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Mayor Responds to Proposed Development Across From The Forum

Mike Mason weighs in on the proposal to build apartments on the last undeveloped land in Peachtree Corners.

 By Mike Mason, Mayor of Peachtree Corners

An article recently appeared in the Patch that included some misinformation about the property located across from the Forum.  This article has, unfortunately, perpetuated discussion based on that erroneous information. 

First, let me assure you that we all share a desire to see quality development across from the Forum and we also share a complete lack of interest in seeing another apartment complex developed there. 

While we have made, and continue to make, concerted efforts to prevent that from happening, we’re dealing with some significant constraints that were handed down to us. 

Let me give you the facts:

  • This property was zoned for apartments as part of a legal settlement between Roberts Properties and Gwinnett County.  The US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia issued a consent order on Oct. 22, 2001 mandating that the property be rezoned RM-13, specifically for apartments.
  • The County Commission had denied Roberts request for rezoning; but after the court ruling, the County not only had to rezone the property for apartments, but had to pay Mr. Roberts $390,000 to cover his legal fees. 
  • As a result of this ruling, the City has no legal basis to change that zoning decision or in any way deny the owner their property rights.  As much as we might want to, the City Council cannot overturn a court decision.
  • However, the City can try to mitigate some of the impacts of this development.

For example, the original property was one large parcel zoned for approximately 297 apartments.  At this time, the property is planned for development as 3 parcels, 2 of which are now designated as commercial. Those commercial developments will reduce the overall number of apartments that may be built on the remaining parcel which is still zoned for apartments. 

We have held, and will continue to hold, many meetings with the proposed purchaser in an effort to persuade them to develop a project more acceptable to our community.  We are also seeking parties who might be interested in partnering with the proposed purchaser to change the nature of the development.  These efforts will continue until there is no time left to us.    

The article in the Patch states that the apartment plans will have to be reviewed by the Planning Commission and will ultimately need the City Council’s approval to proceed.  This is just not true. 

If the plans meet the building and zoning code requirements, the city will be obligated to issue a development permit.  We don’t have the ability to reject a permit application if all the codes have been met. 

You can be assured that we will do everything that we can, legally, concerning this property.  But also understand that we are just as disappointed that there are limitations to what we can legally do. 

Editor's note: The Mayor of Peachtree Corners spoke out publically at a recent City Council meeting saying that the story that appears in The story was based in information provided by what the Patch editor considers to be very reliable sources and stands by the story published based on those sources.  As stated in the Patch story, because the property falls inside the Overlay District established in 2007, the City of Peachtree Corners does have some control over the development. The development must adhere to the signage, architecture and landscaping controls of the Peachtree Corners Overlay District. A copy of the Overlay District is available on the Gwinnett County website.

 

