Norman S. Fletcher of Rome, who served on the Georgia Supreme Court from 1990 to 2005, the last four years as chief justice, will act as mediator at 9 a.m. Dec. 10, when representatives from the city of Marietta and Roswell Street Baptist Church will meet in a closed meeting at City Hall.
The years-long fight involves the city’s intention to widen Roswell Street to four lanes between the Marietta Square and Cobb Parkway, which city officials say will require taking some of the church’s property.
At issue is “the whole price to be paid for the right-of-way for the widening of Roswell Street in front of the church,” city attorney Doug Haynie said.
At a Nov. 14 city council meeting filled with Roswell Street Baptist members, council voted 7-0 to hire a mediator to resolve the issue, which Roswell Street Baptist said would take between 60 and 90 parking spaces from its property.
The church’s senior pastor, Dr. Ernest Easley, has suggested a price of $15,000 per space, which the city offered to owners of the now-shuttered Emerson Coffee Shop and the Corona Properties lot on the corner of Atlanta Street and Waverly Way.
But Fred Bentley Jr., the church’s attorney, said Wednesday that the city actually paid more than that for the parking spaces at the Emerson Coffee Shop, pointing to a 2008 Journal story indicating the city paid $116,376 for five parking spaces, a cost of more than $23,000 per space.
The city wants between 60 and 90 of the church’s parking spaces, and at cost of $23,000 each, that could cost the city $2.1 million, he said.
“They need to pay a fair price, consistent with what they’ve paid for everybody else,” Bentley said.
Bentley said the improvements the city plans on Roswell Street would bring the road uncomfortably close to the old Anderson Chevrolet dealership, which the church bought and uses as office space.
Haynie said he will attend the mediation, along with the members of a council committee that includes Mayor Steve Tumlin and council members Anthony Coleman, Jim King and Philip Goldstein. Also expected to be there are city public works director Dan Conn and city manager Bill Bruton, as well as any other council members who wish to attend.
Besides Bentley and Easley, the church will be represented by minister of administration and church programming Dr. John Crooks and possibly church board members, Bentley said.
Fletcher, the mediator, began practicing law in 1958 after earning his law degree at the University of Georgia, according to his biography on the website of his firm, Brinson Askew Berry Seigler Richardson & Davis LLP.
Gov. Joe Frank Harris appointed him to the state Supreme Court in 1989.
“We feel like he has a stellar reputation as a jurist,” Bentley said. “We have the utmost confidence that he will be able to walk us through the provisions.”