By John Schaffner
Having been a lawyer for almost 60 years and a federal judge for 30, Judge Marvin Shoob has dealt with a lot injustices, but nothing like the 12-inch sewer pipe installed 15 feet in the air along the property line of the home he and wife Janice have lived in for 45 years on Beechwood Drive in Buckhead.
The 86-year-old senior judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia and his wife say the bright-red sewer pipe just sort of appeared, almost overnight, and was not anything they expected.
The pipe is not new. It was constructed in 2008. But the Shoobs have never lost their anger over being deceived by the developers of the Randall Mill subdivision, which backs up to their property and which the sewer pipe is meant to serve.
So Janice Paradies Shoob has filed suit against builder Eric Johnson, Stratus Development Inc., Southeastern Construction & Management Inc. (SC&M), John D. Reaves and the city of Atlanta to keep anyone from using the pipe to transport raw sewage, to have the pipe removed and to recover damages.
Janice Shoob is the plaintiff because the house on 3 heavily wooded acres is in her name.
The Shoobs got involved with the developers of Randall Mill when they attended a meeting of Neighborhood Planning Unit A at which the neighbors opposed allowing the developers to put their massive, expensive homes on septic tanks. NPU-A denied the septic tanks by rejecting a request to rezone the subdivision as a planned development housing project.
As an alternative, the developers purchased the house next to the Shoobs around March 2007 to allow the installation of a gravity-flow sewer line to connect the planned homes in the Randall Mill subdivision to the main sewer line on Beechwood Drive.
By May 2007, the developers, Johnson and SC&M had updated the plans for the subdivision to include specifications for an elevated gravity-flow pipeline that crossed a stream and ran parallel to the Shoobs’ property, right along their chain-link fence.
Those plans for the elevated sewer pipe were submitted to Atlanta’s Bureau of Buildings in January 2008 and approved by that agency Feb. 11, 2008.
The civil lawsuit, which the Shoobs filed in Fulton County Superior Court — where their daughter, Wendy Shoob, is a judge — says Johnson met with Marvin Shoob before initiating construction to discuss plans to reroute the sewer line along the Shoobs’ property. But Shoob says Johnson never mentioned an overhead sewer pipe. Instead, he says Johnson indicated the pipe would be underground, that the ground would be covered and “you’ll never know it’s there.”
The Shoobs know it is there.
The pipe used to create the sewer line is steel, bright red, 12 to 13 inches in diameter and 366 feet long. It sits atop five concrete pillars, the tallest of which is 15 feet.
The pipeline cuts through heavy woods but is clearly visible to the Shoobs and others in the neighborhood. It also is vulnerable to large falling trees, six or seven of which have fallen in the past four years.
The Shoobs say the pipeline definitely is a hazard because a falling tree could rupture the pipe, spilling raw sewage into the creek below and onto the Shoob property.
In case of such an accident, there is no way to stop the pipe from spilling because the pipeline has no automatic or manual shutoff valve.
The Shoobs are convinced the reason the developers opted to install the elevated gravity-flow pipeline is because a buried pipe would require pump stations for each house in the subdivision, which could cost $10,000 or more per house, to pump the sewage up the hill to the main line on Beechwood Drive.
The Shoobs don’t figure that is their problem. They know that pipeline has reduced the value of their home — from a dollar standpoint and simple enjoyment. They want it removed.
Asked as a jurist what he thought were their chances of winning the suit, Shoob replied, “Very good.”