After a back and forth of offers and counter offers, Peggy Price agreed to sell her home to the city for $91,500.
That amount is up from the $62,000 the city last offered Price before discussions about her property began.
Price said she has lived at 335 Allgood Road since 1979, and she couldn’t bear to leave the home that holds so many memories for her.
“I have raised my kids there, my grandkids and their kids,” Price said.
Neighbors say Price often sits on the porch of her one-story home situated on a 0.2 acre parcel.
The City Council threatened to condemn Price’s property if she did not accept the city’s offer at the meeting.
City Attorney Doug Haynie said the city had a right to take her land because it plans on using it to build a $3.5 million expansion of the Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center. The center sat on 1.8 acres before, but will expand to 4.8 acres. The funding for the project comes from the 2009 parks bond.
“That’s public use,” Haynie said. “In this case, it’s public park use.”
Mayor Steve Tumlin said he was glad the situation could be solved without the city having to take Price’s home.
“I think it’s a win, win,” Tumlin said. “What made (the discussion) tense was we all appreciated what she was going through. But, the pure financial part — I think it ended well.”
Haynie said the process of purchasing someone’s land to be used by the city starts with an appraisal of the property.
The city’s secret appraiser, who Haynie refused to name when asked by the MDJ, first valued the land at $54,000 in 2010. The city added $5,000 to that amount to cover closing fees and offered Price $59,000 that year, Haynie said.
About two weeks ago, Haynie said the market went up, and the city increased its offer to $62,000.
Price refused both offers, saying her property was worth $135,000. She said she couldn’t find a new place to live with as little as $59,000.
“I am 64 years old. I cannot afford a $59,000 house and renovate it. I’m on Social Security, and I don’t have the money,” Price said. “If you want to get my house, take my house from me and put me in a dump? I don’t think that’s right.”
How city can condemn land
Haynie said the city uses Georgia law’s definition of “public use” to justify its powers of eminent domain.
Public use is described as “the possession, occupation or use of the land by the general public or by state or local governmental entities.”
Public use can also include any building used to “directly or indirectly serve the public,” according to Georgia law.
The city needed nine properties to expand the Porter center, and Price’s home was the last one to go.
Haynie said the city has purchased seven of the nine properties using $887,000. Now, the $91,500 it will pay Price will be added to that total when the purchase closes.
The City Council voted to take the property neighboring Price’s by eminent domain at its June meeting when the owner, Ray Summerour, would not accept the city’s offer. The value of Summerour’s 0.2 acre property is waiting to be debated in court, he said.
Haynie said Summerour and Price stalled in making a decision to sell.
“The city has continuously made efforts to purchase the property since (2010),” Haynie said.
Price’s cousin, Marietta native James Gober, a building contractor who also spoke at the Wednesday meeting, said no one was stalling the discussion on their end.
“No one ever came to knock on her door and see her,” Gober said. “We couldn’t even speak to our representative on the council. They said we weren’t allowed.”
Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly said the reason the residents aren’t allowed to speak in private with members of the council is because Price hired an attorney to represent them, so it’s proper for council members to have their attorney, Haynie, present at meetings as well.
Making the deal
Kelly spearheaded the city’s attempts to make a deal with Price Wednesday night after she stepped aside from the meeting during a break to talk with Price and her family.
“We were just saying to (Kelly) how long I’ve been in the house,” Price said about her conversation with the councilwoman. “My mother had bought the home, and I was very happy until all this started. She said (the council members) were going to talk about it.”
Following the discussion between Kelly and Price, Haynie and Price’s attorney, Harry Camp, haggled over the sale’s price before Price settle for $91,500 on the terms that Price could wait to move out of the home until Oct. 31 and the agreed upon amount included closing costs and attorney’s fees.
Price said she wasn’t completely satisfied with the result of the agreement, but she’s glad she didn’t get stuck in the legal battle that would ensue if the city had voted to condemn her property.
“They (the City Council) do what they want to do anyway,” Price said. “I’m not very pleased, but I accept it. I don’t think it was a fair deal. It is what it is.”
Kelly said she attempted to balance the city and the homeowner’s interests in the property when she made her offer.
“One of our responsibilities to our tax payers is to make sure we’re paying fair value for our properties, and we’ve exceeded that, but I think it’s clear that this is a situation that is unlike any other,” Kelly said.
Tumlin agreed, saying it was important the city be fair to Price while staying conservative with its offers.
“When it’s a city government (the appraisal value of a home) is a heavy anchor – the appraisal – anything beyond that we’re giving away the taxpayer’s money,” Tumlin said.
Price said the long meeting finally put an end to a lot of stress in her life, but it wasn’t a good ending.
“I’ll be very sad to see it demolished, but I’ve just got to keep on moving,” Price said. “I won’t be coming back on this side of town because there’s just too many memories.”