Milton exercises right to eminent domain

Two of three parcels deemed condemned

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MILTON, Ga. — The city of Milton stretched its young legislative limbs at its March 4 Milton City Council meeting. In preparation for the city’s first roundabout, councilmembers unanimously voted to exercise the city’s right of eminent domain on three parcels of land at the Hopewell, Cogburn and Francis Road intersection.

Two of the three parcels have been deemed condemned because of title issues.

The city has used eminent domain because the titles cannot be resolved in a reasonable amount of time, according to Public Works Director Carter Lucas. He said these situations were referred to as “friendly condemnations.”

The first of these two “friendly condemnations” will occur at Hopewell Road/Cogburn Road at Francis Road/Hopewell Road. The city will pay the owner $1,100.

The second is at 2643 Francis Road and the city will purchase the land for $4,200.

But the last parcel at 14750 Hopewell Road has proven difficult to acquire.

“We believe we negotiated in good faith with the property owner and have not been able to come to a resolution,” said Lucas.

The city did receive a counter-offer the afternoon before the meeting. But the council went ahead and voted to use eminent domain in case a deal was not made. Even though the council voted, they are not bound to follow it through.

“I think we will be able to come to an agreement,” Lucas said.

Cities exercise eminent domain when they can’t reach an agreement with a property owner over the value of the land, or the property owner needs the process for accounting or tax purposes. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires local, state and federal governments to provide “just compensation” to the property owners.

This is the first time Milton has used eminent domain.

“The public hears ‘condemnation’ and ‘eminent domain’ and get some ugly thoughts in their heads about the local government,” Mayor Joe Lockwood said at the meeting. “Our staff is very good with working with the property owners and coming up with a fair market value. We certainly try to be very fair and pay a fair amount to the citizens.”

In July 2011, Milton chose to build its first roundabout instead of a traffic signal at the Hopewell, Cogburn and Francis Road intersection because of the price. A roundabout would cost $600,000, as compared to the $800,000 traffic signal, which also has a costlier upkeep.