Three coveted properties sit in the way of expansion plans for the Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center, a center selected for improvements by residents as part of the 2005 parks bond issuance. The project has a $3.75 million budget.
City Council decided not to authorize starting the process of using eminent domain to condemn two residential properties in the quiet Allgood Road neighborhood.
The council was willing to make an offer for another property on North Marietta Parkway, west of Fairground Street, but Tumlin vetoed that effort in order to tackle acquiring all three pieces of land next month.
One home on Allgood Road is owned by Peggy Price, 64, who was placed there by the Marietta Housing Authority with her mother when she was 13 years old.
For decades, Price has paid her mortgage while raising her three children and grandchildren in the home.
Price’s cousin, James Gober, who addressed the council Wednesday night, said the city is only offering Price about $60,000 for her home.
Councilman Anthony Coleman advocated for Price during the public hearing about using eminent domain.
“You can’t buy a chicken coop in the city of Marietta for what we are offering her,” Coleman said.
According to the Cobb Tax Assessor’s office, the home is appraised for $23,015.
Gober said he thought the starting price would be at least $80,000, but he cannot find another home for his cousin in the city even for that amount.
Instead, he thinks it will take at least $150,000 to relocate Price, who does not want to go from being a homeowner to a renter.
Council divided on issue
Councilman Johnny Walker called for a vote to table any movement on the residential properties for a month, with a requirement that the owners submit independent appraisals to the city attorney before the next council meeting April 9.
The council voted 6-1, with the lone dissenting vote cast by Councilman Stuart Fleming, who said the City Council is not in the “deal-making business” to help purchase homes and cars for people.
He addressed residents Wednesday, including Cobb NAACP President Deane Bonner and her daughter, Marietta school board member Jeriene Grimes.
Fleming said it is the council’s responsibility to direct staff to get the property transferred into city ownership to complete the plans for Elizabeth Porter for the betterment of the entire area.
Gober said Fleming misunderstands the role of the city government. Up until the last four years, Gober said, there was always cooperation between the city and its residents.
“We’ve been having a lot of issues based on housing,” Gober said.
For instance, he points to the decreasing percentage of black residents in Ward 5, represented by Coleman, as affordable housing has been demolished by the city and developers have been approved to erect townhomes.
More than two years ago, the Marietta Housing Authority demolished the 125-unit Lyman Homes public housing project less than half a mile from the recreation center and sold the property to be developed as Montgomery Park, with single-family detached homes selling for $250,000 to $280,000.
Mayor vetoes land purchase deal
Councilman Grif Chalfant said the two residential properties eyed for eminent domain are “critical corner pieces” to the Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center plan.
City Attorney Doug Haynie said the process of transferring the properties could take years and involve court battles.
The council had planned to approve an offer being made on a third piece of property Wednesday night.
The vacant land on 409 N. Marietta Parkway is owned by the Marietta Redevelopment Corp., a tax-exempt organization formed by the city as its redevelopment arm.
The council voted 4-3 to offer $91,000 to acquire the land, with Fleming, Chalfant and Councilman Andy Morris opposed. The Cobb Tax Assessor’s office appraises the property at $13,710.
Tumlin vetoed the action, saying all the properties discussed Wednesday night need to be acquired, or else there is no point in buying the MRC-owned portion.
“I want three birds in the hand,” Tumlin said.
The council did not attempt to override the veto.
Tumlin said the city is the best candidate to buy the third piece, backed by the Bank of North Georgia with a loan to the MRC.
If all three properties discussed Wednesday night were bought by the city, it would make six consecutive pieces, including three other parcels already purchased.
One was a liquor store at 321 Allgood Road, called Hunter’s Package store, on the corner of North Marietta Parkway.
Opening in 1948 as a hospital for the city’s black community, the Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center was named after the first director of the community space.
The old building sits on 2.7 acres, and the city purchased 1.7 acres of adjacent properties to construct the larger recreation center. The newest six pieces would add 2.25 acres.
The expanding property would place the new facility on a giant corner lot with an entrance off North Marietta Parkway, instead of being tucked on a side street as it is now.