Roswell considers eminent domain after overbudget Oxbo Road project

During a City Council work session Monday, City Attorney David Davidson said city staff has regularly negotiated with property owners and overpaid for land because Roswell has been opposed to exercising eminent domain since around 2008. (Courtesy City of Roswell)
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During a City Council work session Monday, City Attorney David Davidson said city staff has regularly negotiated with property owners and overpaid for land because Roswell has been opposed to exercising eminent domain since around 2008. (Courtesy City of Roswell)

Credit: Karen Zitomer

Credit: Karen Zitomer

Roswell plans to formally establish a city policy for the use of eminent domain to acquire private property needed for transportation and other city projects.

During a City Council work session Monday, City Attorney David Davidson said city staff has regularly negotiated with property owners and overpaid for land because Roswell has been opposed to exercising eminent domain since around 2008.

“For us to have the mentality or unwritten policy that we can’t condemn, I think is an error,” Davidson told council members.

Mayor Lori Henry said she will present a resolution for the measure during the next regular meeting on Dec. 13.

Henry said it’s important to inform the public that in the future, officials plan to exercise the city’s right to eminent domain when necessary.

Henry, who leaves office at the end of the month, described eminent domain as a “tool in the toolbox” that won’t necessarily be used for every property acquisition.

ExploreTroubled Oxbo Road project becomes the catalyst for change in Roswell

The absence of eminent domain procedures has been costly for the city’s stalled, overbudget Oxbo Road project. Roswell overpaid several property owners for parcels of land, according to an independent investigation. Family owners of a hardware story that was located at the corner of the road received a $2.5 million settlement for the permanent sale of their 0.36 acre property. That was in addition to $3 million the city initially paid to take temporary ownership of the parcel.

Oxbo Road has been closed for nearly two years and work stopped on the project in early 2021. Project costs have zoomed past its $9 million budget to almost $14 million.

Given the lengthy road closure, residents on social media are questioning whether the project was necessary.

And during a citizen forum with City Council on Monday, resident Janet Russell, who lives near the road, compared its appearance to the tragic explosion in the Port of Beirut in 2020.

“None of you live near it, see it, or care about it, but every day there is no passable sidewalk, chunks are missing, orange barrels, concrete,” Russell said, of the Oxbo Road scenery.