Both sides say state forces ‘adversarial’ relationship
Fayette County and Peachtree City are at odds over an annexation request, and both sides say state rules are forcing them to fight. At their August 23 meeting, citing a “material increase in burden upon the county,” specifically related to density of development, traffic, stormwater management, and significant loss of Fire/EMS tax dollars, the County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to object to Peachtree City’s annexation of 30 properties totaling 105.45 acres on State Route 54.
The annexation request ties into years of work. City Manager Jon Rorie said he has been working on identifying Peachtree City’s growth boundaries on the 54 East corridor since September 2014. The property would be rezoned to General Commercial and Limited-Use Residential, with the request including a proposed 94 single-family lots on 48.81 acres, a density of 1.93 units per acre at a 118 percent increase in density on what the county would allow.
Because of the state’s annexation procedures and tight timeline, Rorie recommended that the commissioners take county staff’s recommendation and oppose, thus setting the ball rolling on the process of arbitration.
“My position is I’m done. It’s time to fish or cut bait,” he said. “We’re going to make this decision, we’re going to move this process forward, we’re going to debate the issue, and we’re going to vet the development.”
The City Council of Peachtree City has not yet heard the annexation request in detail, despite a letter from the county to the city that indicated otherwise. Council is not scheduled to hear the request until their September 20 meeting.
“Any objections Fayette County may have are, at best, premature,” Rorie said.
“To this day, the Peachtree City Council has not authorized moving forward on the annexation, period,” he said. “All they have said is we have officially (acknowledged) the application as being complete so now we can consider it.”
Rorie noted that the 94 homes number could very well change once his staff has more time to analyze it and its impact on infrastructure and the cart path system. He said he would not not allow a density that does not make sense for the city.
“The last thing I have interest in doing is creating a 54 West on the east side,” he said. “Wouldn’t that be stupid?”
Rorie also questioned the county’s lost revenue claims, saying that property values increase when annexed into PTC, meaning higher tax revenues for the county, and the county would no longer be responsible for service delivery for Fire-EMS, easing a financial burden.
County Administrator Steve Rapson noted that the developer could have kept the process moving without an objection from the county.
“There was a road map for no objection,” he said. “That was the decision that your developer made, not Jon or me, so that was out there.”
Fayette was left feeling that objection was their only option to fend off the doubled density.
“It is an adversarial position we’re put in because of the state,” he said. “The deck is stacked against counties in the state of Georgia when it comes to annexation, and the only hooks that we have are primarily material burdens and bona fide land objections.”
With the formal objection letter coming from the Board of Commissioners, Rorie will have his legal department review it. If they find the county’s objections are valid, they will go before an arbitration panel in mid-September to settle their differences.
Commissioner Charles Oddo shared in the frustration.
“Annexation seems to be a backwards process,” he said.
Rorie again emphasized that the opposition is derived from following the proper procedure.
“At the end of the day, it’s not us versus them.”