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PTC planners want it in writing before vote

UPDATED print version (Tuesday, May 25, 2010) — With loose ends left to be examined, the Peachtree City Planning Commission Monday night postponed a vote on a rezoning proposal to build 100 senior apartments off Newgate Road in Kedron Village.

The proposal has been recommended for approval by Peachtree City interim Community Development Director David Rast, but commissioners wanted to see their concerns addressed in a proposed development agreement that has yet to be put in writing.

Developer NorSouth has said the property, adjacent to a car wash and a Holiday Inn, would be limited to persons ages 62 and up. That would be enforced by covenants on the property as well as a development agreement, NorSouth officials said.

Concerns about NorSouth’s commitment cropped up Monday night after company representatives said it previously sold all the senior apartment properties it has developed.

NorSouth Vice President Brendan Barr said the company is managing one of those properties, and the reason it divested the other senior apartments was as part of a deal to get out of the normal apartment market. Barr said the company’s sole focus now is on age-restricted apartments for seniors.

Planning Commissioner Joe Frazar said he wanted to see a commitment from NorSouth that it will be involved for the long haul, or the city should have a chance to refuse any sale or management change.

Commissioner Larry Sussberg shared Frazar’s concern.

“The concern I have about the development agreement is making sure on a couple of points that NorSouth and any future owner are held accountable that prevents another Harmony Village whether through receivership or sale,” Sussberg said.

While the tax credits that enable the apartment complex to be more affordable expire in 15 years, the typical process at that point would be to refinance the property to make improvements, Barr noted. The age restriction on the facility would remain in place, he added.

In a detailed memo to the commission, Rast laid out a number of reasons the development should be approved, including that it meshes with the city’s land use plan.

The 5.62 acre parcel is designated for multifamily use, but as currently zoned apartments are not an option. Instead, the parcel is zoned for 21 luxury senior townhomes that never materialized. The property’s land use designation is multi-family.

Since the site’s zoning already is multifamily, the moratorium on multifamily zoning requests is bypassed and does not apply, according to Rast’s memo.

Along with Rast’s recommendation are 14 conditions for the rezoning, including a requirement for NorSouth and all future property owners to follow federal age restriction and verification policies, which include the use of a photo ID listing each residents’ date of birth.

The development will be surrounded on Newgate Road by an existing hotel, car wash, convenience store and gas station, according to Rast’s memo. Those working and living at the apartments would also have convenient access to office, retail and restaurant options in the area including the immediately adjacent Kedron Village shopping center.

Rast also noted in his memo that the city’s over-65 population is projected to increase by 95 percent between 2005 and 2030.

Several City Council members have expressed hesitation over the NorSouth senior apartment project in part due to concerns the business plan might fail, leaving the apartments open to residents of all ages with government-subsidized rents.

The apartments are targeting seniors who earn no more than about $30,000 a year, and some have questioned what would happen if the company is unable to fill the complex.

The income limit is set due to a requirement of tax credits allowed for the project that are granted on the construction end to keep rents affordable. Anyone earning more than the income limit can rent one of the apartments at full market price, NorSouth officials have said.

NorSouth representatives have said they have never had a problem finding tenants for its similar properties. The company also has provided a tour of its Atlanta area developments for council members, planning commission members, city staff and the public.



Robert W. Morgan's picture

There is a moratorium in effect for all multi-family - the purpose of which is to prevent staff from spending precious time on proposals from developers. There is a way for city council to lift the moratorium on a specific piece of land if it feels there is a need to further explore a multi-family proposal. To my knowledge that has not been done. Please correct me if I am wrong.

So, if the moratorium has not been lifted, what in the world is David Rast doing spending his time on this thing? Recommending it for approval is insane, but that's a different issue. Do we have different rules for different property owners now? Just because PCDC wants to sell a worthless piece of townhome land to these apartment developers, do we give them a special exemption from the moratorium?

First the developer-sponsored "tour" of the properties they don't own anymore and now this? I'm getting real uncomfortable with this. What's going on Mr. Haddix? Do we have some favortism and bending of the rules?

Live free or die!

Mike King's picture

It is becoming more and more obvious that our elected Council and appointed commissions have little or no input into the agendas for upcoming meetings. This could be due to their apathy, but I would suspect it is due the fact that they are so busy chasing their respective tails allowing 'staff' to set priorities for them.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

That is not the way it should be; nor it is the way it used to be.
Not surprising that staff is trying to flex it's muscles by tying things out on a rookie mayor and council, but someone needs to reign them in and set some direction.

