Sandy Springs city officials on Dec. 2 took a step toward acquiring the final pieces of property they are trying to assemble to build a new city center.

Members of Sandy Springs City Council voted to authorize condemnation if necessary, of properties at 237 Johnson Ferry Road and 6201, 6215 6219 Roswell Road and 260 Mount Vernon Highway for use in the city center. City Attorney Wendell Willard said after the meeting the properties would complete the city’s planned assemblage of land for the project.

The council voted unanimously to authorize condemnation of the Johnson Ferry Road property, which now houses a Goodwill Industries of North Georgia store. The city has offered $3.9 million for the property, but the owner has declined, Willard said in a memorandum to council members.

The council divided 5-1 on whether to authorize condemnation of the other properties, which are located in a triangle of land bordered by Roswell and Johnson Ferry roads and Mount Vernon Highway. The city has offered $3.407 million for the property, Willard said in a memo, but the owners refused the offer.

During the council’s Dec. 2 meeting, lawyer Christopher Galanek said the property owners were convinced the land was worth more. “We will fight any valuation less than $5 million,” he said.

Galanek said the property’s owner wanted to develop the land, which he said city officials planned to use for a park, he said “no one’s going to use.”

“No one going to take their children across Roswell Road or take their dogs across Roswell Road to play [in this park],” he said. “I’m aghast the city would pay [more than] $3 million … for a park. This city has made the decision to buy the most expensive parcels on Roswell Road to build public buildings and parks.”

But Mayor Rusty Paul argued the land was needed for other purposes than just the park. The city also needed the property for road improvements and the relocation of utility lines planned as part of the city center project, he said. Not buying the parcel, he said, would require “a significant redesign” of the city project. “There’s a lot more involved in this parcel than a park,” Paul said.

Councilman Andy Bauman, who voted against authorizing the condemnation, said he was concerned about the “open-ended” cost of the property if it is condemned. “This is a large sum of money,” he said.

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