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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Letter To The Editor

NOTE: Accessmilton.com respects all citizens opinions and encourages open dialog. Should you or some one else you know have a differing view point that Mr. Jones, we are more than happy to provide equal time.

The following was sent to us by Milton Resident Greg Jones. We have received approval to post it in our Accessmilton.com News section.

Discussion is encouraged.

January 18, 2008

Mr. Chris Lagerbloom, Public Safety Director and Interim City Manager
Mr. Tom Wilson, Director of Community Development
City of Milton
13000 Deerfield Parkway, Building 100
Milton, GA 30004

RE: Request for Termination and Restart of Application Process
and Amendment/Correction to the Planning Commission Agenda for its
January 29, 2008 meeting concerning Special Use Permit Application
U07-011/VC07-017

Dear Mr. Lagerbloom and Mr. Wilson:

I am writing you regarding Special Use Permit Application U07-011/VC07-017, which is being made to allow for construction of a 63,400 square foot, five building private school complex at 13620 Hopewell Road in Milton. The applicant is Monticello Real Estate Investment, LLC. This application, which also contains four variance requests, is scheduled to go before the City’s Planning Commission on Tuesday, January 29, 2008 and City Council on Thursday, February 21, 2008. Staff is recommending “Approval Conditional, Denial – Parts 1-4.”

I wish to present you with several well-founded concerns regarding the Public Involvement and Public Participation processes associated with this application, as discussed in the Planning Commission Agenda documents on the City of Milton website for the January 29, 2008 meeting. The agenda documents reflect that a Community Zoning Information Meeting (“CZIM”) on this application was held on January 2, 2008, with forty-four (44) people in attendance from the community. The applicant also presented its plans to the Design Review Board (“DRB”) on January 8, 2008. The agenda documents (page 14) also indicate that “…The notice of rezoning was sent, to ad jacent property owners, on January 14, 2008.” I received this notice on January 15, 2008.

As an immediately adjacent property owner, residing at 800 Cooper Sandy Cove in The Lake at Cooper Sandy subdivision, immediately to the west of the subject property, I did not receive a notice of the “…Special Use Permit…” application until after the CZIM and DRB meetings were held. In fact I did not become aware of this application until my wife spotted the small two-foot square tan sign posted on a fence just south of the property’s “For Sale” sign, the tan sign blending in with the tan color of the grass behind the fence. While this sign is most likely compliant with the City’s signage requirements for this application and was probably placed there in compliance with any required timeframes, it is extremely inconspicuous, and virtually impossibl e to notice, much less be read, when driving by it at 35 miles per hour on Hopewell Road. Perhaps a fluorescent-colored sign would draw more attention and compel people to investigate further. Neither my wife nor I saw this sign until Saturday, January 12, 2008, as we do not regularly pass by the front of the subject property where the sign is posted. I only received the January 14, 2008 notice after contacting Robyn MacDonald in the City’s Community Development Office on Monday, January 14, 2008. It was then that I learned that the CZIM on the application had originally been set for December 26, 2007, but was postponed to January 2, 2008 due to the Christmas holiday. I would also note tha t this January 14, 2008 notice is for the January 29, 2008 Planning Commission meeting – the Planning Commission meeting at which this application was to be discussed in January was moved back from January 22, 2008. This application was delivered to the City on or about December 6, 2007, meaning that as an immediately adjacent property owner, I was not formally notified of this application by the City or the applicant for 40 days from the date this application was made to the City.

We have contacted all of our nearby neighbors in The Lake at Cooper Sandy, and none of them that I have spoken with received any notice of the CZIM meeting prior to the January 14, 2008 notice. On January 14, 2008, we contacted Community Club Management Vice President Arlan Huntziger, the Home Owner’s Association management firm for The Lake at Cooper Sandy, and she indicated they received no notice of this January 2, 2008 CZIM meeting either.

