Eric Bern at his studio at 161 Mount Vernon Highway
Eric Bern at his studio at 161 Mount Vernon Highway

By Eric Bern

How many of you as Sandy Springs residents know the location of Eric Bern Studio on Mount Vernon Highway?

I am Eric Bern. My 23-year-old photography studio on Mount Vernon Highway was voted to be demolished by the Sandy Springs City Council so they could run a road extension through my business and other businesses around me for a proposed development called Sandy Springs City Center.

I know your first thought is, “Well, aren’t they going to pay you for it?”

Before you ask that, consider this:

Imagine you were running a successful photography business in the perfect building and the ideal location. You poured all of your time, resources and efforts into designing and building it. The studio functioned perfectly for your business and lifestyle. You groomed an outdoor shooting area that was ideal for natural light portraits at any time of day.

Then, after 23 years, you were told by the city that they are going to take it for something they voted on.

The options you presented to them that could save your studio and business while also saving tax dollars seemed to be ignored. Worst of all, they gave you an offer that does not begin to cover the cost of a comparable property, the cost of being displaced, the cost of having to start all over, the emotional and financial cost of rebuilding, along with the added cost of moving.

It seems that none of these costs were considered when the city sent their offer to “pay me” for my property.

Not one of the three small businesses affected by this road were contacted by the city prior to the approval of this plan. Instead, in response to my letter of concern sent in December of 2012, the mayor wrote to me and stated that nothing was going to happen until a developer comes in to assemble land in the area.

Now, it is the city that is trying to acquire the properties themselves with your tax dollars.

Oh, did I forget to mention the threat of eminent domain?

At the October City Council debate, several council members gave vague answers about their stance on eminent domain, and yet they had already voted to use it on two separate properties in the City Center development.

How many more businesses are they going to try to force out with this tactic?

When alternatives exist, shouldn’t the city be loyal to the small businesses that have supported them and contributed greatly to the community?

I plan to remain “an institution in Sandy Springs,” as the mayor referred to me, for many more years. If the city insists on displacing my business and other businesses in the area, they have an obligation to make sure the owners and tenants are made whole in the process.

Photographer Eric Bern owns the Eric Bern Studio in Sandy Springs.