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Q&A on Peachtree Corners 'Roberts' Land Purchase

Find out how the city plans on financing the purchase, what the city plans to do with the property located across from The Forum and more.

The City of Peachtree Corners announced Monday night (Feb. 19, 2013) during a Special Called meeting that it intends to purchase the 20+ undeveloped acres located across from The Forum.

The land was slated to be developed into a 250+ apartment complex. To stop that development, which city leaders and many residents did not want, the City of Peachtree Corners will purchase the property.

Below are 11 questions with answers to the purchase, and what ultimately will happen to the tract of land many know as "Robert Property."

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Q. Why did the City purchase this land?

   A. We have the responsibility for protecting the quality of life in Peachtree Corners.  This includes safeguarding property values, promoting school standings, as we are able, and ensuring community safety.  Peachtree Corners’ is currently at the 50/50 tipping point of single family vs. multi-family housing.  The Council feels it is our duty to keep the community’s housing balanced in order to protect property values.

Q. How will the City pay for this acquisition?

   A. A 10 year bond.

 

Q. Will my millage rate go up?

   A. No.

 

Q. How can we afford it without increasing the millage rate?

   A.  The Carl Vinson Feasibility Study did not include all sources of funding for the City, such as business license fees, insurance franchise fees, and commercial trash fees.  These fees, which originally went to the County and now properly go to the City, will enable us to finance the purchase without increasing homeowner property taxes.  

 

Q. Did the City meet with the new owner in hopes of changing the nature of the development or minimizing the density of the intended multi-family development?

   A. Yes. There were numerous meetings to persuade Lennar to develop a project in keeping with the surrounding area.  All options to stop this development were exhausted before the Council voted unanimously to proceed with this purchase.

 

Q. Why is the 20.6 acres zoned for apartments anyway?

   A. In 1998 (prior to Peachtree Corners incorporation), the former owner of the property filed a rezoning request for RM-13/apartments with Gwinnett County.  In February 1999, the request was denied by the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners. 

The applicant then filed a suit against Gwinnett County seeking the apartment zoning.  On Oct. 22, 2001, a consent order was issued by the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia mandating that the property be rezoned RM-13 specifically for apartments. The community never had a say in this final decision.

 

Q. Why wasn’t this presented as a referendum?

   A. Simply put, there was not enough time for that to occur.  The first feasible date for a referendum would have been November of 2013. The developer’s intention was to break ground for the apartments in May.  It became a timing issue that had to be addressed immediately.

 

Q. What does the City plan to do with the new land?

   A. We will solicit community input thru the Comprehensive Plan process, which is currently underway.  The Comprehensive Plan process is designed to help set the vision for the City in 2033.  The timing could not be better for consideration of this land but in the context of our shared vision of the future.

 

Q. What’s next?

   A. We will create a separate entity called a Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to acquire the property.  The DDA will be led by a citizen panel and charged with the ultimate disposition of this property thru a public bidding process.

 

Q. What is a Downtown Development Authority (DDA)?

   A. DDA’s are used in cities throughout the state as a mechanism to revitalize or develop municipal central business districts. They are invaluable in a city’s success and are used in Duluth, Lawrenceville, Norcross, and Lawrenceville, just to name a few. 

Q. Can I be involved with the future vision for this property?

   A. Absolutely!  As with other citizen committees, we encourage everyone in the community to contact their council member.

Also, there are three upcoming meetings for the City’s Comprehensive Plan: February 21, 7:00-8:30 PM at City Hall.  April 24-25 and July 25 (details TBD)

Editor's note: There is quite a bit of information on the city's Comprehensive Plan posted on the city's website. Also, be sure to take the survey so you can add your input on the future of Peachtree Corners. peachtreecornersplan.blogspot.com