I am still mystified why they are not paying attention to the moratorium. This thing has to be rezoned fom 21 to 110 units. The moratorium certainly applies to a multi-family rezoning of that magnitude. What possible excuse can there be for ignoring it?

This is starting to look like the Brown regime ignoring the city attorney's advice - both city attorneys, the one he inherited and fired and his replacement. We don't need to revisit those dark days.

Live free or die!

you are again wrong with your facts...its not 110 units.
attend the meetings, listen and learn...

if city agrees to sell the cul-de-sac to Norsouth, too.

Talk about greed by this developer. It's right there, written on the plans on file on the city web site. They would put many more 1 bedrm. units in, not 2 bdrm. Closet sized, needing more parking and creating more traffic. More money for developer, more headaches for city and residents nearby.

And who at city is helping them negotiate the sale of the cul de sac to them?

Read it and weep.

"The property is currently zoned to allow townhomes, which is included in the definition of multifamily within the city's zoning ordinance. The city moratorium on multi-family housing states the moratorium shall not apply to property already zoned for use as multi-family. As the property is already zoned for multi-family, the moratorium does not apply to this tract of land."
A quote from David Rast in the agenda packet last night.

So, the Mayor misspoke a few months ago, when he made the comment that this will not got through, mainly due to the moratorium in effect on multi-family housing. However, there are other issues that are of big concern to many, including Planning Comm., that are being considered, to easily allow a no vote by planning comm. and council.

Mike King's picture

You are correct in that the property is zoned for townhomes, but an indication from a 'staffer' or elected official that no deviation would be considered at this time would kill it. The exact same thing applied when McMurrain obtained the Highway 54 property containing two streets, these guys know who is in charge and usually get what they want. Do you not recognize the similarities?

This administration, in spite of the successes, is beginning to resemble that of Steve Brown. Case in point, we are hearing a lot more rhetoric than we see in results.

I'm no lawyer, but multifamily not only covers townhomes, but also apartments, am I not correct? So, city is in a position now that they cannot separate the two-they both fall under multifamily. Little did the past council, who approved the rezone from commercial to LUR-13 think that this would escalate from 12 townhomes to 100+ apartments. So, here we are. The only thing left to do is deny the zoning from LUR-13 to GR. Council needs to do that.

IS everyone aware we have a 61 room hotel (Hampton Inn) across from Pike's nursery, that is in foreclosure??? This property ONLY is 3 years old! It is going to be auctioned in a few weeks on the courthouse steps. This is absurd. It's the ownership that has caused this...they got easy loan money from a cheesy bank just three years ago, built this, and the property owner (there is only one) has taken what little profit there was and ran with it. And since when has any hotel chain had a model showing that any 61 room property can make a profit, considering the percentage the franchise fees alone take? You know what happens to foreclosed hotels? New owners come in drooling. They lowball the price, then set out to convince the city that they cannot make a go of it as a hotel. But, they CAN make a go of it as a rooming house, or short stay apt. housing (Tara Blvd., anyone?).

To avoid the building staying closed up and empty, (a whole 'nother blight) the franchise sign comes down, and it becomes the Do Drop Inn or the No Tell Motel for afternoon delight traffic. And druggies and pimps, you name it.
Anything less than a hundred rooms should NEVER be built, even in the best of economies. But, I digress.

The rezone done for the LUR-13 is just another shortsighted decision by a previous council. Which, from what I have seen, will be corrected by this planning comm. and council in their decision to deny. If not, then I will begrudgingly agree that what is said versus actions are moving away from what this council was voted in on. But, I don't think that will happen in this case.

Me thinks you are stretching things in your scenario..time will tell. The Hotel Property, that is.

The other is already zoned multi family, let them work within the current parameters of the zoning or tell them to POUND SAND. That's my opinion on that site.

The property has been zoned multi family for some time. Are you saying someone shouldn't be able to bring something before Council and ask for amendments? What else is our Council for?

I'm for them building on the property that fits into the current zoning, not a bigger structure.

Mike King's picture

It's last rezoning was done to facilitate the building of 21 townhomes; prior, it was zoned single family. Nothing is confusing except as to why our city 'staff' continues to tie up Council time in order to placate the developer du jour. What is being proposed is quite a bit more than 21 units. I must say that I have not reviewed the new proposal, but I'd make a wager that it's quite larger than that approved by a previous council.
You do realize that Council changes zoning only after a site plan is rendered?

You and I can critique and hold our elected representatives accountable (earlier post), but neither of us have a say in what our city staff does or does not do. They are quite insulated from those who are paying their bloated (opinion) salaries.

very familiar with the workings of our fair City. Frankly, I'm glad we are run the way we are.

