Eminent domain: Resident calls city’s decision to take his property ‘unfair’
by Hilary Butschek
June 23, 2014 04:00 AM | 5604 views | 14 14 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ray Summerour has been offered $150,000 by the city of Marietta for a parcel of land he owns at 329 Allgood Road in Marietta, but since the city and Summerour were unable to come to an agreement, the City Council voted 5-1 to begin the process of taking the property through eminent domain. The city wants the property to make way for the expansion of Elizabeth Porter Community Center. Summerour leases the building seen behind him to a local business owner who operates a neighborhood grocery store.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Ray Summerour has been offered $150,000 by the city of Marietta for a parcel of land he owns at 329 Allgood Road in Marietta, but since the city and Summerour were unable to come to an agreement, the City Council voted 5-1 to begin the process of taking the property through eminent domain. The city wants the property to make way for the expansion of Elizabeth Porter Community Center. Summerour leases the building seen behind him to a local business owner who operates a neighborhood grocery store.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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MARIETTA — The city of Marietta could be facing a legal challenge from a lifelong resident following its decision to take that resident’s property by eminent domain.

Ray Summerour, a retired Lockheed and City of Marietta firefighter, said the city was unfair in its negotiations and appraisal of his land, so he plans on challenging it in court.

The City Council voted 5-1, with Anthony Coleman opposed, to begin the process of taking Summerour’s property on Allgood Road, near North Marietta Parkway.

The land’s tenant is a convenience store called Allgood Market, which sells grocery items, Summerour said.

Summerour said he won’t have any way of earning money to provide for his family if he loses his land, because he’d no longer have the income he gets from Allgood Market through rent.

“They’re putting me out of business,” Summerour, 61, said about the city. “I will never ever be able to own another piece of property again in the city of Marietta in my lifetime.”

Summerour said he can’t see himself being able to buy any more property because the cost of land is too expensive.

Mayor Steve Tumlin said the city has the power to take a piece of property within the city limits by eminent domain if it will be used for the public good.

The city plans to use Summerour’s land to expand the Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center, which sits behind his property, Tumlin said.

Even though the owner and the city cannot come to an agreement on what the property is worth, the city has the right to take the property and pay the owner what the courts determine is a fair price, said Doug Haynie, the city’s attorney.

The city attorney and Summerour have been negotiating the terms of the sale on the property for four years, and they could not come to an agreement. Because of the prolonged discussion, the mayor said he thought the condemnation was fair.

Summerour wanted $300,000 for his property, but the city said the property was only worth $142,000, according to its appraisal, Haynie said.

“When you can’t agree on value, it is necessary,” Tumlin said.

Councilman Coleman said he opposed the measure because he thought there was a way to come to an agreement without taking the land.

“I was hoping we could get it resolved and get an equitable contribution (to the city and Summerour),” Coleman said.

But Summerour said the city didn’t conduct the negotiations the right way. He said he was rarely given a chance to speak with any council members or Haynie outside of the public hearings at council meetings, which Summerour said are not conducive to private conversations.

“What he calls negotiation is when the city sends us a letter and the city responds back to it — that’s not what I consider a negotiation,” Summerour said.

Summerour, who has owned the property for more than 25 years, said the appraisal the city had done was unfair.

“The appraisal (the city) did provide was deeply flawed and potentially discriminatory,” said Harry Camp, Summerour’s attorney. “Mr. Summerour’s property is in a historically black neighborhood in Marietta — one of the few remaining — and it appears, to my knowledge, that the appraisal devalues the property because of the neighborhood that it’s in.”

The lack of communication between buyer and seller has caused Summerour to think the city’s decision to take the land was unfair and city officials to think the owner was uncompromising.

“We have been doing everything that we can possibly do to work with these people on the condemnation process,” Summerour said. “I know that when a city gets ready to do what they’re trying to do, you can’t stop them.”

The expansion of the recreation center is part of the city’s plan to improve the area using money from the $25 million parks bond voters approved in 2009. Of that, $3.5 million will be spent on the Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center.

So far, Haynie said, the city has succeeded in buying eight of the 10 properties it needs for the expansion. The two properties left are Summerour’s and a residential property next door belonging to Peggy Price.

After a disagreement about the price of the land similar to the one between the council and Summerour, the council voted to take her property by eminent domain in March, but the mayor vetoed the decision.

Summerour said the process has been “very trying” for him because he has lived in Marietta his whole life and served the community.

