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City Approves Purchase of 5.15 acres

Here we go again. If you had the opportunity to spend $1.436M to fix the intersection of Womack Road and Tilly Mill, or Tilly Mill and North Peachtree Rd, or pave miles and miles of side walks in Dunwoody, develop some of the projects in Brook Run, or purchase 5.15 acres of land at 4470 North Shallowford Road, which would you choose?

Well, the apparent insatiable appetite by some on Council to purchase land continues, regardless of other more pressing priorities that we're set by this very Council, all the while paying above market prices for land. By a vote of 4-2 Council authorized the purchase of 5.15 acres of land at 4470 North Shallowford Road. This parcel is one of several pieces of land and rights of way that will be needed to complete the road extension from Peachford Road and connecting into Dunwoody Park and ending at Chamblee Dunwoody.

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John Heneghan, citing his "long wait in traffic this morning" on Cotillion Drive to get from his home to I-285 and Chamblee Dunwoody, initiated the motion in support of the purchase. No study or economic white paper has been produced qualifying or quantifying the traffic relief to the area, or what the projected economic benefit would be for surrounding businesses with the proposed extension. Mayoral candidate Bob Dallas commented that historically roads always add value to commercial properties. Ken Wright seconded the motion.

Councilman Danny Ross commented that these dollars would be better spent on traffic improvements at Dunwoody's most heavily traveled intersections.Councilman Shortal questioned City Manager Warren Hutmacher whether the City had really done it's best in negotiating the price. The property is listed at $1.4 million and the City's purchase price is $1.436 million. The DeKalb County Tax Assessor's Office has the property assessed at $750,000. Two separate independent appraisals we're obtained with one appraising the property value at $1.55 million and the second at $1.3 million. The first appraisal used 6 properties none of which we're of comparable size, with 5 properties more than 10 miles from the site of the subject property. So it could be easily argued that these we're not true comparable properties. The second appraisal actually placed the value at $1.038 million based on square footage calculation of the existing building, but upped the value to $1.3M when taking into account "improvement value" of the total property. This was key in that had the two appraisals varied by more than 20% a third appraisal would have been required per City code.

I addressed Council and encouraged them to NOT purchase this parcel citing the reasons stated above. Jim Maloney, a retired Dunwoody real estate professional involved in all tax appeals for both DeKalb and Fulton counties, also spoke in opposition telling Council these appraisals did not support the price the City was paying. By a vote of 4 -2 the motion passed to approve the purchase. Voting FOR we're Heneghan, Robert Wittenstein, Doug Thompson and Mayor Wright. Opposed we're Deny Shortal and Danny Ross. Council member Adriane Bonser was not present.

So now we own 5.15 acres and will burn $1.43 million in cash for the purchase. Now we own 12,000 square feet of office space with little chance of renting any of it. What business will sign a 12-24 month lease? Further, the City looses $13,000 a year in tax revenue while this property sits awaiting next steps in this project, which could be years out.
In the mean time it would be fitting for Chris Pike, our Director of Finance, to contact the DeKalb County Tax Assessor's Office and let them know that there are a number of parcels in this area that are under valued on the Tax Assessor's roles. The City can use all the revenue we can get since we can't seem to stop over paying for property we didn't need to purchase.

No plan, no purpose, no alternative approaches discussed or considered. So much for prioritizing projects for the City. Perhaps the paper that these priority lists are printed on should be donated to the Sustainability Committee for recycling. At least then they'd provide some value. - I'm just sayin'...

Posted in Law Post Date 09/17/2016


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