City may avoid land fight with church
by Noreen Cochran
November 27, 2012 12:55 AM | 2909 views | 25 25 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Anthony Coleman
Anthony Coleman
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MARIETTA — Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin and City Council members gave strong indications during committee meetings Monday night at City Hall that a proposed streetscape may be redesigned to avoid a conflict with Roswell Street Baptist Church.

The city wants land occupied by church parking spaces in order to complete a Roswell Street streetscape project.

Figures named in city documents dating back to May 2006 and by the church show the value of the land ranging from $73,000 to $2.1 million.

Before the public meetings, the mayor and Council went into a closed session to discuss an ongoing plan to widen Roswell Street between the Square and Cobb Parkway and its Nov. 14 vote to mediate with the church rather than consider eminent domain.

Tumlin said after the meetings the session will help the city prepare for a Dec. 10 mediation session with former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman S. Fletcher.

“There are 15 to 20 different parts to it,” Tumlin said about the Nov. 26 meeting. “We analyzed our position and what we would like to have. The (city)attorney explained the mediation process to us. We just told staff that we want to verify what we want very pragmatically.”

The Dec. 10 meeting will follow an agenda, Tumlin said.

“We will meet here and then go into executive session. Justice Fletcher will meet with us and tell us what he likes about our argument and what he doesn’t like. Then he’ll talk to the church. Then you get together,” he said.

Tumlin said the presence of a mediator changes the dynamic of a dispute.

“The mediator brings in an element. You don’t look back. You look to resolve it. That’s the attitude we want,” he said.

However, there is some history on both sides, Tumlin said.

“There are so many moving parts. There’s been a lot of confusion over the 12 years. We’ve dealt with them on rezoning because they’ve had such phenomenal growth,” he said. “They’re frustrated that we changed the plan five times. From our point of view, that’s the nature of the beast. From their point of view, we’re wishy-washy.”

Both sides, Tumlin said, are “happy” to have Fletcher as an advocate.

“He will slap our wrists,” Tumlin said about keeping both sides in line.

Church Minister of Administration and Church Programming John Crooks confirmed Tumlin’s statement after the meeting.

“Justice Fletcher was chosen by both sides. He will do a fine job,” Crooks said.

Crooks said nothing has changed in the church’s position since the Nov. 14 City Council meeting.

“We are carefully putting our team together that will be at the mediation,” he said. “We’re just looking forward to Dec. 10.”

Councilman Anthony Coleman said before the meeting he thought the new course may be a viable alternative.

“If we skip over it and not impact their property, it will save them money and save us money,” he said. “It’s a good alternative. It doesn’t appraise for what they want. We won’t be taking 80 parking spaces. Let’s sit down and discuss and take a few jabs at it.”

Coleman said he took heat from constituents due to his status as a clergyman.

“That wouldn’t look good for you, a minister condemning a church,” he said about callers’ statements.

Coleman said he wanted to keep options open but be prepared for the worst.

“We want to do what’s right and fair for the church,” he said. “How do we find middle ground? If there’s no middle ground, let’s just leave it as it is.”

Tumlin said it was his idea to add an item to the public works committee meeting agenda regarding “less intrusive alternatives of Roswell Street streetscapes section near Victory Drive,” the church’s nearest intersection.

“Let’s keep it on the back burner. That way, if we have such an impasse on negotiation we might look at something else,” he said.

Councilman Jim King agreed.

“What if we left the median out? What would you have? You’d have the rest of Roswell Street. That’s a lot less real estate to take. It’s less costly,” he said. “Let’s be open to possibilities regardless of the outcome of mediation.”
Comments
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Church Chat
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November 28, 2012
@Ernie Sadiq - You are beginning to amuse me...I suspect you are a real "God Influencer" around here. Mosque, temple, church or commune my opinion would be the same. Perhaps a place in the pew doesn't warrant my being able to have an opinion or perhaps you feel a taxpayer has no right to express their thought or voice an opinion. I seem to remember one elected official not too long ago who thought the same way and lo and behold he had a recall effort launched against him.

