far from my AARP card.

Also the fire department all for it, my brother is a chief down in FLA, but I grew up with zero paid fire, ambulence and rescue. Actually within the first hours after the attack on the WTC I saw the Lake Hiawatha (Parsippany NJ) Rescue and Recovery on TV truck and all volunteer team on site. So I think we have good coverage and if we were to place a station, maybe a county one to answer for the costs we pay for?

One pitch way back when in the annexation drive was the offer of a "Super BSC" in the new complex. Built and paid for by Weiland. But that fell away when Council would not allow a billion houses back there.

End of the day, we need to assess out master plan, tie it to the county and make sure we have a plan instead of a series of actions.

Husband and Fat...
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Neil - it's pie day. Bring your lovely bride a pie tonight

Fresh Market has a sale on Pies today.

I think were in agreement. Not against the idea of development, but believe PTC needs to update and stick to the plan and the county the same.

The bottom line in my mind is:
Industry - blue and white collar
Transportation
Young Families
Recreation
Maintenance

Hopefully we won't get any rain and we can enjoy outside activities this weekend.

And don't forget the pie

Robert W. Morgan
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Good answers from Neil to Husband's mighty fine questions

Although you should post answers under questions (not over them) to make it easier on the readers.

You point out many things that are perfectly valid and demonstrate why Peachtree City is in reactive (almost crisis) planning mode instead of the reasoned, forward-thinking planning that was the hallmark of the city's first 40 years. The young vs. old debate should be obvious - even to the old people - we need more younger taxpayers and families and that means businesses creating jobs and yes there needs to be places for businesses to locate. Duh.

The BOE has been out of touch with reality for about 10 years and now under the leadership of an unelected chairperson and probably 3 new people selected this year by the wonders of district voting, does anybody think things on the BOE are going to improve? Oh yea, a followup question - Does the quality of our schools have anything to do with businesses and families locating here? I'm guessing yes.

So we have city government discussing zoning for senior citizens, housing over $400k and outsourcing recreation when common sense tells you the opposite should be done.

The Visioning Group has some agenda that no one seems to have figured out - except for the Arts Center, but they are funded and trying to be visible.

City Council has taken a giant step forward this year with a new mayor and Mike and Terry. I do wish they had some component that really focused on long-term planning, but I know that's difficult when they are in totally a reactive mode.

Bottom line is nobody is in charge and all the players have their own short-term agendas. I feel the comfort of living in a planned community slipping away from us and have felt that since about 2005. That west village disaster was very poorly conceived and executed. What is proposed is simply going to make it worse - bridge or no bridge.

moelarrycurly
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This is a game of chicken

Wieland wants approvals from the city before GDOT and the city come in with what will be very damning reports on traffic with and without any development on the west side. And GDOT will say too bad, we have no money to do anything about it till about 2020.

Five no's from planning and 5 no's from council.

Robert W. Morgan
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Let us be clear about the zoning restriction before we vote

That would be the rule in place - specifically "As a condition of the annexation, the road must be completely built before the city will issue any certificate of occupancy for either of the annexed parcels,"

Does that mean the part of the road that goes over the bridge? Does that mean they actually have to build the bridge? If yes, the city is in a position of collecting $8million before they give these guys an occupancy permit. Does that seem reasonable? It does not make sense to me. Why would Wieland or the other developer pony up that kind of money before taking in the first dollar from the sale of houses? Very unreasonable to me, but maybe someone can explain.

I know they are going for zoning on a non-annexed parcel, but asking some questions about future intent would be a good idea. Doncha think?

Husband and Fat...
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Questions

Couple of questions:

1. The county development people complain that we are almost built out on industrial space and find it difficult to bring in industry. Why aren't they in this discussion? A realtor mayor? Will more housing provide more tax dollars than a good industrial tenant?

2. Did the 8 million dollar cost rise? I could have sworn the number was lower. Either way, as long as it's a complete road and bridge, idc. Will they need speed bumps?

3. Why don't the vision folks protest the aged targeted developments and request the developer build inexpensive housing for the 20 something's that want to live here? I thought we wanted young families? 854 aged targeted homes is a lot of lost school money when these folks reach the right age.

4. If the county/city could request a school site earlier, can we not at least get a senior center built there now, or a fire station? Who has the gift of negotiation?

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