Rob C. February 19, 2013 at 10:01 PM
Fees are just like property taxes. And if the fees are used to buy land then they can not be used to reduce property taxes. Voting for the city was voting for a tax increase. Those who thought otherwise thought wrong.
David B. Manley February 20, 2013 at 12:30 AM
Based on the surrounding circumstances and a fair reading of the City Charter, the mayor and city council acted appropriately, specially considering the primary reason for the incorporation of the city was to have local input on land use and planning for Peachtree Corners. The charter reads, in part: SECTION 1.12. 45 Powers and construction. 46 (a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, this city shall have the following 47 powers: ... ... 93 (13) Municipal debts. To appropriate and borrow money for the payment of debts of the 94 city and to issue bonds for the purpose of raising revenue to carry out any project, 95 program, or venture authorized by this charter or the laws of the State of Georgia; 96 (14) Municipal property ownership. To acquire, dispose of, lease, and hold in trust or 97 otherwise any real, personal, or mixed property, in fee simple or lesser interest, inside or 98 outside the property limits of the city; 99 (15) Municipal property protection. To provide for the preservation and protection of 100 property and equipment of the city and the administration and use of same by the public; ... 151 (b) ... the city shall exercise the powers 152 ... enumerated in subsection (a) of this section only for the purposes of planning and zoning, 153 ... and those items 154 directly related to the provision of such services and for the general administration of the city 155 in providing such services.
K.C. Jones February 20, 2013 at 02:16 AM
You're right Mim, they can't re-sell the property because the courts have already ruled on the zoning. As far as using fees instead of property taxes, wasn't that part of the pitch to begin with. "Don't worry about taxes we will run the city on the fees we collect"
Michelle L. February 20, 2013 at 03:54 AM
The developer will now use the proceeds from this sale to buy another vacant lot (maybe along Spalding /So. Old Peachtree?) to build apts. Would this city have fought so hard and paid so much if the apartments were proposed someplace else? So many people like to quote the 50% apartment argument. How about this statistic: Simpson is the ONLY elementary school in Gwinnett County with ZERO percent of its families coming from apartments. I wonder if cityhood would have passed if those who pushed so hard for it explained that the first order of business would be to put the city on the hook for millions of dollars? But that’s the American Government way. Spend money you don’t have. We were told it was only going to be code enforcement, garbage collection, and zoning. Now add land speculation? So much for a charter.
David B. Manley February 20, 2013 at 05:18 AM
Technically the city will incur debt through bond issuance; however, this is secured debt - secured by valuable property. Thus, we hope the city will come out even, if not ahead, from a monetary viewpoint after the property is resold. Regardless, it is difficult to put a price tag on the myriad benefits not having yet more apartments in the city will bring to Peachtree Corners.
David B. Manley February 20, 2013 at 05:20 AM
Some folks should have read the readily available City of Peachtree Corners Charter before voting.
David B. Manley February 20, 2013 at 05:21 AM
As the new owner, the city can have the property re-zoned. The prior court decision will have no effect.
David B. Manley February 20, 2013 at 05:23 AM
Again, some folks should have read the charter.
Michelle L. February 20, 2013 at 12:13 PM
Are you assuming that some folks voted Yes for the City? Some folks voted No and knew it would be typical government activities such as spending money that isn't there, and at the expense of everyone to protect One area of the city. I keep hearing about how the CITY is 50% multi-family....no, not everywhere. This City is only concerned with one particular area. It is amazing at what lengths the City has gone to keep protecting the area around the Forum (the Simpson feeder) from apts. When something we don't like is announced soon to be built on the corner of P'tree Industrial next to the Starbucks, will the City help? Or Apts across from Norcross High--will the City care? More multi-family units that feeds into Berkeley Lake area or P'tree Elem area? Are there effiorts to enforce code and clean up of the multi-family complexes that exist in the Other sides of the Forum area? That would have been an encompassing effort.
Mim Harris February 20, 2013 at 12:29 PM
David I read the charter and addressed this issue specifically with our now Mayor and a lawyer present and they both assured me that there was no way they could purchase property or incur debt without a referendum. They said that under the services they were providing that a purchase could not be legally done without one. I did not vote for this City because I did not believe what they were selling.
David B. Manley February 21, 2013 at 01:59 AM
