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.”