City officials continue to buy property around the former Target building the city owns on Johnson Ferry Road, but it’s unclear whether using eminent domain remains an option.
Eminent domain would involve Sandy Springs City Council forcing property owners to sell. It has major drawbacks, however.
One would be the tepid response of City Council members to the idea. Councilman Gabriel Sterling has said he would not support it. Other council members say it’s a last resort.
The other major drawback would have implications for the city’s downtown plans, a project that will reshape the area on Roswell Road between Hammond Drive and Sandy Springs Circle.
Condemning property using the eminent domain process would restrict those properties to public use for 20 years. City leaders want to attract private investors to the project, and a restriction to public use could limit those possibilities.
City Attorney Wendell Willard said via email, “We are moving forward with negotiations to acquire the properties.”
On March 19, Sandy Springs City Council voted to buy the property at 182 Hilderbrand Drive for $800,000.
In October, the city bought property located at 150 Hilderbrand Drive for $215,000. The city demolished the home on Feb. 21, making way for an extension of Blue Stone Road.
The road construction is part of Phase 1 of the city center plan, a project that could take as long as a decade and will cost $84 million. Under the Phase 1 plan, the city will spend $9.6 million to build a segment for Mount Vernon Highway west of Sandy Springs Circle to Roswell Road and extending Bluestone Road from Heritage to Mount Vernon Highway.
A review of the 2008 appraisal of the Target property shows the appraiser was asked to give preliminary estimates of the value of 11 parcels. The appraiser estimated the total would be $7.35 million but said the final cost could be 15 percent to 20 percent higher or lower. The sites include the Goodwill Store, the old Mellow Mushroom building, Sherwin-Williams, Master Kleen Laundry and Waffle House.
The property owners and their tenants said they’ve had little communication with the city in recent weeks. Sandy Springs kicked off its city center project Feb. 21 by knocking down a home on property the city purchased to make way for an extension of Blue Stone Road. The home is located at 150 Hilderbrand Drive. In October, the city bought the property for $215,000 from the executor of the estate for Katherine K. Bell, according to city records.
Bob Brown, who owns the Psycho Tattoo II on Roswell Road, said he last heard from the city around the first of the year.
“They made me a very low offer which I would not accept,” Brown said.
He said other property owners are resisting the city. Other than that, he said he’s not quite sure what the city wants.
“I don’t know what their real intentions are,” Brown said. “I know they want to get started and I know it’s driving them crazy and yet I think all they’ve done is that little bit on Blue Stone.”
Master Kleen owner Will Smith said his landlord hasn’t told him whether the building will be sold to the city. Smith said his landlord’s attorney told him the city sent a letter to property owners in February.
“Our attorney spoke with them maybe a month ago and they said they had sent … letters to the property owners making an offer to buy the properties and gave them 21 days [to respond],” Smith said. “I don’t think anybody wrote them back. Or they told them to go to hell.”