Monday, February 18, 2013

Should Peachtree Corners Buy the Land Across from the Forum

Originally published in the Peachtree Corners Patch - January 30, 2012

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

Written by Bob Martell - PCBC