Senoia open to condemnation for rec trail projects
by Sarah Fay Campbell
The city of Senoia has received a state grant to design a new recreational trail.
The proposed trail would go on private property, and, to accept the grant and move forward, the city has to be willing to use the power of eminent domain to condemn property, if need be.
On Monday, the Senoia City Council discussed the issue, and eventually city leaders voted that they were comfortable with possibly condemning property in the future.
The council voted to accept a “project framework agreement” with the Georgia Department of Transportation for the trail grant.
“If we accept the money to do the preliminary engineering, it is GDOT’s expectation, and the federal government's expectation, that the project will be completed,” said City Administrator Richard Ferry. That means the city can’t back out if no agreement can be reached with the property owners.
The city can’t begin the right-of-way acquisition process until the preliminary engineering and environmental studies are completed.
The proposed trail would begin in the Ivy Ridge subdivision at Keg Creek, on property owned by the Ivy Ridge Homeowners Association. It would travel through property owned by a member of the Cleveland family.
Ferry said he’d met with all the property owners to discuss the possible trail. Ferry said no one would make a commitment, but there was no outright opposition to the trail project.
Ferry showed a map of proposed recreational trails that came out of the city’s parks and recreation master plan. Several of them cross private property.
“If we determine that condemnation isn’t in our best interest, what are we going to do with the whole master plan of recreational trails?” Ferry asked.
“Are we going to be a body government that condemns property for the benefit of the city?” asked Councilman Jeff Fisher. “No matter what direction we choose, that question is going to come up.”
“This is a great project,” said Councilman Maurice Grover. “But I just don’t know that I can get behind condemnation for a recreational trail.”
Fisher said he would hate to see the city lose out on the grant money.
“This is progress,” said Councilman Bobby Graham. “I don't think there is a person in this room who would say, ‘Yeah, we’d love to go out and condemn somebody’s property.’” He added he has “serious doubts” that it will come to condemnation.
“Me, too,” said Fisher.
However, “if we’re going to come anywhere close to our master park plan, it is going to have to happen at some point. We’re going to have to have some private property,” Graham said. “If the government is going to put that requirement on us to be willing to do whatever it takes, we have to be willing.”
The grant was awarded in June for a proposed trail linking Senoia and Peachtree City. The two cities, as well as Coweta and Fayette counties, were all parties to the grant. But Peachtree City has decided it has other priorities, Ferry said. Senoia petitioned the Atlanta Regional Commission to be awarded the grant for a project in the city, and that was granted.
The grant is for $100,000 of the expected $125,000 preliminarily engineering cost. The total cost of the trail is expected to be around $400,000, and the city would have to reapply for construction funds.
Grover asked if the city was locked into that specific trail.
There were three options, Fisher said. One was around Hutchinson Lake and would have required right-of-way from six tracts of private property. The other would require a bridge over the railroad.
“This isn’t my favorite project, but I personally don’t have one better,” Fisher said. “We are in a push-to-shove situation at this point.”
“It’s a great project,” said Grover.