The Brookhaven City Council approved at its April 10 meeting a resolution to buy 19 acres of property on Briarwood Road for more than $2 million for the Peachtree Creek Greenway — property the city tried first to seize through eminent domain and pay $349,000.
The purchase price approved by the council is $2.044 million for the undeveloped land at 1793 Briarwood Road. The negotiated agreement was finalized during an executive session before the City Council meeting.
The 19 acres will be used for green space, a trailhead, parking and ADA access for the Greenway.
Another 2.6 acres of property at 3119 Buford Highway behind Corporate Square was also purchased for $142,000. This parcel will serve as the launching area for the Greenway bridge as well as provide over two acres of community green space.
Despite the vast difference in price between the eminent domain offer and the final negotiated price, the mayor and council said they were thrilled with the final outcome. A press release notes the council authorized $2,186,000, or just under $100,000 per acre, for both purchases.
“This is really good news for the Greenway,” Councilmember Joe Gebbia said following the vote.
Mayor John Ernst said it was another historic day for the city.
“This is the second biggest piece of green space purchased in the city’s history. Today is a great day … that helps us solidify the Greenway and allows us to begin construction in the near future,” Ernst said.
Last year, the city purchased 33 acres of former PDK airport green space between Clairmont Road and Skyland Drive from DeKalb County for $5.7 million. The space, named Ashford Forest Preserve, is a passive park.
Betsy Eggers, chairperson of the Peachtree Creek Greenway Inc. nonprofit, thanked the city for its efforts.
“The mayor, City Council, and the staff of the city of Brookhaven should be congratulated for following through with their commitment to build the Peachtree Creek Greenway,” she said in a prepared statement. “They’ve taken a dormant project that was sitting on a shelf for decades, and are bringing it to life. It just proves that great things can be accomplished through hard work, partnerships and collaborations.”
The city attempted to acquire the 19 acres of Briarwood Road though an eminent domain taking last year and offered the property owners $349,000, what city officials said at the time was fair market value.
The property owners first countered with $1.5 million to the city and then stated the land was worth more than $2 million as one of the largest undeveloped pieces of land remaining in the city. The property owners also said they wanted to build townhomes on the site.
As part of the eminent domain process, attorneys for the property owners the city’s attorneys met with a court-appointed mediator as part of the eminent domain process and attempted to negotiate a price both sides were happy with.
No deal could be reached and attorneys for the property owners then asked the condemnation be denied.
DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger ruled Feb. 27 that the city’s condemnation violated legal procedure and was a “bad faith” deal and violated the Landowner’s Bill of Rights and Property Action Act approved by the General Assembly in 2006. Seeliger also ordered the city to pay attorneys’ fees. That total is $244,417.74 and is in addition to the $2.044 million.
At the meeting, City Manager Christian Sigman praised City Attorney Chris Balch.
“Chris did a wonderful job in the negotiation process,” he said. “This is how it’s supposed to work.”
With price and terms agreed to, the city should close on the property within 90 days.
In a prepared statement, Sigman said, “[W]ith the agreement, the city avoids the time and expense of legal actions and we can get down to the business of building this section of the Peachtree Creek Greenway.”
In a brief interview after the meeting, Sigman said the city will pay for the Greenway property from the $9.4 million Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is paying the city for the right-of-way abandonment of nearly five acres of right-of-way on Tullie Circle and Tullie Road.
CHOA is in the midst of a massive 80-acre expansion at its campus at I-85 and North Druid Hills Road with plans to make the entire campus closed to public access.
Another parcel needs to be purchased for the Greenway’s first phase between North Druid Hills Road and Briarwood Road, Sigman added. After that piece is purchased, the PATH Foundation will present its designs to the City Council and a bid will go out for construction before actual ground can be broken.
The Peachtree Creek Greenway master plan outlines a series of nature trails, paved multi-purpose trails and paved promenade trails which will connect Brookhaven’s nearly 3 mile portion into the entire 12.3-mile Peachtree Creek trail project from Mercer University in unincorporated DeKalb County to the PATH400 trail in Buckhead, the South Fork Conservancy Trails and the Atlanta BeltLine. The Greenway will also provide connectivity to areas beyond as part of a larger network of multi-use trails to residences, offices, restaurants, bike rental stands, coffee shops and picnic areas.