The city of Sandy Springs will pay $862,500 to settle a lawsuit over its eminent-domain taking of an insurance agent’s property near City Springs for a road project.
Randy Beavers had been in an 18-month battle with the city, which forced his State Farm insurance business out of a house at 135 Mount Vernon Highway, at the intersection with Sandy Springs Circle. The city needed part of the property for its Sandy Springs Circle streetscape project, which last month began moving toward construction. Beavers previously said the lawsuit – which was heading to a jury trial later in August – was delaying the project.
“I’m just glad to get it off my plate…and to put this dog to rest,” Beavers said in an interview prior to the City Council’s Aug. 6 vote to approve the settlement. “I am going to Florida to celebrate.”
City Attorney Dan Lee told the council that a reason to settle was concern about a legal rule that would have let the sidewalk be built, but would force the rest of the property to remain undeveloped, possibly forever. With the settlement, he said, “…it does give the city the use of the property.”
According to memo Lee wrote for the council about the case, the settlement includes $425,000 for the title to the property and $437,500 for loss or damage to Beavers’ business.
In February 2018, the council approved eminent domain takings of Beavers’ property and parts of others along Sandy Springs Circle as right of way for a redesigned Sandy Springs Circle streetscape featuring sidewalks and a multi-use path. The project is part of a 2012 master plan for a denser, more walkable downtown area.
Beavers said last year that his negotiation did not go well. He said at that time that the city offered him $358,000 for the property, while he wanted $2.2 million.
Beavers said the city did not respond to his counteroffer, instead ordering him to move out of his building – a house converted into an office – or pay $3,000 a month in rent to stay. He said the condemnation order gave him 45 days to move his business and left him paying $40,000 in rent at the Springs shopping center on Johnson Ferry Road. Beavers originally acquired the house from a former client and had been working out of it since 2005.
“They said it’s fair and equitable,” Beavers said of the city’s original offer. “Well, I said, ‘No, it’s not.’”
The house, which has since been demolished, dated to 1940 and sat on about a quarter-acre, according to Fulton County property records. The county values the entire property at about $390,000 for tax purposes. A city settlement memo said the appraised value was $1.3 million.
Lee said that the city was able to take down the house, but was restricted under state law to only using the piece of the property where the new sidewalk will go.
“Taking down a house does not allow the city to gain the rest of the lot, so it left a major scar on the property and the city’s only use could have been to have the sidewalk expanded and prohibited any further or future construction on the property,” Lee said.
Mayor Rusty Paul agreed with Lee’s sentiment on this being the right decision.
“[The land] could not have been used,” Paul said. “It would be sitting there unused.”
Lee’s memo also noted that the outcome of the pending jury trial would be uncertain.
Beavers said he was happy with the settlement.
“They drug me around the block for two years…They decided to settle right before we went to court,” Beavers said.