An Open Letter to the City Council

The city council is meeting this afternoon to approve the purchase of the land across S.R.141 from the Forum. The following letter was sent to each city council member this morning.

     This afternoon at 5 p.m. the Peachtree Corners city council will hold a hastily called "Special Called Meeting." Despite the fact that today is a holiday and schools, banks and government offices (including Peachtree Corners City Hall) are closed, the council will meet to authorize the expenditure of millions of taxpayer dollars to purchase the land across S.R. 141 from the Forum to prevent apartments from being built there. Unfortunately, there has been little public discussion of the subject. Many residents are unaware of the plan and none know how much money is at stake.

The following letter was sent to each council member earlier this morning. 


Dear Council members,

     Late yesterday (a Sunday afternoon) it was announced that there would be a Special Called Meeting of the city council this afternoon (a holiday when schools, banks and government offices are closed) at 5 p.m. It's no secret that the purpose of the meeting is for you all to take a public vote on buying the property affectionately known as "the Roberts property."


     The rationale I have heard all centers on preventing the land from being developed into apartments. Please understand that I don’t relish the idea of apartments there any more than anybody else does. Given the proximity of my home to this property, any development is likely to have a negative impact on my property value and increase the traffic I deal with daily. But this isn’t about me. It's about you, and it's about keeping your word to the citizens of Peachtree Corners.


     During your campaigns for council last year, all of you answered questionnaires from the Ballot Committee. The questionnaires covered a variety of subjects, including your opinions on transparency in city government operations, the need and use of city debt and the ultimate fate of "the Roberts property." If you’d like to review your answers, they can be found on the Ballot Committee’s website at www.peachtreecornersfacts.com.


     At various times during the campaign, all of you expressed a belief in the need for transparency in the operation of Peachtree Corners government. There have been no city council meetings, town hall meetings, city referendums or any other communication between the council and the citizenry about the proposed purchase of this property. Can you explain how this reality comports with your aforementioned belief in transparency?


     Asked about the need for long term debt, most of you were quite opposed to the idea. Councilman Sadd said, "…there is no need for it based on our City (sic) government objectives." After explaining the need for some short term start-up financing, Councilwoman Aulbach stated that, "Once these are paid off, we should not need to issue debt again unless the citizens approve a service or use that requires (it)…" Councilman Gratwick also explained the need for short term start up financing, then said, "There should not be a need for long term financing…" In his original response, the word ‘not’ was underlined and in a bold font.


     As for the fate of the Roberts property, all of you recognized that it was already zoned for apartments. Several of you acknowledged the concept of property rights while expressing a desire that it ultimately be developed in a mixed –use manner. Councilwoman Aulbach said that, "The best use is one that provides a profit for the developer…" If only we had known that profit would come at the expense of the taxpayer!! But perhaps it was best put by Councilman Wright, who said, "…I do believe that…the city should not be in the business of trying to purchase the land."


     These are your words folks. Will you stand by them? Or will you make excuses for them in the name of political expediency?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Byron February 18, 2013 at 08:05 PM
Not surprised at all. Most of us who voted against the city knew that this property was eyed by the the UPCCA for a center-of-city complex. What always surprised me is that so few seemed to know that it was already zoned for apartments. So many were so sure becoming a city would stop the apartments being built there, Get your check books out. It's going cost a bunch not just for the land, but for the dreamy city hall to be built there.
Tina Russo February 18, 2013 at 11:41 PM
Those of us that voted against having a city are not at all surprised by this. It is exactly what we were afraid of.
Iestyn Lewis February 19, 2013 at 01:20 AM
I voted for cityhood solely to stop apartments from being built there. I thought it was pretty obvious that trash collection and code enforcement was not the driving issue. If it means the city owning part or all of it, so be it. I'm cautiously optimistic. I'd like to hope it will be a park/city hall, at least partly.
hilary February 20, 2013 at 07:40 PM
This is a shameful and inexcusable abuse of power and tantamount to stealing, as far as I am concerned. Any realtor will tell you that the #1 factor affecting home property value is the quality of public schools; particularly, elementary schools. So keeping that ONE apartment complex out of Simpson is what this whole thing (including Cityhood, for that matter) has been about). So unless you live in the Simpson district, your tax dollars just got stolen to subsidize THEIR property values, because NOT building that apartment complex over there isn't going to affect YOUR property value one iota. What WOULD affect YOUR property value (positively) would be if the new city hall government complex would be located on a site needing redevelopment, like for instance, Sturbridge Square, or one of the older strip centers on Holcomb Bridge such as where Outback or Chili's used to be. These locations are also more CENTRAL within Peachtree Corners as opposed to being on an outpost border fringe. And it would HAVE to be cheaper than paying at LEAST 30-40% OVER MARKET VALUE for the Lennar Property. Redevelopment benefits EVERYONE. Backroom deals benefit a FEW...
Gay Shook February 21, 2013 at 03:32 PM
I clearly remember when UPCCA recommended that Gwinnett County deny the request for apartments on the Roberts tract. UPCCA Land Use vp Lynette Howard put a criss-cross on the map of Gwinnett which showed all existing multi-family units. It was immediately obvious that western Gwinnett had way more of these developments than any other quadrant, way more of the residential quotient than was healthy for our area (residential to business). Roberts sued the county in federal court over this denial. Commissioner Patti Muise threw us under the bus by settling this case when Chairman Wayne Hill specifically asked her not to, and Judge Clarence Cooper subsequently awarded Roberts 250 apartments. That number may be incorrect as it was many years ago, but it is close. The fact of the matter is this community NEVER wanted apartments to go in that location and Judge Cooper effectively made public policy from the bench when he handed down his decision. Personally, I am grateful that the men and women of our city council acted with alacrity to prevent the Lennar apartment project from going forward. We now all have an opportunity to voice our opinions about what we would like to see be built over there and I hope you bloggers, anonymous and otherwise, will all participate in developing the city's first Comprehensive Plan. To criticize without contributing is a wasted gesture indeed.


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