City Council battles great-grandmother
by Hilary Butschek
August 15, 2014 04:00 AM | 3686 views | 6 6 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly, center, is flanked, in an impromptu meeting outside of council chambers, by Peggy Price, left, and her son, Trent, who asked Kelly for her assistance in bringing the eminent domain case to a resolution. After a marathon council session, the city agreed to buy her home for $91,500. <br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly, center, is flanked, in an impromptu meeting outside of council chambers, by Peggy Price, left, and her son, Trent, who asked Kelly for her assistance in bringing the eminent domain case to a resolution. After a marathon council session, the city agreed to buy her home for $91,500.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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MARIETTA — In a meeting that lasted until midnight Wednesday, the City Council battled with a Marietta great-grandmother for her home, threatening to take her property with its powers of eminent domain.

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.”

Comments
(6)
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irked
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August 15, 2014
thugs

at least they didn't shoot her dog
Rhett Writer
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August 15, 2014
Wow! I hope the city fathers are proud of themselves. They bullied and defeated a grandmother. living on social security. They are forcing her to sell her home, which she had occupied for 35 years, just to satisfy their egos and build something three times the size that is needed.

I wonder how the city fathers made out on this fiasco.
anonymous
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August 15, 2014
How in the world do the supposedly private property rights respecting republicans (rinos) who tend to dominate Marietta politics/government justify the seizing of private property for...a friggin' RECREATION CENTER?

How can a basketball court have priority over peoples privately owned property rights?

This is NOT a necessity (like a roadway/power line/gas etc.). It is a "want".

The city of Marietta should not be seizing (forced sale of)peoples private property for a non-essential purposes. Period.

Welcome to the Peoples Socialist Republic of Marietta.

Oh, do I hear that Vladamir Putin will be at the opening of the new Recreation Center to cut the ribbon.

Concerned Citizen
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August 15, 2014
How unfair is this, that a city government has the power to do this? Shameful!
but coleman said
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August 15, 2014
Anthony Coleman was talking about how we cannot allow homeless camps practically in this person's back yard while the rest of the city counil was working to snatch her home at a price where she would never be able to buy another home? Wow.
Not A Win Win
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August 15, 2014
Listen to some of the comments in this article if they were accurately reported word for word...

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.

“That’s public use,” Haynie said.

Tumlin agreed, saying it was important the city be fair to Price while staying conservative with its offers

“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

While Mr. Haynie is correct in saying that the property "condemned" through eminent domain can be forcefully taken away because of the "public use," he failed to mention the 2nd part of the constitution under the "takings" clause which requires the government to pay for the property via a "just compensation." Their interpretation of the house based on "their" fair market value is not fair and an abuse of power. By threatening to condemn the property for government use places them in a perceptional position to offer a lower value than what Mrs. Price deserves, than that is a perfect example of abuse of power by the government. If you are going to force someone out of their house which is rightfully theirs...then the government should at least pay them what it worth. I find it appalling and outright disturbing that Tumlin can say this is a "win-win" and Mrs. Kelly can say that it is "the responsibility that the tax payers get fair value for the property..." This is obviously a one sided victory for the government and since when is the government looking out for the "fair value" of the tax payers? If only they would think that way about our indirect taxes. But you will hear them say, we are doing it for the greater good for all of society because we are building a park. Socialism and redistribution at its best. If you are going to force someone, then at least pay them properly. Lord knows our politicians waste so much of "our" hard earned tax money. Once again the government is not looking out for the taxpayers.

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