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Do You Want the City to Buy the Roberts Property Across from The Forum?

The mayor and council want your input on whether or not to buy the Roberts property in order to prevent apartments from being built.

A recent announcement of plans to build apartments on the Roberts property across from the Forum has stirred up quite a controversy in Peachtree Corners.

Commenters on a recent Patch article expressed concerns ranging from worry about the effects such a development would have on traffic, to overcrowding at Simpson Elementary and Norcross High schools, to negative effects on property values.

Whatever their reason, all seemed to agree that they don't want to see apartments built on that parcel of land. Based on the mayor's statement a couple of weeks ago, he and the council are as opposed to apartments in that location as everybody else.

Lennar Homes out of Miami is currently planning to close on the property on Feb. 7th and expects to break ground this spring. As long as they meet the zoning requirements and building codes, the city is powerless to stop them. Any attempt by the city to deny building permits or otherwise stop the project would likely result in a costly lawsuit that the city would lose.

Unfortunately that leaves the city few options: do nothing and allow the development to proceed as planned (which nobody wants); or buy the property and hope to sell it to someone who will develop it in a manner more to the city's liking (which opens up a whole new can of worms).

Given that Lennar already has a contract to buy the land on Feb. 7th, it's too late for the city to buy the property directly from Charlie Roberts. That means the city would have to buy the land from Lennar before they begin construction. Lennar is spending a reported $7.6 million to buy the property. Obviously, they expect to make a profit from the development or they wouldn't be doing it. That suggests it would cost the city a sum greater than $7.6 million to get Lennar to part with the property.

So the main question to the residents of Peachtree Corners is, are you in favor of the city spending $10 million, $12 million or more to buy this piece of land in order to prevent apartments from being built on it?

As I said, buying the property opens up a can of worms. While the charter gives the city power to purchase property, does it permit the city to purchase land for this purpose? Keeping in mind that it could be several years before a suitable buyer is found, are you comfortable that a future mayor and council would follow through on the plan, or do you worry that they could use the land for another purpose (like building a city hall)?

Are you comfortable with the possibility of the city someday having to sell the property at a loss? Knowing it would require the city to continue levying property taxes at or near the (one mil) limit, are you comfortable with the city assuming such a large long term debt barely halfway through its first year in operation?How much would you be willing for the city to spend?

And lastly, what kind of precedent would it set? In the future, will some other property owner propose to redevelop his property in an unpopular manner in the hopes that a public outcry might prompt the city to buy him out?

Do the real and perceived benefits of not having apartments there outweigh those concerns and others?

I have it on good authority that the mayor and council want to hear from residents on this issue. Do you want the city to buy the land in order to prevent apartments from being built? Call city hall at 678-691-1200 or email the mayor and council and let them know your thoughts:

mmason@peachtreecornersga.org

psadd@peachtreecornersga.org

jlowe@peachtreecornersga.org

awright@peachtreecornersga.org

jaulbach@peachtreecornersga.org

lchristopher@peachtreecornersga.org

wgratwick@peachtreecornersga.org

Call and write soon. February 7th is next week.

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.

