The City of Elberton has filed suit in Superior Court in Elbert County to condemn and invoke eminent domain on 6 Public Square.
The property, owned by Bob and Rina Thomas, adjoins the Samuel Elbert Hotel.
In doing so, the city has filed three documents with the Superior Court.
The Elberton Star has been able to obtain copies of all three documents.
The first document, titled Order of the Mayor and City Council of the City of Elberton, states “the city has made plans and determined to construct improvements as part of the municipal transportation system and any other public purpose specifically described as the City of Elberton, Georgia Public Transportation Enhancement Project and being more particularly fully shown on a plat and drawing on file at Elberton City Hall.”
According to the document, the parcel of land, .13 acres in size, is essential for the construction of the stated project.
The document is signed by the mayor, all five council members and the city clerk.
The second document submitted is a Petition for Condemnation.
This document identifies the property and states it will be used “for construction of public street and related transportation improvements.”
The document also states the property is being condemned to provide airspace rights.
The document also states the action was being sought under the provisions of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 32-3-4 through § 32-3-19 and asks the court to find in favor of the petitioner (the city), for an order condemning the property and to require the current owners to vacate the property within 60 days of filing.
The third document is a Declaration of Taking.
According to this document, the city has had the property appraised at $40,000 and that amount has been set aside as payment for the city’s taking of the property.
Like the others, the document states the reason for taking the property is for transportation improvements, but also includes the term “which will include both pedestrian and airspace rights.”
The document also contains the resolution passed by council members on June 2 as part of the called budget work session. The published agenda for the session did not include any mention of the intent to discuss the condemnation of the building.
The property was offered to the City of Elberton by the owners last fall and council members chose not to act on the offer at the time. In fact, at the August 2015 meeting, Councilman Troy Colquitt made a motion to table not only the parcel purchase but the hotel project as well.
When the hotel project was voted on again, it was decided at that time not to go forward with the purchase of 6 Public Square.
According to the owners, there was no further discussion concerning the property until council voted to purchase the property for $42,000, $2,000 higher than the previous asking price. It was at that time Rina Thomas said the property was no longer for sale.
The Elberton Star attempted to contact both City Manager Lanier Dunn and attorney Robert Jackson Wilson, PC, out of Lawrenceville. Wilson is representing the city in the case for the city.
Not released to the public were documents showing all three Northern Judicial Circuit judges - Chris Phelps, Tom Hodges and Jeffrey Malcom- had recused themselves from the case. The recusals mean a judge will have to be brought in from another circuit to hear the case.
As of Monday evening, the Thomases had not been served their notice of the suit.