Let's just say I know you have an opinion and a point of view and I have an opinion and point of view. I would not wish to silence yours, even though they differ.
Church Chat
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November 28, 2012
@Ernie - I have more than a passing understanding of all of these things and believe it or not, I also have more than a passing understanding of property values and what constitutes a "special use" property versus a "commercial" property under accepted guidelines. OH...and by the way, as a taxpayer of this fair city, it appears I may very well be a buyer of the property. If I did not know better I would say you are spending too much time in your office overlooking this property rather than walking the neighborhood.
Ernie Sadiq
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November 28, 2012
@Church Chat

As a taxpayer, that is what you have elected officials for. Your involvement is distant, at best, and exists only remotely via your elected representatives and bureaucrats whom you have virtually no control. And there you go again, first trying to insert yourself into a property sale, and now trying to control how other people spend their time. If this controversy involved a mosque, the silence would be deafening, lest one be labeled by the left as a islamphobic.
Kevin Foleyski
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November 28, 2012
Hey Mr Chat, please keep your reference headers correct, else we don't know who you talking to.

Thanks from Foleyski, Polish etiquette monitor.
Church Chat
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November 27, 2012
First of all, to the commentor who keeps responding and changing his/her name....no one here is disputing private property rights. Also, it is obvious both parties entered into arbitration because the PR of a law suit would stink for BOTH parties. Let's move beyond the easy stuff here.

The government, be it city, county, state or federal, has this nifty little thing called eminent domain which is at their disposal any time they wish to use it. They have to pay the "damaged" party a reasonable and fair price for what they take, usually based on appraisals of the property being seized. The appraisal process, especially in a "special use" property, such as this, takes many factors into consideration. Much talk has been made of the parking spaces, which unfortunately do not mean as much to a special use property such as this, versus a commercial enterprise. The property seized at the commercial businesses along this road effectively put those businesses at a great disadvantage...i.e. out of business. This is quite simply not the case at RSBC. These spaces, while useful one day a week, do not prohibit the church from operating. And, the number of spaces being taken, would be minimal considering how many other spaces are available.

In addition, the reality is that the property the church owns, and is boardered by, is no longer commercially desirable as it may have been even a few short years ago. Commercial real-estate is in the tank and quite frankly, the neighborhood the church is in has gone downhill consistently for the last decade. It would be great for the city to figure out a way to do this without touching the church property and saving the taxpayers a few bucks, but if indeed they do decide they need the land, the church would be better off taking a fair offer rather than waiting for a generous offer.

Ernie Sadiq
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November 28, 2012
@Church Chat

Your logic is severely flawed in several ways, as well as your concept of private property rights and contractual law. RSBC is free to negotiate any sale which the two parties can agree upon. Your perceived evaluation of the surrounding neighborhood is irrelevant in the negotiations. What you consider a fair offer is also irrelevant, since you are neither the seller or buyer.
FB322
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November 27, 2012
Seems every time an article is run about Roswell Street Baptist Church it brings out the Christophobics from their dark corners. Christophobia is apparently very evident in our community.
Chuch is 47%
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November 27, 2012
“That wouldn’t look good for you, a minister condemning a church,” he said about callers’ statements. Are you kidding? They are not condemning a church they are condemning the land for the street right of way the same they would do with any other landowner trying to gouge the city. They should not be considered for special rights and they don't even pay taxes. These are the mouchers that Romney was talking about, expecting everything from the government.

Alar Zarkowi
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November 27, 2012
@Chuch is 47%

Your Christian prejudice is evident. RSBC has never once attempted to gouge the city, as you say. Please state why you believe RSBC is asking for special rights? That is simply not true. Your statement about taxes would suggest you are woefully untrained in the area of Constitutional law. Your logic again fails with the 47% remark. The land in question was bought and paid for by RSBC, thus giving them property rights like anyone else. The 47% Romney talked about are free loaders who have never paid for anything much less ever earned anything. Take a look at the Democrat party. They are a perfect example of the 47% who mooch off other people's earnings.
Watcher...
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November 27, 2012
I doubt if RSBC "mooches" much from anybody.

The City of Marietta will be very careful in any action they take on this issue.

