Sandy Springs City Council on March 4 voted to authorize the condemnation of property leased by Master Kleen dry cleaning.
City officials intend to use the property for the city’s future civic center. The city has offered the property owner, Nancy Clamp, the appraised value of $680,000, but so far has not been successful in purchasing it, City Attorney Wendell Willard said during the council’s March 4 meeting.
Negotiations are continuing and mediation is planned, Willard said, but the city will use an eminent domain filing as a last resort.
“I hate eminent domain . . . especially of an existing business,” said City Councilman Gabriel Sterling, who cast the lone vote against the resolution. However, he said that he understood the rationale and intention behind voting for eminent domain, but he hoped the city and property owner could come to a resolution.
Mayor Rusty Paul urged the council to go forward in its city center plans. “We’ve embarked on a project where we’ve spent over $20 million in taxpayer money,” he said. He said he understood why some council members expressed an interest in holding off on voting until after the mediation, but that they “couldn’t put the project at risk.”
Master Kleen is located at 6196 Roswell Road, near the old Target that the city purchased for $8 million in 2008 for the project. So far the city has purchased at least eight properties for the center, and so far has been able to negotiate sales. The Master Kleen location is needed for a planned future civic facility.
Master Kleen’s owner, Will Smith, has been vocal in his opposition to the city acquiring the property. His family has operated the business at that location for more than four decades.
“The main thing is the city is taking prime real estate for government use,” Smith said in 2011, explaining that he was concerned about losing an established location. He said that 90 percent of his customers stop by as they travel down Mount Vernon Highway.
Several hours before the March 4 meeting, Smith said he didn’t have much to add. “It is what it is,” he said.
He said his business is among the oldest family-run businesses in Sandy Springs. “It takes government to root us out,” he said.
–Ann Marie Quill