“It hasn’t been fair, and the city looks at it like it’s our fault — the reason why this (sale) hasn’t taken place — and that’s not true,” Summerour said.

The case will now go before a judge, who is charged with determining a fair price for the land that the city will pay.

“The city has done everything possible to purchase the property,” Haynie said. “The owner has every right to challenge the city.”

Comments
(14)
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OriginalRuckus
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June 23, 2014
The city is over paying for the properties on Franklin Road but are low-balling a lifelong resident? B.S!
Smyrna Slim
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June 23, 2014
I don't agree with what the city is doing by using eminent domain. What does bother me about the article is this is Mr. Sommerours only means of supporting his family. He is retired twice Lockheed and City of Marietta. Give me a break. He brings home a fair amount of money monthly. He doesn't need to poor mouth for a reason to keep his property. He needs to just keep up the fight. Hope he wins.
Occam
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June 23, 2014
If the property is so essential to the rec center project, then the city should pay the extra $150K that is in dispute for the full $300K. Or is the city really just a robber baron, trying to get the property on the cheap?
Dave Z
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June 23, 2014
Wow, this city council has regard for personal property. First, trying to mandate a police state unto Franklin Road property owners. Now, taking this man's land and, more importantly, his income for a non-essential use.

Phillip Goldstein - the advocate of property rights - where are you on this? I bet you wouldn't accept $142K for an income property. And I bet the city wouldn't dare offer such a low amount.

This mayor and council are quickly becoming a scary bunch. Not a Libertarian bone among them.

anonymous
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June 23, 2014
Not Libertarian. Republican YES (...but a far cry from Ronald Reagan.

These folks are tyrannical.

A recreation center is NOT what anyone who cherishes freedom and private property rights would EVER consider a "public good" that justifies TAKING property from a private citizen!

These people are OUT OF CONTROL...OBAMA STYLE!

Beware Marietta!

Journalism 101
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June 23, 2014
The last time I checked, Mr. Mayor, "public good" doesn't exactly pay for this man's livelihood and/or his ability to take care of himself and his family. Get your act together Marietta City Council!
RonLe
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June 23, 2014
i would be far less offended by this action if this were adding more classrooms to a school. I would still hate the idea and concept of Eminent Domain, but I could at least swallow it. But stealing property for a rec center (I wonder what the new tax revenue will be?)is just wrong. Not only that, where would the closest grocery store be for all the residents in that area? How many older non-driving people use that store for certain essentials?

sigh...it's just wrong.
Rhett Writer
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June 23, 2014
Tumlin and the city are using the law unfairly, by putting a very broad interpretation on the words, "for public good." I don't thinkt he founding fathers had parks in mind when they wrote that. Besides, who made the determination that this recreation area needed to expand? Are they currently turning people away every day because there is no room for them?

I'll bet if Mr. Summerour was one of the Chamber of Commerce cronies, or had an "in" with somebody on the city council, there would not be the slightest problem in paying him the 300 grand.

Such is the practice of government operatives.
English Teatime
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June 23, 2014
This is just so wrong! Using eminent domain is cruel. They are taking away this gentleman's livelihood! Creeps!!!!
HotinAtlanta
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June 23, 2014
This is just wrong. I consider "eminent domain" to be nothing short of a communist bullying technique for a government entity to take land from someone without having to pay for it. You don't ever see them doing this to churches! We need to get this law off the books. It's not the right to just take property that does not belong to you for any reason!!!!!
rtman
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June 23, 2014
Such Bullcrap. We have to stop this bullying of government and their ability to take land for whatever they want. Is this not America??? We need a damn revolution. They're lucky that's not my property because the city would be in for a rude awakening!!!
anonymous
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June 23, 2014
If only Mr Summerford were a member of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Tumlin would be having a bond issue placed to pay Mr. Summerford whatever amount of money he decided to ask for the property...kinda like the Mayor did for his Franklin Ave. property owning cronies.

A friggin' rec center IS NOT essential. It is NOT what EMENIENT Domain is intended to be used for.

I hate to mention it, but it is glaring...when was the last time the city of Marietta took a white guys business/property to put in something as non-essential as a recreation center?

(Why are the words THEFT and NAZI coming to mind right now?)

qafguy4u
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June 24, 2014
Unfortunately anonymous the only people using that rec center will probably be back so your theory is a bit flawed don't get me wrong I don't agree with the city either.
Thunderbrow
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June 23, 2014
Governments have been misappropriating property from citizens, especially black citizens, for 200 years. I don't see why we'd expect anything different today.
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