There has been no meaningful outreach by the applicant to me or any of my neighbors during this process. We first learned of the school’s plans on or about September 26, 2007 from an acquaintance who attends the Alpharetta First Methodist Church in downtown Alpharetta, a church that is affiliated with the Alpharetta Methodist Christian Academy (“AMCA”). My wife contacted Jennifer Duffey at AMCA and obtained contact information for Mr. J.T. Adams from the school. She called Mr. Adams that day and he discussed AMCA’s plans for the subject property with her in a telephone call she initiated. She located a drawing of the proposed school on AMCA’s website, a single two story building, nothing remotely suggesting plans for a 63,400 square foot, five building complex. She was informed by Mr. Adams that the school planned to apply to the City for approval to build the school in late February 2008, and hoped to close on the property by the end of February 2008 and begin construction shortly thereafter. In late October 2007, we received a phone call from Mr. Wynn Brannon, who represented himself to be a real estate agent representing the applicant. I left him a message, but he never returned my call. Those are the only contacts we have had with the applicant.

In addition to these issues, and probably most disturbing to me, is that on page 14 of the 20 page Planning Commission Agenda for the January 29, 2008 meeting, under the PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT section, Public Notice Requirements subsection, it states that “The use permit petition was advertised in the Milton Herald on January 9, 2008…” My wife picked up a copy of the subject issue of this publication from Appen Newspapers, publisher of the Milton Herald, on Thursday, January 17, 2008, and such advertisement or notice is not to be found. I usually read this paper and didn’t recall seeing a notice for this application when I read that edition of the paper last week. On page 27 of this issue of the Milton Herald, ther e are seven City of Milton public notices. I find it difficult to believe the paper would make an error and omit just this one notice, the one that will arguably have the most significant impact on Milton residents. This misrepresentation in the Planning Commission Agenda documents leads me to question what other possible errors or misrepresentation or faulty analyses are contained therein with respect to this application. It also leads me to question why there are so many public disclosure issues on this particular application within the City’s Community Development Office to allow for all of these apparent errors and/or omissions, or whether there is a deliberate attempt being made by someone or some group of people to a v oid any meaningful public discourse on this application. Given that the square footage size of the buildings to be built as part of this proposed project is equal to that of the King’s Ridge Christian School about a mile east of the subject property, meaningful public discourse is in order.

Based on these material and relevant facts, I strongly believe the City and applicant notification processes relating to this application have failed miserably, which I feel is a serious issue given the material impact this proposed school will have on the surrounding predominately residential/equestrian area of Milton. Given the lack of notification about this application to myself and my neighbors, and apparently to the public in general, it is very likely the majority of the 44 individuals who the agenda documents claim attended the January 2, 2008 CZIM were associated in some capacity with the applicant, since the applicant could well have communicated directly and separately from public notice requirements with those sympathetic to and involved with the application, such as AMCA pa rents or school Board members, faculty or staff. Thus the January 29, 2008 Planning Commission Agenda makes it appear there is virtually no opposition to this application, when in fact there is significant opposition based on the serious concerns many of my neighbors and myself have about this proposed development. Unfortunately this opposition has not had a reasonable opportunity to materialize and represent itself in the application process, given the poor management of the Public Involvement and Public Participation processes associated with this application.

Based upon this set of facts, I am respectfully asking the City to terminate the subject application and require the applicant to restart the application process with sufficient advance notice provided to all affected Milton property owners and residents. Further, I ask that the Planning Commission Agenda for the January 29, 2008 meeting be removed from the City’s website (with an adequate explanation why it was removed), or be amended to reflect the aforementioned errors and omissions in the Public Involvement and Public Participation sections of the documents in order for there to be an accurate public record of the facts surrounding this application.

I trust that given the facts I have presented above regarding the Public Involvement and Public Participation issues surrounding this application, the appropriate decision makers within the City of Milton offices will act in accordance with this well-founded and reasonable request, and restart this application to allow for the necessary public hearing and discussion that this complex application requires.

Please contact me with your decision at ‘gregoryb_jones@bellsouth.net’ or at (678) 575-5382. My fellow neighbors and I look forward to better understanding and sharing our valid and numerous concerns regarding this application and its impact on the immediate area around our neighborhood and homes.

Sincerely,


Greg Jones
800 Cooper Sandy Cove

6 comments:

Marc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marc said...

Whether or not a local Milton resident is opposed to a school being built on the subject property, Mr. Jones has valid concerns as to the potential mismanagement of information distribution as applicable to this particular property.

It would seem to me that based on Mr. Jones' compilation of facts as stated on his post, a rescheduling of the process is in order so as to afford fair representation by those neighbors who may not be sympathetic towards a new school on the subject property.

Anonymous said...

Julie Zahner Bailey, protector of rights and best interests of ALL Milton residents: Where are you in all of this?

