Eminent domain is a component of Sandy Springs’ City Center project. Last summer, Council members approved resolutions to acquire the Sherwin Williams property on Johnson Ferry Road and Makara’s restaurant on Roswell Road through eminent domain.
During Tuesday’s forum at North Springs Charter High School by The League of Women Voters and Leadership Sandy Springs, candidates were split on how they feel about the measure being used to develop downtown Sandy Springs.
Opposed to eminent domain, District 5 candidate Clayton Cole recalled how a business owner learned through a third party that the city was going to run a street through his business.
“It seems to me that when you are going to be affecting the neighborhoods, that these people should have an input [into] what’s going to be happening,” Cole said.
Incumbent Gabriel Sterling, who is running for re-election in District 4 is the only City Council person to consistently vote against eminent domain. “I do not agree with eminent domain to build out the City Center,” he said.
His opponent, Tochie Blad, said eminent domain should be reserved for infrastructure needs. “…I’m not in favor of taking a long established Sandy Springs business and displacing it with possibly another business,” she said. “...Eminent domain is definitely not something I would be in favor of.”
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District 1 Councilman John Paulson, who is running unopposed, said City Council has approved it as a last resort. “The only property the city has actually taken to date has been sidewalks; so that the city can improve the sidewalks after paying for it, for the businesses along Roswell Road,” Paulson said. “So ‘eminent domain’ has been tossed around a lot. It has actually been implemented very selectively.”
Incumbent Tibby DeJulio of District 5 said residents and business owners have been a part of the planning process, and businesses have had plenty of time to learn that eminent domain could affect them.
“We have used only eminent domain in the City of Sandy Springs that I can remember twice; and that was to clear title…at the owners' request...” Dejulio said. “We have only used eminent domain as a last resort. But we can’t always negotiate with people if they wont negotiate with us. And so we have made everybody fair and more than fair offers on property and we are trying to accumulate that property for the common good of the city.”