Greg Schisla January 31, 2013 at 01:17 PM
I'm just glad I sold my house and no longer live in Peachtree Corners....not because of the potential for declining property values, but to get away from the NIMBY attitude that was obviously behind the push for the city in the first place.
Ward January 31, 2013 at 07:53 PM
I encourage everybody to contact the council and let them know how you feel. A decision is going to be made quickly as Lennar is set to close next Thursday. Given that the city council is not planning to hold any public meetings/hearings it is necessary to call your representatives and city hall to voice your opinion. They currently believe that they have the support of the majority of residents, which I believe is inaccurate. I am not a lawyer or a politician so I am curious to know what grants the Mayor and the council the power to make such a purchase. We were sold a "City Lite" and adopted a charter that details the three specific services the city is to provide: (i) planning & zoning, (ii) code enforcement and (iii) solid waste services. Into which of these buckets does purchasing a parcel of land to prevent the development of apartments fall? I believe that one of the reasons for Peachtree Corners becoming a city was to eventually acquire this land. If the council is confident that the residents support this acquisition I challenge them to pass a resolution to purchase this parcel and then put it to the vote of the citizens. I strongly believe that such a referendum will be defeated. Do I think that the City of Peachtree Corners should spend $10 million to $12 million, which correlates to 132%-158% of fair market value, to acquire this land? No way! How did the budget debate work for us? This is an attempt to grow the city and empower the politicians.
Ward January 31, 2013 at 08:30 PM
Let me clarify that I do not want apartments to be built on this piece of land; however, I feel even stronger about the City not purchasing this parcel. It sets bad precedent, increases the tax burden of all residents and in my opinion far exceeds the power of the City as it was sold to us.
Mim Harris January 31, 2013 at 09:17 PM
Does anyone know what the Special Called meeting for tonight is about? Just noticed it on the City website.
Brent Johnson January 31, 2013 at 10:40 PM
The value of the land is above $7,000,000. Where does a city lite get that kind of money. We were already deceived by certain people about the original cost to start the city. Report said $750k they spent $3.5 million, whats another 7 or 8 more.
Harry Dorfman January 31, 2013 at 11:18 PM
Best comment in this whole thread!
Harry Dorfman January 31, 2013 at 11:24 PM
But wait werent we told City Lite would only cost around $700k to run. Where will the money come from when they are sued for floating some kind of revenue anticipation notes or bonds without the voters having a choice. Let them build what they want. Dunwoody recently had dreams of making things (and people) go away by buying apartments along PIB - but ya know what - the bond measure was voted down. That is how things are done in a democracy - but wait, I forgot, this is a glorified HOA.
Doug Heckman February 01, 2013 at 12:03 AM
Great discussion thread. Gwinnett County/UPCCA had ample opportunity to influence and oppose zoning through the years. When entities own land they have rights - and so does Lennar. I don't think the new City of Peachtree Corners should be in the business of owning this tract of land. I think the best we can do is to influence Lennar as much as we can. They will build high end apartments and our great community will go on.
Veritatem February 01, 2013 at 12:11 AM
Since when did NIMBY become a bad acronym? I suppose those who are against Not In My Back Yard are happy to hide in their homes and don't believe in the community, good schools, reasonable property values, stability, green space, low crime, and quality of life. NIMBY stands for preventing the decay and degradation caused by those who care little for their surroundings, are itinerant, or don't care to contribute to building a better community. I encourage those agreeing with Greg to follow his lead - and move out of Peachtree Corners.
Veritatem February 01, 2013 at 12:36 AM
1) Read the city charter. 2) Why do the residents, through their elected officials, have input on planning and zoning? 4) On what, except for your imagination, do you base the belief that the city was formed, and our elected city officials planned, to "eventually acquire this land?" 5) From what orifice do you pull out the figures $10 - $20 million? 6) Look up "eminent domain." 7) Our "politicians" live here, have regular day jobs like most of us, care about our community, have contributed to our community, and aren't paid much for the grief they take, 8) Did all the reactionaries move here from Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Roswell, Norcross, Berkeley Lake, Duluth, and Johns Creek?
Veritatem February 01, 2013 at 12:49 AM
Considering the city's budget, what the debt service would be, and the return on investment, obtaining the land at a reasonable price is good business over and above the benefit to the city residents of a better development. Simpson may not be the school directly affected, the school districts will likely be redrawn and, yes, there will be more crowding besides the effect of having even more itinerant families. As for the community surviving, if having further degrading of property values, traffic, schools, etc. is surviving, then, yes, you're correct. Accepting "what's done is done" used to not be the American way. If you don't move sooner, you may live to regret your attitude.
Veritatem February 01, 2013 at 01:04 AM
