The city of Sandy Springs is considering paying a property owner nearly $500,000 to acquire less than half an acre for part of its streetscape project.

“This is a condemnation (proceeding) for part of that property, and negotiations broke down. … Through the negotiations, it’s been revealed that this area kind of is disjointed, and we’re taking about seven or eight parking places,” City Attorney Dan Lee said of land in the Centre Court shopping center at 6010 Sandy Springs Circle, across from the City Springs complex.

Lee gave a presentation on the issue at the Sandy Springs City Council’s Aug. 20 meeting at City Springs. According to city documents, Sandy Springs appraised the land at $305,600 (for the right-of-way and a construction easement) and offered to pay that amount to the owner, listed only as the Centre Court shopping center, according to Fulton County property records.

The owner countered at $499,750, and the city is willing to pay that amount. The cost also includes 0.309 acres for the temporary construction easements and interruption of business.

Lee said the reason for the high cost of this land is appraisals can range from $700,000 down to $305,000.

“I can’t tell you how appraisals are landing when it comes to parking spaces, especially in properties where the parking is limited,” he said. "This is one of them that is the basis for the root of the difference in the price.”

When the measure came up for a vote, there was a long, silent pause before Mayor Rusty Paul warned the council it would “die for a lack of a motion.” Then District 1 Councilman John Paulson made a motion for approval and District 5 Councilman Tibby DeJulio seconded his motion.

But during the discussion before the vote, council members Paulson, Chris Burnett and Andy Bauman expressed doubts about approving such a high sum for a small piece of land. Paulson asked Lee what the city’s options are at this point.

Lee said the city is at the end of its negotiations with the owner, so only a jury trial would be the next step if the city does not approve the agreed-to amount. He said the streetscape project, when complete, won’t allow parking on that side of the road.

Paulson asked if the city does not buy the land, would it stop the streetscape project, and Lee said it won’t.

Then Bauman, sensing the council’s reluctance to vote on the issue, made a substitute motion to defer the vote to the council’s next meeting Sept. 3. District 4 Councilwoman Jody Reichel seconded his motion, and the council voted 6-0 to defer.

If, at the next meeting, the city decides to buy the land at the negotiated price to avoid a trial and possibly paying more, it would mark the second time in a month the council has approved spending a higher-than-normal amount for land near City Springs for the streetscape project.

At its Aug. 6 meeting, the council voted 6-0 to approve paying $862,500 to settle a condemnation case regarding a 0.241-acre piece of land on the corner of Sandy Springs Circle and Mount Vernon Highway.

That property sale had a high price tag because it also included funds for the loss of business State Farm insurance agent Randy Beavers incurred for having to move from that prime location to another spot nearby in the city.

Lee said the difference between that case and the Centre Court one is the temporary easements.

“We're taking a lane away, so it has a greater value to the city,” he said. “There's also another reason for the cost. The temporary easement construction is more onerous than normal.”

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