Mim, I was not privy to any conversation among you, the mayor, and an unnamed attorney at one point in time; however, every city planner I have heard from agrees that more than 40% of housing devoted to rental apartments is not good for a city including for its stability, congestion, schools, property values, etc.. Despite the possible off the cuff opinion by one attorney at one time or any previous counsel the mayor was depending on for an opinion in the past, my professional opinion is not only is the action by our elected officials reasonably authorized, but it furthers the core purpose for which the city was incorporated in the first place. Our elected representatives had counsel that is versed in the particular area of law before taking the vote regarding the purchase, would not have unanimously voted in favor unless there was no reasonable choice to carry out the primary planning function of the city, and acted in a statesmanlike manner despite knowing that some would take them to task, including unreasonably and through unwarranted personal attacks. While I may understand contrary reasoned viewpoints, I suggest that those opposed remember that the mayor and council are our neighbors, they are acting in mind to further good city planning and, through the city, we are each making an investment in a valuable piece of property, not some government program with indefinite return. I suggest those opposed let this investment play out before making a final judgment.
Mim Harris February 21, 2013 at 02:48 AM
David, My issue is with their dishonesty. Whether this is good or not remains to be seen. Why should I trust decisions made by people who do not keep their word? The entire campaign was for a City Lite that would provide limited services at minimal cost. This is not what we have today. We were told they would run the city on a budget close to 700k now its 2milllion, we were told that they would not need our tax revenues and would run the city on fees collected again not what we have today, we were told that the city would not incur debt and yet they voted to purchase a piece of property that will be at least more than the 7.4 million it sold for on Feb 4th, we were told that the Charter could not be amended without referendum and yet they are doing it by ordinance...you may have blind trust but I do not. If this truly is the right move for the city why not tell the citizens? Why pick a holiday at 5 to have the vote? They said it was because all Council members would not be at Tues meeting and yet they were all there. You may call that statesmanlike but I do not. It is not unreasonable to expect our representatives to be honest and transparent in their decisions. Trust is earned and the Mayor and Council have yet to earn mine.
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew February 21, 2013 at 03:42 AM
Advice to read the charter while it is valid, is a bit like "talk to the hand" it grates. Verbal promises have been re-characterized and somehow cutting 2 readings down to one to improve flow seems more like a way to accelerate it than collect resident input. So how has the city done with regard to reducing sanitation service expense, since that category was one of the cornerstones of the "city-lite" founding model - still working under the county program?
David B. Manley February 21, 2013 at 05:51 AM
First, with a slight change of boundaries the proposed apartments could feed into Berkeley Lake Elementary or Peachtree Elementary, or both, instead of Simpson. Regardless, the apartments would have impacted Pinckneyville Middle and Norcross High. These considered, and considering that council members without a stake in Simpson Elementary voted in favor of the purchase (the vote was unanimous), an objection based on the city just trying to protect Simpson is apparently misplaced. Second, you can ask your members of the city council for their positions as to apartments and their location. Mine are reasonably responsive considering they have duties as our representatives in addition the same sort of responsibilities as my other neighbors. If I were to hazard an educated guess, I believe the mayor and council would react similarly no matter the location of 250 proposed apartments. Again, I believe the view that the city is acting only due to the proposed apartments' location seems unsupported. Also, if you see any code problems in our multifamily complexes, the city has a Code Enforcement Officer, Walter Osorio, who can be reached at 678-691-1209.
David B. Manley February 21, 2013 at 07:35 AM
I believe you are intentionally or unintentionally steering us away from the subject of the article, Mim. And it is easy to create straw-men or women, and make blanket statements and accusations about them, because they are not here to defend themselves. I did not hear the same things you did, in my way of thinking it is not productive to conduct a "he said, she said" trial in print without the subjects of your animosity responding, and, even in the heat of a debate, accusing those who I take to be the mayor and the council of "their dishonesty" seems to me to be completely uncalled for, as well unfair. The mayor and city council are not professional politicians, they are our neighbors, and they are serving with the intent to make Peachtree Corners better, now with the advise of an experienced city manager, planning and zoning director, city attorney, and other professionals. The mayor and council are operating within the charter, which is the sole item on which we voted. Anticipating actions for a city that is unique in Georgia and elsewhere is different from meeting the realities and changing environment that occur after the city begins running. The reason there is a mayor and council is to meet changing situations within the charter framework.