47% for sure
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November 27, 2012
Alar, The church has asked for $1.6 million in addition to several stipulations. Please state your definition of gouging. (Source: Roswell St. Baptist plans to pack city council meeting over land acquistion From MDJ Nov 13th)

SG38
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November 28, 2012
@Church is 47%

In America, a seller if free to ask whatever they want. What direct involvement do you have in this matter between the two parties?
dustoff
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November 27, 2012
Well since churches do not pay property taxes, it only seems right that their property should have no value.
southern lady2
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November 27, 2012
Er Mr dustoff, try as I might, your twisted logic fails to meet the passing standard of reasonable. Also, you might want to brush up a little on Constitutional law. Are you even aware of what private property rights are?
SG68
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November 27, 2012
Since the church seems reluctant to cooperate change the design along their frontage to eliminate any taking of their property.

Use that money to make improvements elsewhwere along the corridor.

I suspect that the church will howl and call foul when they realize their much anticipated windfall is flying out the window.

Lonney Shara
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November 27, 2012
@SG68

What makes you think either party is not cooperating? It would appear you are not aware of the fact that both parties entered into voluntary arbitration. There was never any hint of RSBC expecting what you refer to as a windfall. RSBC was asking for what had already been determined to be a fair price. Your Christian prejudice is showing.
SG68
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November 28, 2012
Entering into voluntary arbitration should not necessarily be equated with cooperation.

I suspect that the church's attorneys recommended this avenue to generate more fee's. After all it is a pot of taxpayer funds waiting to be tapped.

Again, just change the design of the road to eliminate any takings of property from the church.

As to your comment about my Christian prejudice

Kind of reminds me of when certain groups automatically cry racism, bigotry or prejudice when someone happens to oppose their point of view on an issue.

SG557
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November 28, 2012
@SG68

You advocate to deny RSBC basic rights as guaranteed by the Constitution and then you claim you have no prejudice? Please entertain us as to exactly how you define prejudice?
SG68
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November 29, 2012
My reasons for questioning the Church's response to the City are not based on prejudice.

My logic is based on the fact that the church is not being economically harmed, to the extent that they claim, by the proposed taking.

In fact, they will benefit from the improvements being made along their frontage. Safer roadway and traffic movements, aesthetically more attractive, more pedestrian friendly etc.

Comparing the taking of their parking spaces to spaces that were taken from other businesses in the corridor is not a fair comparison.

Businesses use their parking spaces at least 6 days out of the week. The church, in most instances, uses its' parking spaces 1 day out of the week. So the economic impact of the taking should be adjusted accordingly.

Is the church legally entitled to be compensated under the laws governing a taking of property? Of course they are.

But it seems inconsistent for a tax exempt organization to try to take unfair advantage of that right, when on the other hand they readily accept the benefits of their tax exempt status.

Commonly known as "having your cake and eating it to."

Not prejudice, just my opinion.

Too Funny
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November 27, 2012
This is hilarious, especially if they go with plan B and don't take church property! The good Reverends were hoping for a large infusion of cash and now they may not get it. This has never been about a few parking spaces...they don't use them all anyway...this has always been about money.
Abdu Akhbar
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November 27, 2012
@Too Funny

And you find it surprising that churches do deal in money matters? Churches hold business meetings all the time, and the majority of topics they discuss are about money. RSBC no different from any other church.
not irrelevant
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November 27, 2012
Abdul Sir, it's OUR money!!!!
SG558
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November 28, 2012
So, what are you trying to say mr Too Funny? That public funds belong to you alone? What an odd thing to assume.
VFP42
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November 27, 2012
How can this church seriously believe its land is valuable? Houses in the surrounding neighborhood are unsaleable, the Mercado is across the street with all the lowered pick up trucks and suburbans in the lot, WalMart around the corner, and the worst of the worst is practically next door (just across the U-Haul parking lot): Mulligan's.

I am suprised the Church isn't saying "if you want the lots by the road, you got to buy the WHOLE DANG PROPERTY off us since this 'hood is awful."

Abdul Akhbar
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November 27, 2012
@VFP42

What you think is totally irrelevant. Like most things, the property is worth what the two parties involved agree upon for a selling price.
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