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Do You Want the City to Buy the Roberts Property Across from The Forum?

The mayor and council want your input on whether or not to buy the Roberts property in order to prevent apartments from being built.

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:

mmason@peachtreecornersga.org

psadd@peachtreecornersga.org

jlowe@peachtreecornersga.org

awright@peachtreecornersga.org

jaulbach@peachtreecornersga.org

lchristopher@peachtreecornersga.org

wgratwick@peachtreecornersga.org

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

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Judy Putnam February 02, 2013 at 01:03 PM
Debating is always helpful, it provides insight to the various sides and opinions. However, you may want to reach out to your city council representative to ask for a clear interpretation of the charter on this issue. And a reminder, for those of you who chose not to use your name: Before you push that "submit" button, ask yourself if you would be willing to post the comment if your name was attached to your words.
Jimmy February 02, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Thank you for helping to make my point. "Except" means exactly what you said, and exactly what I alluded to...buying property for speculative purposes does not fall under one of the three services the city is permitted to provide. So if they want to expand and offer additional services which would permit speculative real estate deals, then they have to pass an ordinance AND hold a referendum. Neither of which has been done. Nor have I seen or heard any announcements in that regard.
Robin Montri February 04, 2013 at 01:47 PM
Ditto what Rico said. I would LOVE to see a Suwanee town style space here- a mix of greenspace, light retail (just like Suwanee) and high end residential (above the shops). It would give people a reason to walk down to the area with their families, alone, with their dogs. And yes, if it lands on me as an individual tax payer in Peachtree Corners to somehow pay for this, then I'm all in. From what I understand though from the other comments (since I am no financial expert) the city could buy the property and potentially sell at a profit, correct? It's a risk, I get it. However, I see it as a risk worth taking.
Ali Stinson February 04, 2013 at 04:06 PM
According to the city charter, Peachtree Corners is legally allowed to provide three services. Land speculation and profiteering is not enumerated among them. Though the very idea of emulating anything the city of Atlanta does should be abhorrent to all in most every respect, folks on this board have held up their Sears land deal as some sort of model. Please keep in mind that they housed a police station and parts of city hall in that building for more than a decade before selling it to a developer. That many of the city's other land deals - particularly in and around the beltline - have so far shown to be a tax payer quagmire. Peachtree Corners should stick to its charter and leave the back room land dealings alone.
Mark 7 February 18, 2013 at 06:19 PM
Would you be willing to personally buy the property from the current owner and have it remain "green space"? I doubt it. I'm sure the current owner envisioned selling the property at some point and that goal is absolutely proper and wise. That anyone would seek to somehow infringe upon his right as a property owner to sell his property within the law kinda makes me throw up in my mouth. Where are those that stand for property rights?

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