The long-awaited sidewalks along Dunwoody’s busy Tilly Mill Road are expected to be installed beginning this summer. But doing so means the city must forcibly take right of way from a property owner who is refusing to grant easements for the project.
The City Council recently approved using its eminent domain powers to acquire construction easements at 4996 Tilly Mill Road after negotiations broke down with the homeowner, Rick Woroniecki.
The city offered Woroniecki $50,000 for the easements, but Woroniecki says the city owes him and his two neighbors more than $2 million to fix damages to their driveways and yards they say was caused by construction crews working on city’s intersection improvements at North Peachtree Road and Tilly Mill Road that wrapped up last year. The total also includes attorneys’ fees.
City officials deny the city caused any damage to the properties and were legally working in the right-of-way.
“Utility companies relocated some of their facilities between the property and the street in the right of way,” Public Works Director Michael Smith said. “The city contractor installed stormwater infrastructure and paved the road. The homeowner’s claims were referred to the city’s insurance provider. The claims were investigated and denied.”
Woroniecki said he was not attacking the city by demanding the money.
“I just want my property repaired,” he said, calling city officials “professional sharks” and accusing them of having their “heads up developers’ butts.”
“If I wasn’t in the middle of this, it would be hilarious,” he said. “I’m a senior citizen with injured legs and diabetes. This is a fraud on the public. And they have defamed me by calling me ‘Crazy Rick.’”
In a February letter demanding the city pay the more than $1 million, in addition to the $50,000 for the easements, Woroniecki states he will sue the city, construction contractors and utility companies
The Tilly Mill Road sidewalk project has been on the books for about five years. The half-mile stretch the city is set to build is a 5-foot-wide sidewalk between the Dunwoody Campus of Georgia State University driveway on Womack Drive to 4998 Tilly Mill Road. The sidewalks will connect to existing sidewalks at North Peachtree Road and Womack Drive.
“The sidewalks are a longtime goal of residents along Tilly Mill. The purpose of the project is to add bicycles lanes and sidewalks,” Smith said. “The road is being widened to allow for bike lanes but will not be wide enough to add lanes for more cars.”
Other property owners along Tilly Mill Road were offered between $3,000 and $10,000 for their easements for the sidewalk project. An appraiser estimated the value of the easements at Woroniecki’s property at $45,100. The city then rounded up to $50,000.
“City of Dunwoody staff and attorneys have tried to work with the property owner to resolve his concerns. In an attempt to avoid litigation, the city had the property appraised and offered him more than the appraised value for the property needed to build a new [Americans With Disabilities Act]-compliant sidewalk on Tilly Mill Road,” City Manager Eric Linton said in a written statement. “We regret that we weren’t able to come to an agreement before pursuing our options through eminent domain.”