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Allie Brown January 17, 2013 at 02:37 PM
This is great. Now can we STOP WALMART?
Judy Putnam (Editor) January 17, 2013 at 03:06 PM
Allie, there are no plans for a Walmart in Peachtree Corners other than the Neighborhood grocery store planned for Winters Chapel Road. But that's just a grocery store and replaces another grocery store that had closed a year or so ago. It's not one of those super stores that takes up a city block.
Jimmy January 17, 2013 at 04:10 PM
After reading the mayor's statement, I went back and re-read the Patch story he referenced and I dont see where the Patch story says what he claims it does. All it has is a paraaphrased quote from Wayne Knox- who is on the city's zoning appeals board, used to be UPCCAs VP of land use and should know what he is talking about. Oh, and he's also one of the mayor's buddies and was by Mason's side as they toured around selling the idea of Peachtree Corners becoming a city... Sounds to me like Mason is trying to deflect criticism off himself and the city. Mason sold the idea of a city based on planning and zoning control and garbage collection. So far he's been playing mayor for six months- the city hasnt picked up the first piece of trash and it has absolutley fallen on its face on the first three development projects it has faced. Noble Ridge, Peachtree Reserve and now the Robert's property have all caused community uproar and the city has been powerless to help. Tell us again Mason, why did we need to become a city?
Judy Putnam (Editor) January 17, 2013 at 04:32 PM
Jimmy: Gwinnett County was involved in the initial zoning and permitting process of all three projects before PC officially became a city July 1 of last year. I think the people who voted in favor of the city were looking ahead to the future. It's been just 6 months since the city was incorporated. I think most citizens realize that everything cannot be done overnight.
Jimmy January 17, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Of course you're right, Judy...'most citizens', including me, do realize that...but apparently there are enough of them that didnt that it is causing a political problem for the mayor and council. I think it was just wrong for the mayor to throw you under the bus like that in a effort to deflect some of the criticism away from himself. He owes you an apology. And the rest of us too. We expect and deserve better from our elected officials.
Michael January 17, 2013 at 05:58 PM
According to the Gwinnett County website: "The various RM zoning districts are intended for duplex and multifamily dwellings. The maximum density is reflected in the exact RM zoning classification (e.g. RM-6, RM-8, RM-10, RM-13, with the number following the letters being the maximum density expression in dwelling units per net acre)." According to this statement, the number 13 indicates that this parcel is apparently designated as "high density." However, does RM ("multifamily") not include condominiums? I would be interested to know, as owner-occupied condominiums would be much more preferable than apartments, and the city should work with the developer on this option. If this zoning designation only includes rental units, then the city should try to persuade the developer to pursue Senior Apartments.
Veritatem January 18, 2013 at 12:35 AM
Well, nothing like deflecting criticism by coming down on a local journalist trying to do what our mayor won't - keep us informed. Sounds to me like his honor didn't want the plans for the property to get out and cause him grief. Geez, be a man, you're 40. Notice he actually is wrong in his statement even though he's supposed to take time out from his photo ops to be informed about the powers of the city he's supposed to be leading before he exposes his ignorance in writing. Let's keep this in mind at election time. While he dresses down Peachtree Corners Patch, he doesn't take one of his few efforts to communicate with the public to address other things. For instance, why are we paying so much for a city manager? The manager's fine, but why our newly minted politicians decided to pay more for a city manager than one who supervises 225 city employees (we have what, three or four?) and seven departments (we really have just one, the other two are contracted out) is beyond me. And there are general concerns about a city that takes $2 MILLION dollars EVERY YEAR from businesses and individuals to do planning and zoning, have someone else enforce codes, and have garbage service that we will have to pay for anyway.
Veritatem January 18, 2013 at 12:35 AM
In any event, as in the past, his honor Mason isn't taking any strong, cost-efficient action other than trying to negotiate with an apartment developer that is well known for not negotiating. Mr. Mason negotiating with the developer reminds me of Bullwinkle trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat (See, http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=kRW7pITY5Cg - it's rated "E" for viewing by anyone). Soooo.... so far its business as usual —meaning nada.
Veritatem January 18, 2013 at 01:03 AM
Jimmy is correct on all counts. When I heard discussions about the Roberts property it was ... well that's the last unimproved property and we need a city to deal with it. Not one "Yes man" (or women) made a point of telling anyone the city could not interfere with the zoning of the property. Even if it were an omission not to so inform their neighbors (which it wasn't) even such an omission tells you something about ego driven people that became our politicians (and I don't use "politicians" in a kind way). We would expect that the leaders of a limited service town wouldn't turn to the dark side so soon. Power corrupts, etc. Also, its a shame that Mason's ego is bloated enough, and he thinks he can do what he wants, to be able to (improperly, by the way) dress down Ms. Putnam, who is just doing her job of informing the public which his honor Mason doesn't do, only communicating occasionally to bolster his position. I think Ms. Putnam and the rest of the citizens of Peachtree Corners will turn blue if we are holding our collective breaths waiting to get the deserved apology from his honor Mason.
Tlynn January 18, 2013 at 03:41 AM
why doesn't Peachtree Corners buy the land? Stupid question? It seems no deal has been signed yet.
AL January 18, 2013 at 03:44 AM
What legal basis did Roberts have to challenge the original zoning decision after his rezoning request was denied? It must have been fairly solid...because he was able to march right in with the confidence that he would overturn that decision AND get his legal fees reimbursed. So, was the original zoning assignment somehow incorrect and/or unfair in some way that he saw fit to expose it and get it changed? Or, was it something else?
Veritatem January 18, 2013 at 04:51 AM
