DeKalb County's plan to expand sidewalks is a lesson for all homeowners

A master plan to expand sidewalks in a Dekalb County city means some families will lose property they thought belonged to them. It’s a lesson for all homeowners. 

Channel 2's Sophia Choi looked into the plan and learned it all boils down to the right of way.

For the man who owns the house, it means possibly losing a bunch of trees, and in turn, property value.

"It’s going to fundamentally change the look of our home," said Tracy Elliot.

Elliot said the trees provide privacy for his home on Canoochee Drive in Brookhaven, but the trees are on the city’s property or public right of way, and new plans for a sidewalk mean they must come down.

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"You take down the trees right here, it’s going to affect our property value $15,000 - $20,000 at least," Elliot said.

Brookhaven is expanding its sidewalk system so people can walk to the MARTA station and shops on Dresden Drive. That means using some of the right of way, which the city says is typically 13 feet from the edge of the street. 

At Elliott’s house, that would include the trees and part of his back porch. In the front, it’s nearly half his yard.

City leaders said the lesson here is all home buyers should study the plat before purchase or planting.

"Look at the property corners and the property lines to see how far the street is from their property line," said Brookhaven Public Works Director Hair Karikaran. 

Neighbors say they want walkability with sidewalks, but not if it cuts into their property or the road, but city leaders say most residents want sidewalks, pointing to emails they get almost weekly, asking for them.

Brookhaven has put in more than 8,000 feet of sidewalks so far this year.

When they’ll get to Elliott’s street is unclear but it’s in the plans. 

"You know, it’s just going to be wide open. We’re going to have zero privacy right there," he said.

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