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Mayor Haddix: Street signs, walking signs and new business

Don Haddix's picture

With everything going on I will be writing more columns to try to keep all the issues up to date.

On the street sign article, that illustrates why so many taxpayers get frustrated at what appears to be Peachtree City government wasting a lot of money.

First, the federal government mandated signs be 9 feet tall instead of 6 feet. Then they changed the mandate on letter size and type. Then the reflective properties of the coating. All of that costs the city money but none is funded by those putting the mandates on us. It really adds nothing to Peachtree City but another bill.

Moving on to the next sign issue, walking signs, there is a recognition something must be done. We all agree if an accommodation for non-profits can be made, it should. We all agree something must be done about for-profit signs and they have to be removed from the right of ways. How to do that is unclear to some on Council.

I support a complete ban because anything less is a nightmare to enforce and it treats all businesses equally. But some are still debating.

We do not allow animated or flashing signs. Portable signs are not allowed to be parked on the right of way. With that said, can you think of anything more portable or animated than a person walking around waving a sign? Or, for that matter, more out of step with our sign ordinances in general? I cannot.

The one statement that shocked me a bit was we didn’t need to rush to an action that could hurt businesses. We have been discussing this since 2009. The results have always been the same, meaning a desire to allow non-profits while removing for-profit walking signs from the highways and roads. Business walking signs should be confined to the store locations or eliminated completely. Plus the realization walking signs are far from the only means of promotion and advertising out there.

Recently a new realization hit me as well. I call it “Rent a Walking Space.” That means if walking signs were allowed at other than the store those with prime locations, or even where the store is located, might charge rent. It has happened elsewhere so it is not a theory.

A Peachtree City resident also brought up another concern. That being do adjacent businesses want walking signs next door? That most assuredly impacts them as well.

The matter was continued until May 19 to see the results of a question on using walking signs being added to a business survey. It should be mentioned when I asked about a citizen survey as well one was not wanted.

I believe even if we do not do a complete ban on commercial signs now, the day will come where we will, due to the enforcement and other problems that will arise. And arise they will.

As a final note, the issue of political signs was brought up. Well, any given business has year round signs while any given Council office is only every four years. Neither a business nor election sign can be in the right of way. Federal law prohibits disallowing political signs, but they can be regulated on time frames and size, which they are, with a smaller allowed size. Yes, a lot more of them are allowed, but only on private or business property.

As for politicians out there waving signs, really, after two elections I can assure you that you have never seen me out there with a walking sign nor has anyone ever been asked or asked to do so for me.

Next take a look at the “Haddix/Imker disagree on prospect handling” meeting. I guess it would not be a good news day if there were not a conflict on Council reported. Or something else postponed.

A notable point that gives a clearer picture of what happened is that Council members Imker and Fleisch took the position the coordinator was the single point of contact, so I had to immediately send all prospects (businesses, industry, schools, professionals, etc.) to him. Another is Imker said he hoped I had the skill to be able to do that.

Beyond the obvious shot by Imker and the simple fact we just don’t agree on a lot of things, what are the issues here?

The 5-0 vote was to hire the coordinator, so no conflict there. The issues are their demands they will interpret what the vote means and that they can add conditions because they are, after all, in the majority. That is just not a reality here, legal or otherwise. The single point of contact was their assumption, not at all how development works in fact.

Prospects control who they will talk to and the path they wish to take, not the majority. As I said, prospects do not give a hoot what the majority thinks they voted. Yet, the issue and demand was pushed because they wanted it that way.

Like it or not, the mayor of a city is one primary contact among several, not the council majority, or just the coordinator. As well, a mayor has certain duties and powers not held by council members. That is why there is only one mayor, not five. If five, nothing would get done on a day to day basis as it would be all debate and meetings.

Yes, the city manager is a powerful man with a lot of responsibility. Not a doubt in the world of that truth. But the mayor also has a lot of responsibility and power. Contrary to what some wish, the role of mayor in Peachtree City is not just ceremonial.

Obviously I cannot handle the full development process on my own, nor do I want to. After talking with the prospect it is my job to steer them to the next step of the process. Maybe I will still be involved and maybe I won’t. It all depends on many factors.

As with the bowling alley, there were some problems at the beginning I could navigate more effectively than others due to my office. The coordinator was brought in but I was still involved. When the problems were taken care of it went fully into the hands of the coordinator and is moving forward without me. In fact, between the time this column was submitted and printed, it was a Planning Commission agenda item.

Before the coordinator was hired, and after the Development Authority of Peachtree City (DAPC) was de-funded, I had a proposal come to me stating they wanted DAPC to handle it. DAPC wanted to, but could not, because they needed funding. The majority said take it to the Fayette County Development Authority, no funding for DAPC. The prospect said they did not want to do that. So their mandate versus the prospect’s requirement ended up with the client walking away.

Do not assume everyone would want to go through the coordinator, especially if they know a coordinator has less power and authority than is needed to make their proposal successful.

That is not a slight to Joey Grisham. It is simply a recognition he could do more as the DAPC director than as the coordinator. He needs the best tools and widest scope of operation possible. Anyone doubting that should go read the state development authority law. A copy can be found at http://donhaddix.com/showthread.php?p=588#post588.

As I said, economic development is a spider web of many avenues. There is no one singular line of flow. It is not a 1, 2, 3 process in every case. With that the city manager, one council member and coordinator agreed.

So yes, I understand the process, realities, laws and have the skill to pass a project along appropriately.

Now, some will try to say I am attacking others on council. I would say it is setting the record straight and defending against attacks on my person and my office.

It makes it harder on others on council when assumptions, declarations, accusations and demands are made that are invalid. It is frustrating that rather than trying to work with my office some are more interested in taking control of it.

A brief note here is there seems to be among some a misunderstanding of the roles of various positions within the Peachtree City government. To help clear that up, if interested, please read the city charter. To make it easier for most to find I have posted a copy at http://donhaddix.com/showthread.php?p=587#post587 (Or, just go to donhaddix.com and open the Peachtree City General Forum and look for the material).

It is an election year, so obviously the issues will be heating up all year. Facts and fictions will be everywhere,and are already being seen. We need good candidates and educated voters.

For me the number one mandate of a good candidate is saying what you mean in the election and doing what you say if elected. So feel free to seek information and advice from knowledgeable sources, including me, if you so desire.

We are facing a lot of challenges from the economy, the federal government and the state, the TSPLOST being a major example. So we all need to be aware, educated and involved.

Now, more than ever, we need to stand up for what is right. It means we need people at all levels of government willing to fight for us, not just roll over under pressure or for political gain.

[Don Haddix was elected mayor of Peachtree City in 2009. Previously, he had served two years as a council member. His email is dhaddix@peachtree-city.org.]

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Live free or die!

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Growing up at 110 Flamingo Street, I learned math many different ways, both in and out of school. When math was just numbers it was easy to understand.