City council on Aug. 20 approved using eminent domain to obtain property at 245 Johnson Ferry Road, a Sherwin-Williams store.
The council pushed back against a suggestion by the company’s attorney, J. Scott Jacobson, that owners didn’t have enough time to negotiate with the city. Jacobson asked for a 60 day extension.
The store has been in business since 1982 and survived the worst years of the recession, the attorney said.
The city gave the store owners a proposal in 2010, but the city center plan wasn’t moving quickly at that point and the sides couldn’t agree on a price. Planning picked up in earnest in 2012, and in January the city made another offer to the company. The resolution authorizing eminent domain makes an offer of $1.25 million.
Jacobson said the owners only recently recognized that the city would follow through with plans to authorize use of eminent domain.
“It was not until late July 2013 only a few weeks ago that the city notified Sherwin-Williams it intended to use the power of eminent domain,” Jacobson said prior to the council voting to approve condemnation. “It was at that point that Sherwin-Williams knew or understood with some degree of certainty that this is the city’s will to definitely take this property for the city center project.”
Council voted 5-1 to approve the resolution. Councilman Gabriel Sterling was the only no vote, but even he said the company’s arguments for requesting an extension didn’t hold up. He said city has been clear about its intentions for the Sherwin-Williams property, which is listed in a downtown redevelopment plan city council adopted.
“It ain’t a secret,” Sterling said. “We passed this plan in (December) of this year.”
Other council members agreed.
“Where have you been,” Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny said. “We have been going after this property in the entire town center since 2010. You knew this was coming.”
The city has authorized eminent domain to obtain one other property, a parcel at 6224 Roswell Road. The city has reached agreements with several other owners around the city center site, an area north of the intersection of Roswell Road and I-285.
The city and Sherwin-Williams would still have 30 days to reach an agreement before filing a condemnation action, City Attorney Wendell-Willard said.
Councilman Chip Collins said he’s willing to consider giving the owners more time if they continue working with the city.
“I would add, I don’t expect to have a final deal within 30 days, but so long as we felt like we were progressing and had a good faith offer I’d be inclined to wait even further,” Collins said.
Council members said they were sympathetic to the owners’ plight, up to a point.
“It stuns me that Sherwin Williams didn’t think this city was serious about developing the city center,” Councilman John Paulson said. “I’m sorry. This has not been a secret.”
City staff said they have been working with property owners to relocate. The city currently is working with owners of the local Waffle House to find a nearby location.
“We want to keep you in Sandy Springs,” Mayor Eva Galambos said. “We’ve got some empty places.”