What about our "Open" and Honest city government here in Milton?

Anonymous said...

How long does it take to sell out? And when you do, do you give any thought to the promises made, the ideals espoused, the image presented, or any of the things that made those who supported you lend that support? Does it matter at all that you were given their trust and faith when you turn the corner and discard them?

How long ago was the Milton election? Three months now? Not so far behind us that it should be lost in the fog of time. Do we all remember what the issues were? The primary issue for any of us was that of development and its annihilation of a community that we all love and call home. We saw before us six candidates, three of whom, we were told, were in the pocket of the evil developers. We were led to believe that these three did not have the interests of the constituency at heart, they sought only to undermine the beauty of Milton, to devour the pristine countryside in the name of financial gain for a select few individuals. We were led to believe that these three men and their supporters were the instruments of evil, that their election would jeopardize the future of our home and lead us further down the path of urbanization. Were these three men to be elected our fate would be that of Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Roswell. Their election (or re-election, as the case may have been) would serve only to unravel all that was meant to be served by the creation of Milton in the first place.

I went to the polls and voted, as many of you did, for three individuals who ran as the protectors of our fair Milton. When I stepped up to that touch screen and voted for Burt Hewitt, Alan Tart, and Julie Zahner-Bailey I was striking a blow for my community. I believed what I heard and read, believed in the endorsement of our mayor, Joe Lockwood, and believed that I had done the right thing for the community that my wife, my son, and I call home. I no longer believe that.

I see now that I have voted for three individuals that are concerned with nothing more than bettering their status and reaping the benefits provided by sitting in the driver’s seat of government. The rubber stamping of the proposed AMCA school on Hopewell Road irregardless of the deception committed by the school planners and the concerns of the residents in the area leaves me disappointed beyond words. I feel cheated and lied to. I feel as though I wasted my votes and find myself no better off than I was with the representation I had on the previous council. Apparently, as long as you have enough money and the right sort of support you can follow a different set of rules than the rest of us. You can omit signs and notification, you can miss deadlines and filing dates, you can ignore the rights and interests of neighboring landowners. As long as you have enough money and know the right people, you can put as many council members in your pocket as you would like. Apparently, the rights and interests of residents within the city limits of Milton fall prey to deals made in downtown Alpharetta.

I feel particularly disappointed in Julie Zahner-Bailey. If there was one person I felt was key to protecting our home, it was Julie. Julie’s history with her Birmingham Hopewell Alliance I though made her trustworthy. I thought that she was as transparent as any local politician, given that she has devoted several years of her life to the protection of north Fulton County. Apparently, I should have read the fine print—the Birmingham-Hopewell Alliance is far more about Birmingham than it is Hopewell. Julie has demonstrated little or no interest in the plight of the Jonses and other residents in the immediate vicinity. I am certain that when it comes down to the vote, she will ask a very few pointed questions to give the appearance of concern, and will fall in line like the rest of them will. It’s the other end of town from her, why should she be bothered?

And where are Mr. Tart and Mr. Hewitt in all this? It is Mr. Hewitt’s district, does he have any concerns about how his constituents’ interests are being served, or is he too busy trying to determine how to vote so that he still is in the good favor of other members of the council? This is a prime opportunity to demonstrate to the people of the community that he is his own man, that he is not merely a secondary player that rode to victory on Julie Zahner-Bailey’s coat-tails. And what of Mr. Tart? He was elected for his belief in law and order and his desire to protect the Hwy 9 corridor that stands to see the greatest development of any area within the city. Is he comfortable with the way in which the city is giving second and third chances to an organization that clearly can not follow the rules? What does this say about the city’s respect for the law? Does he honestly believe in his heart that his attempts to protect the area surrounding Hwy 9 will be respected by the council and the planning board when there is so much money to be made? At least at some point the citizens of Milton will have an ally in the board—after Mr. Tart is shown the same consideration that those of us who live along Hopewell Road are being shown by the city. I suppose this is what we get when a developer serves as mayor.

Anonymous said...

Does "Marc" have a clue? I don't think the Mayor and Council have even seen this application come before them yet? Talk about someone trying to influence a decision!

Marc, ask the folks at White Columns about fighting a private school. Sometimes you are better off with not getting what you want!

Anonymous said...

Are Marc and anonymous, who wrote the diatribe, one in the same?