I do not know the rules for working around the making amendments that ask for more of what something is already zoned for. The old "foot in the door trick".

And yes, it's quite bigger than 21 units...I'm certainly not for that...

I always enjoy the discourse with you.

Don Haddix's picture

The property is already zoned LUR for multi-family. They want it rezoned to GR to allow the larger structure. But it already allows multi-family by the actions of a past Council, not us.

With that said David Rast is expressing his, not Council opinion. That is the way it works. Staff forms an opinion that is given to the Planning Commission who forms an opinion that is conveyed along with the Staff opinion to Council. Council is not bound by either opinion.

As I said in the Workshop Council has no enthusiasm for this proposal. But as I also said they have a legal right to go through the full process up to and including a Council vote. That is their right by law, which they are exercising.

Council does not directly control David Rast, the City Manager does.

It is complicated getting into the legal relationships of Mayor, Council and Staff but, in as a general statement the division of powers are:
Council sets policy, goals, establishes ordinances etc.

The Mayor has some authorities and duties in addition that of Council.

The City Manger is responsible for carrying out what the Mayor and Council decides and bringing recommendations to the Mayor and Council when new grounds and issues are being entered into. Staff, excluding the City Attorney, report to the City Manager who, in turn, reports to us.

The Mayor is the Chief Executive and City Supervisor, which means the City Manager reports directly to the Mayor and advises Council about what is going on in the City. The Mayor has the duty to make sure what Council decides is carried out. If not, he brings it to all of Council.

Neither the Mayor or Council can go directly to any employee or Staff and tell them what to do unless that is a direct responsibility of the Mayor or a Council Member.

So, while all goes through the City Manager, in general, the Mayor or a Council Member can ask any Staff or any employee any question they wish without going through the City Manager as long as they do not consume enough time to interfere with getting the job done or try to tell them exactly what to do. So that area gets complex and gray at times.

The City Manager does have a lot of authority that does not require Mayor or Council direct input but he is supposed to be doing all within Council purposes and directives.

Before asked, what is our authority to ensure Staff is in line with Council? For the City Manager it is his annual pay raise, if being given to anyone, and contract being renewed or not since the position is an at-will position. For other Staff we control hiring and firing through the City Manager.

It does not take a genius to see this relationship gets complicated and Staff and Council thinking do not always line up one for one. So things do conflict at times.

Getting back to this issue what David Rast or anyone else on Staff says does never necessarily reflects what the Mayor or Council is thinking.

Sometimes that is a good thing because each can bring something to the other to change minds. I don't see it here, though.

It isn't a perfect system but unless we change the City Charter it is what we have. We are neither a Weak Mayor or Strong Mayor system. We are a Council/Manager system with the roll of Mayor being a hybrid of Weak and Strong Mayor.

I hope that clears up some of the confusion that keeps coming up on issues like this. It is confusing, no argument there.

<cite><strong>Don Haddix
Peachtree City Mayor</strong></cite>

Mike King's picture

...If you deny the City Manager his annual raise, he simply will not play nice. It wasn't that long ago that you said these were not to happen. Are you hiding something Mr Mayor?

Our town has matured to the point of hiring a City Manager who serves more as a chief of staff than a chief operating officer. He would still answer to the Mayor and Council who would have a more direct supervisory role on the city workforce. Currently, it seems if the Mayor and Council need to ask permission to do anything.

Any chance of a change being made, or will Bernie have to be consulted?

Don Haddix's picture

Pay raise is a non issue for now. None given to Staff or Employees for FY 2010 and none will be given in 2011.

The City Charter, written in 1959, does need updated to fit today. I know of no one with extensive involvement or knowledgable who disagrees. We agree on the Chief of Staff comment. We agree the Mayor needs more direct rights of intervention with the City Manager but not direct control. We agree Council Members needs some enhanced authority in some areas and more defined roles, including supervision of the City Manager.

But that requires the citizens wanting to rewrite it. It means making the Mayor a full time job because the Charter was written for a city of a few hundred and not going almost 37,000 or more. It is really unrealistic to keep calling a job that takes up over 40 hours a week just fulfilling normal duties, nothing added, part time. I think we should also have the Mayor Pro Tem elected and full time since there is enough work for more than Mayor to do alone every week.

Problem is if we or I were to formally propose it we would be accused of a power grab, trying to turn the jobs into careers, etc. It is going to take the citizens to recognize it and call for it to happen.

