Assembling the property needed for the planned $35 million Peachtree Creek Greenway will take place one piece of land at a time. Landing the first major parcel for the linear park and trail system is already proving to be a tough first step.
The City Council, which approved the Greenway earlier this year, is poised to vote June 29 on using eminent domain to buy 19 acres of undeveloped wooded land near Buford Highway and Briarwood Road. That land is needed for a trailhead for the Greenway, which is intended to connect to Buckhead’s PATH400 trails and eventually to the Atlanta BeltLine.
DeKalb County tax records show the property is valued at approximately $414,000. The owners, listed as Atlanta attorney Mark Morgan and Atlanta-based Lifestyle Family Group, have asked for up to $1.5 million for the property, according to city spokesperson Burke Brennan.
The city’s appraisal of the property is $314,000 and that’s what the city is offering to pay for the land, Brennan said.
“The issue is fair market price,” Brennan said. “The property was listed for sale before and after the city made an offer … and there is a great difference in price.”
A request for comment from the property owners was not returned.
“We’ve been trying to negotiate a fair and equitable transfer of this property for over a year to avoid using eminent domain, but we are at an impasse,” City Manager Christian Sigman said in a statement. “With the funding for the Peachtree Creek Greenway now in place, we are left with no other option in order to proceed.”
The city, with the General Assembly’s approval this year, has raised its hotel/motel tax from 5 percent to 8 percent specifically to create a revenue stream to fund the portion of the Greenway between North Druid Hills Road and Briarwood Road.
The estimated $650,000 coming into the city’s coffers from the raised taxes is financing a $9 million revenue bond to pay for easements and permits for the linear park and trail. The money is also being used to acquire the necessary land where the Greenway is set to be built.
Plans for the segment between North Druid Hills Road and Briarwood Road include a major trailhead at Northeast Plaza and a trailhead at Briarwood Road, with unpaved nature trails and paved trails on both sides of the creek.
According to the master plan, the south side trail system requires redevelopment of property on the I-85 access road that will include a connection to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Land along the creek is primarily commercial, accounting for 35 parcels. Multi-family housing includes five parcels and apartment complexes account for eight parcels. A total of 17 single-family homes also back onto the creek along its northern and southern reaches, according to the master plan.
Easement acquisitions for the Greenway have been taking place for several months. The city already owns a small parcel it acquired from the Pink Pony strip club in the settlement of a lawsuit. The city also has been in talks for some time with the Salvation Army, which is located on about 13 acres on the Northeast Expressway, about the possible donation of some of its property for the Greenway, but no deal has been made.
“We cannot comment on specific land discussions until closings,” city spokesperson Ann Marie Quill said. “At this point, no other land has been acquired.”
One of the 67 parcels the city needs belongs to Sandy Campbell, owner of the Brookhaven Laundry, located on Buford Highway near the corner of North Druid Hills Road. Now offered for sale, Campbell’s property backs up to the creek and the Greenway’s master plan shows a proposed pedestrian bridge on her land.
“I’ve had more activity lately with people speculating on the [Greenway],” she said about people interested in buying. “They’re speculating that if the city comes in and builds that bridge … there will be more pedestrian traffic to bring in more business.”
Campbell said she is offering the parcel for $550,000. The slice of land is currently valued at $350,000 for tax purposes, according to DeKalb County tax records. She said no one from the city has approached her about acquiring the property.
“I’m actively marketing the property. We’ll see what happens,” she said.
Correction: It was incorrectly reported that the city of Brookhaven would need to acquire 67 parcels of land for the construction of the Peachtree Creek Greenway. The 67 parcels cited in the master plan indicate the number of parcels affected, based on the adopted plan, according to city spokesperson Burke Brennan.
Brennan explained further: “The Peachtree Creek Greenway project is divided into three construction phases. Engineering on Phase 2 and Phase 3, totaling 1.65 miles of the entire 2.9 mile greenway, has not even started, therefore we do not know how many parcels we will need to negotiate access to at this time.
“In Phase 1 (the longest single phase, 1.25 miles), the only parcel that Brookhaven needs to acquire in totality is 1793 Briarwood. Other than that, we are negotiating access on five other parcels for construction of the greenway.”