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PTC says no to retail size caps

A suggestion to put variable maximum sizes on new retail development based on the type of business failed on a 4-1 vote of the Peachtree City Council last week.

The “size caps” would have eliminated the existing special use permit process, which requires a special permission from council for any company wishing to build a new retail store over 32,000 square feet or any retail center with stores totaling a combined 150,000 square feet or more.

In doing so, the city would be changing from a subjective measure that takes into account various data such as traffic studies to a hard and fast “yes or no” for larger retail stores.

There are very few parcels zoned for new commercial development that would allow a new big box store, officials said. Beyond that, the Peachtree City Planning Commission was concerned about losing the flexibility of the special use permit process.

The proposal was not recommended by city staff; instead it was being brought to council to determine if staff should investigate the matter further.

The city’s new Economic Development Coordinator Joey Grisham recommended council not pursue the policy.

Under the existing SUP process, the developer must win council approval, giving council more direct control over the final product as opposed to stores which are under the size limits and may be built on any parcel zoned general commercial as long as it meets setbacks and other various city ordinances.

Councilwoman Kim Learnard said she worried that with the size caps replacing the special use permit process “we would have no flexibility.”

The city has only had one property apply for a special use permit. The special use permit for the Line Creek shopping center, proposed for the southwest corner of Ga. Highway 54, was approved Feb. 2008. It has since expired because no activity has taken place on the site for more than two years.

Mayor Don Haddix was the sole vote in favor of the “size caps” with council members Eric Imker, Vanessa Fleisch, Learnard and Doug Sturbaum voting against.

“All five of us ran for election staunchly opposing big boxes,” Haddix said.

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