David B. Manley February 21, 2013 at 07:45 AM
The city may operate with only ancillary fees in the future, but presently the city is operating on less than the authorized 1mil. that was approved in the charter. The UGA Institute of Government study anticipated that the city would purchase a city hall, but the council decided renting was more economical. When the city was being formed Roberts wasn't selling the property across from The Forum. The mayor and council apparently exhausted every avenue when the sale was exposed and resorted to a purchase through a bond issuance (rather than direct payments through taxes) only after all alternatives failed, and in consideration of the primary reason for the city - planning. If you don't wish to speak with your representatives directly, I suggest you continue to take your position up in a civil manner during one of the public meetings. In the meantime, I believe it fairer to hear from both sides rather than conducting a one-sided public bombast here.
Bob February 21, 2013 at 12:46 PM
David, I believe that the frustration many of us are feeling regarding this land purchase is because the arguments that we were making against cityhood (increased taxes, expanding government, closed door dealings, etc) were refuted as being unfounded. I know that now-Councilman Wright and I went back and forth numerous times regarding the fact that franchise fees alone were not going to pay for this city, and here we are currently paying taxes for the city. And I know that you and I butted heads regarding the governance of this city, and so far to this day I have yet to see any campaign promises or cityhood promises upheld to the standard that a reasonable person would expect from his or her neighbors. So like it or not, our mayor and council are politicians, and as such they were elected or chosen based on promises that they made to get elected to their position. They are now part of the "ruling class", the people who are charged with making decisions about how our corner of Gwinnett will be developed and governed. They ran on no taxes, open and honest governance, and a willingness to listen to the people. So far, I think that there are those among us that would agree that they have not done any of the three. If I have a problem with my neighbor, he listens to me and responds, at this point I am not certain that the city has listened to some of us and responded in kind.
Mim Harris February 21, 2013 at 01:20 PM
David, I spoke to the Mayor and Council at Tues meeting and did express the same things I have stated in this comment thread. I do not believe they have kept to the City Lite model and the land purchase is just one of the many resaons I feel that way. Not the Mayor or any of the Council members had anything to say to me after the meeting. They could have defended themselves or even addressed me directly but they choose not too. I have contacted City Hall and requested answers to questions about the property and the Mayor has yet to respond. Diana Wheeler did and for that I am appreciative. You see them as being good stewards and I do not so we will have to agree to disagree on this point. You are correct and we did vote on the Charter and that is why I voted No. The Charter has too many opportunities for them to creat a full City and not the City Lite that Mike Mason and Tom Rice spoke about at the town hall meetings prior to the vote. I have told them this and if they wish to convince me otherwise they are welcome to address me. They may not have been professional politicians at the start but in my view they seem to have come up to speed very fast. Just because we are residents of the same City does not mean we hold the same values or political beliefs. As far as hearing from both sides...the Mayor and council have access to the Patch just as you and I do and they are welcome to address any of these comments.
Brian February 21, 2013 at 02:42 PM
Mim and Bob. Agree completely. Don't let David tell you you can't express your opinions. Everything you discuss is directly relevant to the article and is stated polite way. No name calling or distortions. For those of us that voted against the city I would say the things that are happening are exactly what we feared. For some that voted Yes, this is exactly what they wanted.
Judy Putnam (Editor) February 21, 2013 at 02:48 PM
R. I believe it will be later in the year before the city will be able to take over solid waste pick up due to a current contract the county had negotiated prior to PC becoming a city.
Bob Martell February 21, 2013 at 04:23 PM
Mr. Manley, as I recall you are a retired attorney...I see you have been opining on some of the provisions of the charter. If you are still following this thread, I wonder if you'd like to venture an opinion on a different provision? On Tuesday the council approved a resolution asking state Rep. Tom Rice to introduce legislation to change the city charter to "grant the City the ability to enter into agreements with other governmental parties...to provide for any powers not currently bestowed upon the City." The council believes this allows the city to contract with Gwinnett County for police and fire services, which it certainly does. Others believe that the use of the word 'any' is unneccesarily broad and allows the city to contract for any number of services in addition to fire and police. Care to venture a legal opinion on the meaning of 'any'?
