Roswell St. Baptist plans to pack city council meeting over land acquistion
by Jon Gillooly
November 14, 2012 12:32 AM | 5279 views | 18 18 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The city wants to acquire right-of-way space in front on Roswell Street Baptist Church to continue widening Roswell Road.<br>Staff/Todd Hull
The city wants to acquire right-of-way space in front on Roswell Street Baptist Church to continue widening Roswell Road.
Staff/Todd Hull

MARIETTA — Tonight could see an emotional showdown between members of Roswell Street Baptist Church and the Marietta City Council.

As the city proceeds with making Roswell Street a four-lane roadway between Fairground Street and Cobb Parkway, it’s now in a six-year-long negotiation with the church over acquiring right-of-way from the church.

The city’s latest offer is $365,982. The church wants $525,000, plus various stipulations.

Ultimately, the city can condemn the property, if the sides fail to reach an agreement.

Tonight, the church is planning to bus hundreds of members to City Hall in support of senior pastor Ernest Easley, who is scheduled to address the City Council.

Church leaders claim the city has not negotiated in good faith, citing higher amounts paid to other owners on Roswell Street.

Mayor Steve Tumlin, though, says the city’s latest offer is based on an appraisal of the actual property.

“Just because two parties don’t agree to the price doesn’t mean we’re not treating them fair,” Tumlin said.

John Crooks, the church’s administrative pastor, said Easley has one appeal.

“He wants the city leaders to be fair in their just and adequate compensation for the land,” Crooks said.

The church owns property on both sides of Roswell Street, both where its main campus is headquartered and across the street where the old Ken Stanton Shopping Center used to be. The church also owns the old Anderson Chevrolet building to the east.

Church officials point out that the city paid nearby Emerson Coffee Shop $15,000 per parking space in 2008, and paid Corona Properties $15,000 per parking spot in 2011 for property at the corner of Atlanta Street and Waverly Way on the South West Corner.

Crooks said the city has refused to pay the church the same amount per parking space.

Yet City Manager Bill Bruton said it is incorrect to say the city paid $15,000 per parking space for the Waverly Way property.

“The end dollar amount was arrived through mediation and included land, parking, consequential damages and impacts to property,” Bruton said.

Church officials say there have been as many as five different proposals as the church and city have negotiated over the years.

Crooks said at one point the plan called for the city to take half of the showroom at the old Anderson Chevrolet place, where the church has offices. That was the first of five proposals the city has made.

In the summer of 2008, Crooks said the city offered to purchase the right-of-way for $400,000.

In response, the church hired appraiser Dick Martin and countered with a proposal of $1.6 million in addition to several stipulations such as the city installing sidewalks in front of the church.

On May 25, 2012, church leaders met with Mayor Steve Tumlin and city attorney Doug Haynie to discuss the city’s offer of $73,000 for 85 church parking spaces.

The next day, the city upped its offer to $199,842, according to a time line of events Crooks provided the Journal.

Last month, the church countered at $525,000, plus various stipulations.

On Nov. 2, the city offered $365,982 with no other considerations or property swaps, according to Crooks’ timeline.

Bruton told the Journal that is the appraised value of the property.

The city also wants to take 20,890 square feet of right-of-way, 8511 square feet with a temporary easement, and 8,580 square feet with a permanent easement.

Bruton said the project is part of the city’s overall goal of making Roswell Street four lanes between Cobb Parkway to the Square, along with installing a median and sidewalks. The city has already four-laned the stretch of Roswell from the Square to Fairground Street at a cost of about $40 million over the last 15 years, Bruton said.

“We feel like we have been discriminated against,” Crooks said. “We don’t feel like we’ve been treated fairly in that now, at the last hour the process has changed. According to Dr. Easley, we just want the city to treat us fairly and to compensate us for what we believe is a fair and appropriate amount of money for parking spots along Roswell Street.”

Crooks said the problem is that the city is valuing the parking spots on a per-square-foot basis.