Tlynn, that doesn't sound like a stupid question at all considering how much the city rakes in from businesses and citizens, but from the reports it seems the apartment company (Lennar) already has a contract with Roberts (the owner) on the land, so Lennar would have to have a reason to back out (the word is Lennar is a hardnosed apartment developer) plus Roberts apparently wants to close ASAP so he'd probably want some incentive to wait to sell to the city. For all we know the sale may have already closed while the mayor and council were diddling around with things like logos and overpaying employees. Also, another question is whether the city that is supposed to be confined to just three services could legally buy the property. In any event, his honor needs to do more than critcize journalists, get his smiling face in the paper, and "negotiate." Despite the negativity expressed in his honor Mason's piece, above, every single thing must be explored, and every possible action taken, to stop the about 250 apartments being added to the pile we have now have to the detriment of our schools, traffic, property values and quality of life.
Veritatem January 18, 2013 at 05:07 AM
Good question, Al. From what I read, the court didn't rule, but signed off on the agreement of the county to voluntarily drop its position on the zoning plus voluntarily pay about $300,000.°° of our tax money for Robert's attorneys fees. Apparently, the county just stopped dead in its tracks after paying more of our taxes to the county's lawyers to run up their fees then stop. Seems to me either Roberts had a great case and the county's attorneys and/or the county commission didn't know what they were doing opposing Roberts in the first place and continuing to run up our fees, or..........(?). Something to think about especially considering how the county has operated in the past.
Veritatem January 18, 2013 at 05:32 AM
My understanding is the developer, Lennar, is not in the condo business or senior living business, just regular rental apartments. If older people and others want to live in their apartments and pay rent, that's fine, but it doesn't provide elder amenities or sell condos because that's not in its business plan. No criticism of Lennar, apartments are what it knows and how it makes money. Since it legally can build apartments, that's what it intends to do. From what I hear, Lennar's been in this sort of position before and the requests for alternate development, and pleas against apartments, fell on deaf ears.
Michelle L. January 19, 2013 at 02:06 PM
Anyone reading these articles could think that P'tree Corners consists of only the area around The Forum and Simpson Elem. P'tree Corners encompasses more than this and the whole area needs to be represented. Currently in the City of Peachtree Corners there are already many apartments that are having an impact in their school district and communities..... I understand the concern; however, rather than spending all time, energy and taxes on something that is not here yet, we need to also focus on owners of current properties and put some serious pressure on them to strictly enforce the codes on the books to make sure the current properties stay within code such as cleaner lots, lighting, junk cars, etc. This would set a std for new apts. Mr. Mayor--in your statement at the meeting the other night, I didn't hear a statement about all the other apts in our city--it would be nice to know that our money is spent uniformly for all of our area.
hilary January 21, 2013 at 08:04 PM
I wouldn't worry too much; I would wager a significant amount of money that that parcel will be re-districted to Berkeley Lake Elementary at the earliest possible opportunity :)
Bob January 21, 2013 at 08:27 PM
That or Peachtree Elementary. Anything but Simpson.
hilary January 21, 2013 at 09:10 PM
LOL, so true, Bob. What's one more for Peachtree when there's already 23? Bring it on! Although...it WOULD be a convenient intermediate jumping-off point for newly-minted Simpson ex-husbands!
Veritatem January 22, 2013 at 02:27 AM
While it may be hard to push the extra students into a different school cluster (Duluth), hilary has a great idea. Those in that cluster should welcome the increase. As a backup, people in Neely Farm shouldn't mind a few more students in Peachtree Elementary. The opportunity to add more students to our overcrowded schools definitely should be shared. ;-) On the other hand, maybe the problem will work itself out with the apartments inhabited by new single divorcees as suggested. Just like our new city has worked out so far. ;-)
Veritatem January 27, 2013 at 11:27 PM
Silence by Mayor Mason and the council is deafening. The closing for sale of the land to the 250 apartment developer is apparently Feb. 7
Judy Putnam (Editor) January 28, 2013 at 01:00 AM
I checked with both the county and the city asking if plans for the new Roberts property development had been filed and was told that nothing had been submitted as of the middle of last week.
Veritatem January 28, 2013 at 03:47 AM
Judy thanks for the info. The property is still reported to be sold to the apartment developer Feb. 7, with the developer wanting to have the 250 +– apartments the zoning allows for ready for move in asap, probably next year(?), but you straightened out a previous report of the filing of actual plans so soon with the city made in a trade journal. Some good news is better than nothing, but the plans for 250+– apartments look like they will be filed in the near time and some people would like to know what the mayor and counsel are doing about the apartments, if anything, plus what rights the city commissions have to change the goal of 250+– apartments, if anything. The silence by the mayor is still deafening as the property sales date is coming up quick. I'd like to know also why we are still paying the same for garbage pickup as before we had a city (one of the three services sold to us) and what's the reason for taking all the tax money from us that the city is collecting - but we'll probably not hear about any of that either any time soon. So far the city certainly has been a success so far (for the mayor and council that is).
Judy Putnam (Editor) January 28, 2013 at 11:53 AM
I would encourage every tax-paying citizen to contact City Hall and pose questions such as yours directly to the Mayor and City Council. They are there to serve the public. I would also encourage everyone to attend the City Council meetings. It's a perfect time to speak with them. There is one scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 29 (7 p.m.) If you can't attend, call them, City Hall's number is 678-691-1200, email addresses are listed on the city's website, www.peachtreecornersga.org Get involved, government works best when its citizens are engaged.

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