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Posted by on February 23, 2012.

City holds back on eminent domain

The Target property, located at 235 Johnson Ferry Road, was purchased by the city for $8 million.

Sandy Springs’ attorney says the city isn’t ready to pull the trigger on using its eminent domain powers for its planned City Hall complex.

But it’s still a possibility, the city’s attorney says.

City Attorney Wendell Willard said the city is in negotiations with owners of properties near the old Target site the city purchased in 2008, located at 235 Johnson Ferry Road.

A review of the appraisal of that property shows the appraiser was asked to give preliminary estimates of the value of 11 parcels around the site. The appraiser estimated the combined total would be worth $7.35 million but said the final cost could be 15 to 20 percent higher or lower. The sites include the Goodwill Store, the old Mellow Mushroom building, Sherman Williams, Master Kleen Laundry and Waffle House.

The city has been tight-lipped about its negotiations with property owners.

“There are no properties in the Target block the city wants to acquire by eminent domain,” Willard said. “We are negotiating purchase of the parcels remaining in the block.”

Willard said eminent domain isn’t “off the table” and said it would have to be decided by the City Council “on a case-by-case” basis.

The city will have to change some property owner’s minds. The owners of Master Kleen and Waffle House have said they are not interested in the city’s offers.

Some recent developments regarding the future City Hall site complicate matters. Not everyone on the City Council agrees the old Target property is the best site and have asked if there are alternatives.

Some property owners also are considering suing the city, according to Bob Brown, who owns the Psycho Tattoo II on Roswell Road. Brown said other owners asked him to join a potential lawsuit but he declined.

Brown said he is not convinced the city made the best investment after a review of the city’s 2008 purchase revealed the property was 6.9 acres and not the nearly 8 acres city officials have reported since the purchase.

Though the appraisal assumed a larger acreage when valuing the property, city officials claim the new information would not have affected the appraiser’s conclusion the property was worth $8 million. That is the amount the city paid for it.

Brown said the new information will likely have an impact on the city’s negotiations with other property owners. “It really can’t be the same price if it’s an acre smaller than what they said,” Brown said. “You either have two pennies or one penny and it isn’t worth the same if you don’t have two.”

Brown said he has not heard from the city in recent months regarding the tattoo shop. He said it was his understanding the city intended to obtain the parcels around Target using eminent domain. Brown said he’s listing the property for $550,000. In 2008, before the full onset of the economic recession, the appraisal the city received estimated the property was worth $290,000.

The big ticket item on city’s list – the Goodwill Store – shares a wall with the old Target site. The appraiser in 2008 estimated it to be worth $3 million. Attempts to reach the store’s owners were unsuccessful.

Another item on the list, the Sherwin Williams on Johnson Ferry, already saw its first round of court battles with the city. In October 2011 a Fulton County Superior Court consent order gave the city the right to perform environmental tests on the property. The city has until Dec. 2012 to complete testing, according to the order. A Sherwin Williams spokesman declined comment.

 

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