“We’re valuing them against what the city’s already paid for parking,” he said.

Crooks also pointed out what good neighbors the church has been.

“We’ve invested $13.5 million over the past seven years in renovating our facilities to stay and minster in our radius community,” he said. “We want to be there. We want to be good neighbors. We just want to be treated fairly.”

Bruton said the city does not need any of the parking spaces on the main church site.

“The spaces they own that would be impacted are on other nearby properties owned by the church,” Bruton said. “The only spaces that are going to be impacted along the main church frontage are public spaces currently owned by the city. They do not currently count as spaces toward any parking requirements.”

Bruton said on sites owned by the church near the main church site but across Roswell Street and Aviation Street, the parking required by the zoning ordinance is 289 spaces according to the appraisal. Currently there are 399 spaces on those properties.

“With all the proposed street improvements and reconfiguring as proposed in the appraisal, there would be 373 parking spaces at the end of construction,” Bruton said. “The church has also asked for substantial property that the city owns.”

Tumlin said the city is not discriminating against the church.

“We’re treating them fair,” he said. “We’re basing it on appraisals. We’re not basing it on arbitrary and capricious items.”

Comparing Roswell’s property to Emerson’s is not an apples-to-apples comparison, Tumlin said. Emerson had very few parking spaces to begin with.

“Sometimes you look at not only what was taken, but you also look at what is left,” Tumlin said. “Emerson on its face makes it look like maybe we paid an unusual premium, but it’s what they were left with. I’m not a professional appraiser, I’m not even a professional negotiator, but things like Emerson … if you wipe out 90 percent of their parking, then they get a bigger premium.”

Tumlin said tonight’s meeting contains two agenda items on the subject. One is for the city to proceed with condemnation proceedings. Tumlin said such a decision should be a last resort. The other is for the church and city to bring in an arbitrator to reach a decision.

“I want the church to get the ultimate in fairness, but we can’t go beyond what our legal constraints are,” Tumlin said. “Just like they’re a trustee for the church’s money, we’re governed by laws. We would have to have a basis that is consistent with appraisals, and right now our differences are so great we couldn’t say the appraisal is off give or take 10 percent. We’re not there. We couldn’t arbitrarily and capriciously say, ‘hey, you all made a great case. We can throw our appraisals out the window.’”

Tumlin also addressed the point about why the plans have changed, noting that’s what happens when the city relies on changing revenue streams such as SPLOST dollars and federal stimulus dollars.

“I agree with their frustration, but we’re not discriminating against them,” Tumlin said.

The City Council meets tonight beginning at 6 p.m. in the Council Chamber of City Hall for its agenda review meeting, located at 205 Lawrence St. in Marietta. The regular meeting immediately follows at 7 p.m.

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November 14, 2012
Nelson Price is probably rolling in his grave.

Why does that road even "need" to be four laned?

Not once in my life have I sat in a traffic jam trying to drive through there (and yes, I do drive, since we effectively require it of ourselves).

Why is the city making the roads pretty, but no more useful to non-drivers than before they were prettified?

If we really want the roads to be pretty, we need to dig them up and make parks instead!

I say we should shut down 120 from the Big Chicken to Barrett and make that space into a linear park!

Whitlock traffic jams? A thing of the past!

Red state McMansion fatties polluting our fantastic blue city? Not if they have to walk a block!

Let them eat Dominoes and go to the AMC 24 by the mall instead!
ed the plumber
November 15, 2012
The 4 laning process is to be able to get double wide project buses down into the hood... Come on, they need nice side walks and their leader Barry the Bum will keep floating tax payer dollars for these type of facial uplift's!!

