Former chief justice to mediate Roswell St. case
by Geoff Folsom
November 21, 2012 11:25 PM | 3671 views | 5 5 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — The two sides in a dispute over the widening of Roswell Street have selected a Georgia legal giant to mediate their case.

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.”
Comments-icon Post a Comment
November 23, 2012
The City will be very careful handling this issue with RSBC. There are many Marietta Voters at the Church.
Veiled Comment
November 24, 2012
The voters who attend the church are also taxpayers, so if you think their only point of reference is their attendance at the church, you are mistaken. I have listened to both sides of this arguement long enough to know that a fair price should be expected - but not a windfall. The spaces that were taken from the other parties along Roswell effectively put them out of business and this is simply not the case with RSBC.

I trust at the end of the day, this will be dealt with cooler heads and not necessarily the ones who have whipped this into a frenzy. It is never too hard to find the center of the storm and it saddens me greatly.
Casual Observer
November 22, 2012
The traffic congestion along Roswell Street is terrible. The spaces sit empty most days of the week. The church pays NO city taxes, NO county taxes; will not lose business or be put out of business by losing the property; will not be forced to move by losing some parking, as a small retail business might, and yet they demand an exorbitant amount of money--taxpayer money-- for that little slice of land. Time to lighten up and set an example, folks. WWJD?
The Truth
November 22, 2012
The church versus the City. Ad the good church claims that they are being wronged by the City through their preacher and their attorney. Lets look at some facts already presented by the paper since Mr. Bentley is doing the same. This has been going on for five plus years? The City should not have let it go on this long. Legal action should have occured four years ago. The City's offer hasn't strayed far for the original offer but yet the church's counter went from 700 thousand to 1.5 million and now back to 500 or 600 thousand. What is this about? Is this the legal advise that the church is getting or were they greedy? Now the church wants the City to pay the same for parking spaces as they did somewhere else. The coffee shop cited in the article had less then 20 spaces while the church has hundreds. There is no comparison here. Bentley has used the opposite argument on cases with Cobb County in that you can NOT compare these two types of situations. And finally, how much of the settlement is Bentleys fee. He has a reputation at the County of dragging cases out as long as possible. Is this going on here and he is getting paid by the hour? I would suggest that the paper has some more digging and the church needs to seek guidance through prayer depending on their relationship with their attorney. Just saying!
November 24, 2012
I am reminded of the saying "Everyone hates attorneys until they need one." Why criticize an attorney for doing his (or her) job of being a "zealous advocate" for the client?
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