Realistically unless done immediately it would not benefit me. With term limits I would probably be out of office or a lame duck by the time real change occurred.

I cannot answer the question of do the citizens want this to happen? Unless they do we have what we have.

On other issues, Mike, we need to sit down some time and iron out some misunderstandings and try to get together on how PTC can move forward. We often are not disagreeing on what, but how.

<cite><strong>Don Haddix
Peachtree City Mayor</strong></cite>

Mike King's picture

Redrafting the city's charter can be done by you forming a 'group' of citizens to do so. Allow Council to choose the those involved, and ultimately make final approval after citizen input. I'll be your first volunteer. Let's face it, if it has been unchanged in a half century, we're way over due!

You are correct in that the position you hold needs much more authority for it is you we hold responsible, not some staffer who will hide behind beauraucratic BS or some pansy-assed mayor when his true colors show(The Fred back in 2006). We elect a Mayor and Council to act on our behalf and we will hold them responsible. As it currently stands, your City Manager would still be under contract if he does something much more heinous than spill wine on an officer's shoes while explaining who he is.

What is it that you have to lose? Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way!

Don Haddix's picture

Let me chew on that one for awhile and do some talking.

If I start something like that I need Council backing and must ensure we proceed in a fully legal manner. Public support is important as well.

One requirement is that it does not turn into a circus if initiated. This is too serious an issue to be a political football either.

I will get back to you, but not during June or even into July. We will be buried in Budget Hearings and digging through numbers.

Might be another Town Hall topic down the road.

<cite><strong>Don Haddix
Peachtree City Mayor</strong></cite>

Well, let me be the first to accuse the Mayor of a power grab. That is just what we need - an unqualified person voted into office by less than 8% of the population to run the city. At least if we run with a city manager, we should have, if council is at least competent at hiring a reasonably qualified person,someone with a skill set for municipal management. The system is set up where the City Manager reports in an at-will position to COUNCIL as noted in the Charter. If the City Manager fails to perform to their satisfaction, he can be terminated. Frankly, what more power does a Council require to reign in a manager. The city population has changed little in the past 4 - 6 years, and yet we managed just fine with a part time mayor and council. What magically delicious thing changed that the current Mayor can not perform to this expectation?

Mike King's picture

Your response would have many believe that you or someone close is a member of city staff or employee. If that be the case, you are content that the Mayor nor Council with few exceptions are empowered to make decisions on hiring or firing. Further you would be content that all city employees are buffered by 'red tape' from any elected official for misconduct.

You are correct in that little has changed in the city population over the last 4-6 years, but are you aware of a thirty percent increase of personnel within the police department alone? Should it increase by the same rate it will be larger than the Atlanta Police Department in as little as twenty years. Do you really believe we can afford this? Just where would you draw the line? Certainly, you are not so naive as to believe our city employees will act in the citizens interest over that of their own.

I prefer to elect someone, pay them accordingly, and hold their feet to the fire when they err.

We both know opinions are plentiful.

Interestng conclusion based upon my comment that I would prefer a city manager style of government because I prefer to have someone with credentials/experience to operate the city. Just for the record though, while I believe that Public Safety is a critical component of our quality of life in PTC, I have been vocal in my belief that we did not/should not add more public safety, particularly in light of the economic downturn (we added six firemen and I believe two police positions during that period). If I am correct , our Mayor was part of Council during at least part of this growth phase (always 5-0 vote to expand)and I believe he has stated he still believes more is necessary. The only person on Council that has publicly stated enough seems to be Imker.

I like the way PTC is governed now.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

My God Don.
Shut David down by telling him, (and Bernie if you believe he is actually in the chain of command) to rid themselves of this evil proposal. David may be getting older and wants to move into Peachtree Station II himself or has been promised a year of free rent, but I doubt it.

Get a handle on your employees, dude. Brown was a better leader than you so far because even though he was 100% wrong on most issues, he at least took devisive action and got rid of people who did not support him.

Live free or die!

moritorium does not apply to this property. That was covered at the meeting!

Get yourself under control...The Mayor explained it and frankly you do not deserve an answer...Where do you come off accusing the mayor and council of breaking the law...get a your research, attending a meeting or 2 instead of shooting your mouth off on this blog.....
You are all over this blog attacking people....Haddix, Brown...
Meanwhile, if you attended the meeting the other night you would find that proposal has merit....the planner and planning commission has a job to do which is to put together the best proposal for coucil to review...the very best program that covers all the needs and concerns. Haddix's right!

It is so obvious this is not going to happen. It was decided before it became an issue, I thought it and the more I read, I know it.

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