David B. Manley February 21, 2013 at 09:50 PM
I was not privy to all the various discussions that occurred prior to the vote to have a city. When I voted it was on the basis of the charter because that was what was on the ballot and because aspirations, and heartfelt and sincere opinions, often change once the reality of running a unique city and new situations come into play. While the council may be able to run the city in the future on franchise and other fees alone, the city is operating under present circumstances under the 1mil authorized. While some may object to closed executive council sessions, I know that some city business discussions cannot be public because of legal constraints the mayor and council are under that are not of their choosing. Some may feel the council is not responsive to comments during called business meetings, however the public comments section of business meetings is for just that - public comments - and is not procedurally set up for debates between the mayor and six council members and each member of the public that wishes to speak. Some may feel our representatives are not responsive, but I have not found this to be the case.
David B. Manley February 21, 2013 at 09:50 PM
Some feel the mayor or a member of council should approach them, while I have no hesitancy to confront my representative if I feel ignored. Some vilify our representatives while I believe they are acting in good faith with the good of Peachtree Corners as their motivation including fulfilling the primary duty of thoughtful planning for our community. Some feel our representatives should engage in debate here in Patch, but these pages are not set up for in-depth debate and there are future open meetings planned and monthly "coffee with council" that better serve. I do not wish to dissuade anyone from expressing an opinion here, but there are limitations to this forum, the opinions expressed will likely not change through this thread, and it appears we are at the point that we should agree to agreeably disagree. http://peachtreecorners.patch.com/users/david-manley
David B. Manley February 21, 2013 at 10:19 PM
Sorry if I disappoint, Bob, but "any" is not a legal term and usually has its dictionary meaning; however, I have not read the amendment and no words should be viewed out of context. From what you provide it appears to me that the reasoning is to avoid going back through the cumbersome process of passing legislation through the state legislature every time a government entity, like Gwinnett County, for legal purposes needs an agreement to provide services that we already pay for, in this case fire and police, but it could be other services we already have and already pay for like water and sewer, street lights, etc. If this is important to you you may wish to have an attorney with city and legislative backgrounds review the amendment. http://peachtreecorners.patch.com/users/david-manley
Bob Martell February 22, 2013 at 02:09 AM
No disappointment (or elation) David...I was rather inclined towards the dictionary meaning myself...some on the council seemed to take a more Clintonian approach- it depends on what your definition of 'any' is... I see your point about 'going back', however that does raise the question of why the city would need to contract with the county to provide additional services when the residents are already paying taxes to the county for those services... Thanks for your time and perspective...
R T February 25, 2013 at 08:12 PM
Dear Friends, Remember, I told you from the beginning of this abomination that the city's first budget would be the smallest in its history. Hang on!! For those of you who thought we needed more government. This is what you get!! No, this purchase in and of itself won't increase the budget. My question is, how many more of those little loopholes will pop up every time the city decides its not taking enough of your money? Suckers!!!
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew February 25, 2013 at 10:46 PM
By state law, the minute you successfully incorporated as a city – your strongly encouraged (Strong armed?) participation in the county plan was and is nullified… It may time to strongly encourage your new elected representation to start saving you money… somewhere…
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew February 25, 2013 at 10:53 PM
Unlike the meaning of “IS”, the word “any” as deployed above is crystal clear. “any” means entities in existence now (or to be defined after the effective date of change) for any government service.
David B. Manley February 26, 2013 at 01:43 AM
The city charter that was passed provides for a 1mill property tax, and our property tax is capped at that 1mill rate by the charter. The city is not collecting the 1mill authorized – the tax rate passed by the council, and still is, 00.85 mill. The rate may well go down, but the cap is 1mill regardless. On the other hand, the total of the millage rates collected through Gwinnett County is 33.77 and there is no cap. If you enjoy the "what if" game, playing with Gwinnett County is more entertaining.
Randal Tart March 05, 2013 at 05:33 PM
Given that the Council has decided, and set a precedent, to purchase land with a possible use that they may not welcome, is the next property on the acquisition list the Love Shack parcel?

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