An eminent domain taking for a city sidewalk project was denied by the Sandy Springs City Council at an Oct. 15 meeting. The city claims the owners are planning to redevelop the parcel, triggering a requirement to build the sidewalk privately.

The council denied purchasing property rights at 800 Johnson Ferry Road, which is currently owned by attorneys Edward Flynn and John Gottlieb, for $188,200.

“You have to decide: Do we use eminent domain to fight to take this property and improve it for the benefit of folks that have to walk up and down Glenridge and Johnson Ferry…or wait and require the property owner to do that which the new development would be required to do?” City Attorney Dan Lee said at the meeting.

“The two appraisals are diverse from each other,” Gottlieb said at the meeting. “We have asked for the city to negotiate with us and talk with us about it, but we have not really done too much of that.”

The parcel would be used for the Johnson Ferry Road/Glenridge Connector Sidewalk Project, which aims to improve the intersection of those roads. The project went out for bid in September and the council will be voting on a contractor at a future date.

The property needed for the project is 0.04 acres, along with construction easements totaling around 0.06 acres, according to city documents.

The property is a commercial building that houses Flynn and Gottlieb’s practice, Flynn & Gottlieb, P.A.

Lee said at the meeting that Flynn and Gottlieb plan on redeveloping the property. Under the Sandy Springs’ Development Code, he said, a redevelopment would require the sidewalk area to be dedicated to the city upon completion.

Lee did not specify at the meeting where he heard that information or who would be doing the redevelopment. The city did not respond to comment requests. The property is not currently for sale, according to Gottlieb, but he and Flynn declined to comment further.

The city’s original appraisal estimated just compensation would be $183,500 about 10 months ago, then it increased by about $5,000 at the most current city appraisal, Lee said.

The owners counteroffered at $362,120 with no appraisal on July 15, 2019, according to city documents. But once the owners had the property appraised at around $344,000, they counteroffered with $275,000, Lee said.

Gottlieb spoke at the meeting, saying he and Flynn would agree with the council’s decision regardless of the outcome.

“We want you all to know that we do not oppose the path and we support it,” Gottlieb said at the meeting. “We think the wisdom and fairness of this council will shine through and we will agree with what you say.”

The denial comes after a deferral at a Sept. 17 meeting where the council asked for more time to look over the proposal and review their options.

“The dollars here have gotten pretty exorbitant,” District 5 City Councilmember Tibby DeJulio said.

The council has expressed concern over eminent domain settlements for other city projects, claiming the costs are too high.

DeJulio moved for denial of the taking, saying residents would be paying taxpayer dollars for a small portion of the sidewalk that looks like it will be completed regardless.

“[The owners] are gaining in two ways, in that we are paying them and in that somebody who buys it and develops it is going to have this already done,” DeJulio said. “This is not fair to the citizens of Sandy Springs and that is my reason for moving for denial of it.”

The council unanimously denied the taking.

Hannah Greco

Hannah Greco is writer and media communications specialist based in Atlanta.