MARIETTA — The Marietta City Council discussed the so-called “Goldstein gap” on Marietta Square this week, electing not to get involved in the property’s future, but leaving the door open to changes to city code governing blighted properties.
Councilman Johnny Walker raised the topic, arguing that the hole in the ground at 77 North Park Square owned by former Councilman Philip Goldstein is an eyesore.
“I’m speaking as a councilman, a resident, I speak for many residents in the city of Marietta who have asked me to … see what we can do about the dilapidated property on the Square,” Walker said at a Monday work session. “I think 10 years is long enough, we wouldn’t allow this to take place in a residential neighborhood.”
Walker said the property was prime real estate with great potential. He told the MDJ last week that he’d like to see the city pressure Goldstein to build something there.
The lot was formerly occupied by the historic Cuthbertson building. Goldstein, whose family owns the lion’s share of property around Marietta Square, razed that building a decade ago, saying it was too expensive to maintain. Goldstein’s son Joseph, who succeeded him on the council, recused himself from the debate Monday.
Shortly after tearing down the Cuthbertson building, Goldstein proposed building a five-story building on the site. That proposal was rejected by the council over height restrictions, leading to a legal battle between Goldstein and the city. More recently, in 2018, plans to build a three-story brewery were approved by the city, but the deal between Goldstein and the brewery owner fell through.
The lot is surrounded by wooden fencing. Public art was added to the fence last fall.
Walker raised the issue of the property in May 2020, arguing the fenced-off lot had attracted trash and pests, and was a safety hazard. The property was cleaned up around that time, and the issue was dropped.
Councilman Andre Sims asked Walker what Goldstein had done in the past when the city notified Goldstein that the property needed cleaning up. Walker said the issue wasn’t trash, and admitted that he wasn’t sure if Goldstein was in violation of city code, but said he still wanted to see the property developed.
Council members Grif Chalfant and M. Carlyle Kent both asked whether Philip Goldstein, who was attending the meeting, could weigh in. But Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin shot that down.
“Maybe we ought to look at our code section about, ‘What is a nuisance?’ … I think it would be a mistake to make it personal, just with this piece of property … our job is not to negotiate with them, it’s to enforce the law,” said Tumlin, who has previously proposed building a new city tourism center on the Goldstein lot.
City code, Tumlin said, deals with blighted buildings, but he wasn’t sure that a hole in the ground was covered.
Councilwoman Cheryl Richardson agreed, saying the city ought to look at blight in other areas too. Change the code and enforce it, she argued, rather than target one property owner.
“I think it has to be done generally, not specifically,” Tumlin said.
City Manager Bill Bruton said city staff were already crafting changes to the code to address blight, and plans to bring plans to the council in February. The current code makes it hard to quickly enforce violations, he said.
“By the time you’re even able to get them in court, you’re six months down the road,” Bruton said.
The council took no action Monday, but may consider code changes that would affect the property in the coming months.