The city wants land occupied by church parking spaces in order to complete a Roswell Street streetscape project.
Figures named in city documents dating back to May 2006 and by the church show the value of the land ranging from $73,000 to $2.1 million.
Before the public meetings, the mayor and Council went into a closed session to discuss an ongoing plan to widen Roswell Street between the Square and Cobb Parkway and its Nov. 14 vote to mediate with the church rather than consider eminent domain.
Tumlin said after the meetings the session will help the city prepare for a Dec. 10 mediation session with former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman S. Fletcher.
“There are 15 to 20 different parts to it,” Tumlin said about the Nov. 26 meeting. “We analyzed our position and what we would like to have. The (city)attorney explained the mediation process to us. We just told staff that we want to verify what we want very pragmatically.”
The Dec. 10 meeting will follow an agenda, Tumlin said.
“We will meet here and then go into executive session. Justice Fletcher will meet with us and tell us what he likes about our argument and what he doesn’t like. Then he’ll talk to the church. Then you get together,” he said.
Tumlin said the presence of a mediator changes the dynamic of a dispute.
“The mediator brings in an element. You don’t look back. You look to resolve it. That’s the attitude we want,” he said.
However, there is some history on both sides, Tumlin said.
“There are so many moving parts. There’s been a lot of confusion over the 12 years. We’ve dealt with them on rezoning because they’ve had such phenomenal growth,” he said. “They’re frustrated that we changed the plan five times. From our point of view, that’s the nature of the beast. From their point of view, we’re wishy-washy.”
Both sides, Tumlin said, are “happy” to have Fletcher as an advocate.
“He will slap our wrists,” Tumlin said about keeping both sides in line.
Church Minister of Administration and Church Programming John Crooks confirmed Tumlin’s statement after the meeting.
“Justice Fletcher was chosen by both sides. He will do a fine job,” Crooks said.
Crooks said nothing has changed in the church’s position since the Nov. 14 City Council meeting.
“We are carefully putting our team together that will be at the mediation,” he said. “We’re just looking forward to Dec. 10.”
Councilman Anthony Coleman said before the meeting he thought the new course may be a viable alternative.
“If we skip over it and not impact their property, it will save them money and save us money,” he said. “It’s a good alternative. It doesn’t appraise for what they want. We won’t be taking 80 parking spaces. Let’s sit down and discuss and take a few jabs at it.”
Coleman said he took heat from constituents due to his status as a clergyman.
“That wouldn’t look good for you, a minister condemning a church,” he said about callers’ statements.
Coleman said he wanted to keep options open but be prepared for the worst.
“We want to do what’s right and fair for the church,” he said. “How do we find middle ground? If there’s no middle ground, let’s just leave it as it is.”
Tumlin said it was his idea to add an item to the public works committee meeting agenda regarding “less intrusive alternatives of Roswell Street streetscapes section near Victory Drive,” the church’s nearest intersection.
“Let’s keep it on the back burner. That way, if we have such an impasse on negotiation we might look at something else,” he said.
Councilman Jim King agreed.
“What if we left the median out? What would you have? You’d have the rest of Roswell Street. That’s a lot less real estate to take. It’s less costly,” he said. “Let’s be open to possibilities regardless of the outcome of mediation.”