"Lennar is a great company." How do you define, "great?" Lennar is great at profitability. No criticism of it on that account. However, Lennar builds apartments, operates them until maintenance costs don't meet its profit requirements, then sells them to second tier apartment operators. This particular Lennar company is not in the condo business; besides, the apartment to condo conversion market for the sort of apartments planned is poor to nonexistent. Any urban planner or owner occupied residential real estate agent will tell you increased in the apartment percentage in the city is the poison.
Veritatem February 01, 2013 at 01:26 AM
Whether the apartments impact Simpson remains to be seen. Those in other elementary school districts may wish to be concerned as the increased population will likely lead to redistributing it to other schools. Of course, Pinkneville and Norcross High will be affected. Besides schools, the overbalance of apartments to single family owner occupied homes will degrade residential property values citywide. Of course, police protection will likely stay the same despite the additional transient population. Traffic will increase even more. The "Simpson" problem is a canard.
Veritatem February 01, 2013 at 01:52 AM
Therein is the problem. Instead of doing something to improve the community, just move to another one. Lord knows don't let an elected government do something logical and businesslike, and beneficial for its constituents both in private property values and quality of life. Atlanta bought the gigantic Sears site on Ponce de Leon Ave. then recently sold it at a profit, to the benefit of the taxpayers. The Sears sale will create jobs, increase property values, and add significantly to Atlanta's economy. Besides obtaining the Roberts property through eminent domain (at fair market value) or purchase, what other "creative and unique approaches" do you suggest? Or is the creative and unique approach just to move out of Peachtree Corners and let Lennar's "rights" to make a profit trump the good of a community?
Rico Figliolini February 01, 2013 at 02:39 AM
My goodness everyone is in such a mess on this property. I believe when this was decided years ago through a court case that the court didn't decide this. That's right. If I remember correctly the court remanded it back to the county to "fix it" or the court would. There were also rumors about comments concerning the nature of people that may eventually live in these apartments that may also have driven this rezoning. The county never took it all the way through the court process. I believe they would have won. When rezonings are done they have to take into account the land use plan and the surrounding nature of the area - which wasn't driven by apartments. Anyway that's past history. The land is zoned what it is. The city has no recourse - unless the developer comes in to ask for changes to the zoning or conditions. At that point they can play hardball. Otherwise it is what it is. BTW, I never heard anything about the city coming into being because of that piece of land. Where'd that come from?
Veritatem February 01, 2013 at 02:39 AM
Which poll did you use to figure that most voted for the city only to save on garbage collection? Apparently your data is flawed. Considering the city budget, debt service to obtain the land would not be taxing (pun intended). Who exactly has absolute power? A knee jerk reaction also defines the reactor. Sometimes one who has glasses should have someone else check them, otherwise there is a danger of shortsightedness.
Veritatem February 01, 2013 at 02:50 AM
It would be nice if the above three comments presented facts, weren't unsupported conclusions, showed understanding of how our school system worked, and made sense.
Missy Thurlow February 01, 2013 at 11:45 AM
I do not think it is a good idea for the city to purchase the land. I remember the uproar over the Ingles and McDonalds going in and now folks enjoy the convienence of them being closer. I am not crazy about apartments in the area, but don't think the answer is for Peachtree Corners to purchase the land. I would however, welcome a Kroger Store in the proposed shopping center, if anyone has some pull! With a gas station for convienence purposes. Missy Thurlow
Rusty Taylor February 01, 2013 at 02:16 PM
Here is a thought. Buy the property Partner with a developer and let him develop the property Then lease the property out and collect the money until the debt is paid and then cash out at a certain point. Everybody wins.
Veritatem February 01, 2013 at 08:06 PM
Rusty - a sensible, non-reactionary, thoughtful, workable, businesslike, anti-school crowding, anti-increased traffic, anti-crime, property value stabilizing, community serving, taxpayer benefiting response.
Jimmy February 01, 2013 at 08:33 PM
Sensible, non-reactionary, thoughtful, yada, yada, yada...You forgot illegal. The charter limits the city to zoning/ planning, code enforcement and solid waste removal. It also limits the city's ability to acquire property to uses that are in direct support of those three named services. Buying land to lease or re-sell at a profit, or even to break even in partnership with a developer is not a function of one of those named services.
Veritatem February 02, 2013 at 02:41 AM
Dear Jimmy Yada Yada, please read the city charter, specifically Section 1.12 paragraphs (a)(13) and (14) and Section 1.12 paragraph (c). The council could purchase the property for use in carrying out its duties (like building a city hall as the Institute of Government study had anticipated), the purchase could be interpreted to fit in with the planning and zoning functions, but it seems more likely the city council would pass a resolution and put the purchase to a vote of the citizens. I wish some commentators would back up their statements with facts, not resort to knee jerk reactions, make a thorough and objective review of all opinions, and see the issue from all sides before forming a final opinion and instead of just reacting.
Jimmy February 02, 2013 at 03:41 AM
