Over the last month, the city has been collecting small lots near the corner of North Marietta Parkway and Fairground Street to be used in the planned expansion of the Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center.
The center, at 370 Montgomery St., sits on 2.7 acres of land. The city already owns nearly 1.7 acres of adjacent properties, according to Rich Buss, the city’s parks director.
On Sept. 11, the council agreed to pay $54,000 to First Citizens Bank and Trust Co. for the property at 357 Allgood Road. The land includes a 756-square-foot home built in 1950.
On Sept. 30, a liquor store called Hunter’s Package, on .399 acres at 321 Allgood Road, was bought for $270,000.
The city is attempting to acquire five additional properties that would total 1.198 acres, Buss said. Two of those properties, 343 Allgood Road and 349 Allgood Road, were targeted for condemnation by the council Wednesday night.
Both properties are appraised for more than $30,000 each, according to the Cobb County Assessor’s Office, and contain two small homes built in 1950.
Mayor Steve Tumlin said the two properties are rental units that often sit empty with “absentee landlords.”
Tumlin said the only reason he supported pursuing eminent domain on the two properties is because they are the final pieces missing from the assembled land.
“The last thing you want to do is condemnation,” Tumlin said. “But, everything else has fallen into place. It was time to make that call.”
Claiming eminent domain
The two homes are in Ward 5, represented by Councilman Anthony Coleman. Doug Martin, 60, who served in the U.S. Marines, is challenging Coleman for his council seat in the Nov. 5 election.
Martin said the Elizabeth Porter Center project and the concern about condemning properties in the ward is one of the major reasons he decided to run for office.
“I have spoken to those homeowners and told them this step was coming,” said Martin, who was campaigning in the area hours before Wednesday’s meeting.
The eminent domain process will include one last written offer to the owners, offering the appraised value of each property. The council could make a final vote authorizing eminent domain at its November meeting. After 30 days, the city can file condemnation papers in Cobb Superior Court, forcing the owners to give up their property.
The Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center is one of the largest items on the 2009 parks bond project list, budgeted for $3.75 million.
A plan for the new center is “already in the works,” which could include a water feature now that there is more land, Tumlin said.
Tumlin said he hopes for a detailed plan by December or January for the center that will attract a wide range of community members.
“It won’t just be a gym, but a fabulous place,” Tumlin said.
Construction could begin in late spring.
“The sooner we can start on it the better,” Tumlin said. “We would love to go full steam ahead.”