Cant wait until the average tax paying american wakes up.....
Dawn Kelly
November 14, 2012
I have been a member at R.S.B.C. for close to 40 years. Grew up there and cannot tell you the impact on our community that I have witnessed over the decades by this precious church. Our community should be so grateful for God's love poured out to them through this church's membership. I have watched them allow their facility for so many community purposes. They have given to people in need who just walk in desperate. They give and give and give and bless so many. I went to VBS there, was baptized there, graduated from high school there, married there and attended funerals of my family there. When my Grandparents first came to Marietta to work for Lockheed, they were warmly embraced by R.S.B.C. and they stayed until their last breaths. Their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren all members. We love our church and our city, but it is a disgrace that the City of Marietta would not treat this church fairly and generously for all that this church has done for this city and this county. God will continue to bless them in spite of such disrespect by the greed of our city officials. My, how Marietta has changed. I am sad.
November 14, 2012
There will be a lot of Marietta Voters in the City Chamber tonight!

Go Roswell Street.
Concerned Citizen
November 14, 2012
The City of Marietta originally was to pay 1.6 million for the cost of the easements they would assume. This was and is a fair market value price. The truth is the city has run out of money and is over budget on the project. The earlier businesses along the downtown Marietta corridor have been paid in full while those left on the Big Chicken side are being asked to accept land plots and other "settlements" instead of the fair market value. God speed Roswell Street Baptist Church as you seek fairness and justice!!
Sick of this!!!
November 14, 2012
Just condem the land, the taxpayers should not have to pay one dime more than the property is worth. If the city gives in to vote them all out!
November 14, 2012
Let's see if I have this right.

The church wants the city to pay them more than the appraised value of the property so the the city can have the right to make very expensive improvements along the church's frontage.

What's wrong with this picture?

I would think that the church would welcome the taxpayer funded improvements and cooperate.
Love your neighbor
November 14, 2012
Johnson Ferry Baptist DONATED right of way to Cobb County when it was needed to widen Woodlawn. After all, their members and their neighbors benefited from a better road. Just saying, what would a good neighbor do?
November 14, 2012

Roswell Street Baptist pays no taxes, but yet they want taxpayers In Marietta to pay them more than the appraised value of the property needed AND pay for the improvements.


Just Saying....
November 14, 2012
Excellent point!!!
November 14, 2012
Stop the "City Gateway" madness. Most Taxpayers do NOT support lavish government spending on Gateways.

Money is very tight! Yet Marietta and Smyrna plunge forward to create unnecessary Gateways.

Go Roswell Street!
Devlin ADams
November 14, 2012
Let's see now, in 2008, they wanted 1.6 million, but now they are willing to settled for less than i/3 of that.

They wanted 4 times what the property was appraised at, $400,000/1.6 million. Sounds like a fine example of "Christ Centered" profiteering.

What a coup that would have been for the Lord.

Sounds like the Revs. Crooks, Easley, etc, need to spend less time at the negotiating table and more time on their knees.

I would be willing to bet that this "demonstration" at the City Council meeting was dreamed up and planned by none other than Rev. Crooks.
keep fighting
November 14, 2012
Go Roswell Street! Not a member, but totally support your efforts!!!!
November 14, 2012
Maybe they should be paid what they have paid in taxes for 50 years.
Come On
November 14, 2012
you joke, but you dont understand the charity the church has made for the community. They host several large events for the schools each year where they dont profit. They also provide food and assistance to the less fortunate in the local community so those people are not dependent on government assistance. That is just a couple of examples of how they help the community.
@come on
November 14, 2012
They also apparently provide a salary to John Crooks who has mocked the citizens and ripped them off of needed school funds to pay his legal fees.
Here Again
November 14, 2012
The church has usually gotten whatever the church wants. While I do not care one way or the other, they have enjoyed this prime real-estate and added to it continuously for years, removing valuable taxes from the tax rolls. Let us be serious...the old dealership building looks empty and rarely do you ever see a car parked there. Here's the deal...they are going nowhere because a new campus would cost too much and they would give up the older demographic which lives nearby and supports them fiancially.
November 14, 2012
Seriously? A lot of businesses do that too and in all honesty churches are a small business that do profit until the books are closed out. I have worked in very large churches and my brother is a pastor but they enjoy some very large tax breaks that other property owners do not. The city is not asking for their building.
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