It takes some large ones to accuse others of being reactionary when one has posted 10 comments on this thread in the last twelve hours (and thirteen overall) and called names of almost every other poster and suggested they move elsewhere if they dont share your opinion. You dont get debate points for being bellicose. Section 1.12 paragraph (a)13 gives the city the power to borrow money. I didnt claim otherwise. Section 1.12 paragraph (a)14 gives the city the power to buy property. Again, I didnt claim otherwise. Section 1.12 paragraph (c) says that if the city wants to provide services in addition to those in paragraph (b) it needs to hold a referendum. But in your reactionary haste to insult yet another poster, you forgot to read paragraph (b), which states, "the city shall excercise the powers enumerated in subsection (a) of this section only for the purposes of planning and zoning, code adoption and enforcement, and solid waste management services and those items directly related to the provision of such services and for the general administration of the city in providing such services." Next time you want to quote the charter to prove your point, it would help if you read all of it, instead of just the parts you like.
Veritatem February 02, 2013 at 04:46 AM
I am trying to use hyperbole, reversal, and pugnacious remarks to emphasize the problems with some of the knee jerk comments, but will try to be less bellicose after the following comments. I don't see much in the way of reasoned contradictions to my points. For someone who denigrates an opinion with "yada, yada," you seem to be the pot calling the kettle, etc., etc.. In any event, before one criticizes and looks foolish in print, one should have someone explain how to read the charter. You are wrong, yet again. "(b) Except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, the city shall exercise the powers enumerated in subsection (a) of this section only for the purposes of planning and zoning, code adoption and enforcement, and solid waste management services... ." What does "[E]xcept" mean to you? It means that (c) takes precedent. It is plain that if the city wishes to do more than "...planning and zoning, code adoption and enforcement, and solid waste management services, ..." it can do so by passing an ordinance and having a referendum under paragraph (c). The whole purpose of paragraph (c) is to allow the city to expand the use of paragraph (a) powers (purchase property not related to planning, zoning, code adoption, etc., for instance) if the citizens want the expansion.
Veritatem February 02, 2013 at 04:46 AM
By the way, also, people should not use big words they don't understand. "Reactionary" means "relating to, marked by, or favoring especially extreme conservatism in politics; opposing political change." My support for the city buying the property is the opposite as I am advocating political change and the opposite of an ultra conservative approach. Perhaps you mistook "extreme" for "reactionary." As a general rule, one should read documents and the dictionary carefully before further posting comments to avoid embarrassment.
Judy Putnam (Editor) February 02, 2013 at 01:03 PM
Debating is always helpful, it provides insight to the various sides and opinions. However, you may want to reach out to your city council representative to ask for a clear interpretation of the charter on this issue. And a reminder, for those of you who chose not to use your name: Before you push that "submit" button, ask yourself if you would be willing to post the comment if your name was attached to your words.
Jimmy February 02, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Thank you for helping to make my point. "Except" means exactly what you said, and exactly what I alluded to...buying property for speculative purposes does not fall under one of the three services the city is permitted to provide. So if they want to expand and offer additional services which would permit speculative real estate deals, then they have to pass an ordinance AND hold a referendum. Neither of which has been done. Nor have I seen or heard any announcements in that regard.
Robin Montri February 04, 2013 at 01:47 PM
Ditto what Rico said. I would LOVE to see a Suwanee town style space here- a mix of greenspace, light retail (just like Suwanee) and high end residential (above the shops). It would give people a reason to walk down to the area with their families, alone, with their dogs. And yes, if it lands on me as an individual tax payer in Peachtree Corners to somehow pay for this, then I'm all in. From what I understand though from the other comments (since I am no financial expert) the city could buy the property and potentially sell at a profit, correct? It's a risk, I get it. However, I see it as a risk worth taking.
Ali Stinson February 04, 2013 at 04:06 PM
According to the city charter, Peachtree Corners is legally allowed to provide three services. Land speculation and profiteering is not enumerated among them. Though the very idea of emulating anything the city of Atlanta does should be abhorrent to all in most every respect, folks on this board have held up their Sears land deal as some sort of model. Please keep in mind that they housed a police station and parts of city hall in that building for more than a decade before selling it to a developer. That many of the city's other land deals - particularly in and around the beltline - have so far shown to be a tax payer quagmire. Peachtree Corners should stick to its charter and leave the back room land dealings alone.
Mark 7 February 18, 2013 at 06:19 PM
Would you be willing to personally buy the property from the current owner and have it remain "green space"? I doubt it. I'm sure the current owner envisioned selling the property at some point and that goal is absolutely proper and wise. That anyone would seek to somehow infringe upon his right as a property owner to sell his property within the law kinda makes me throw up in my mouth. Where are those that stand for property rights?

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