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AT ISSUE: Should city seize grocery for parkland?

Ray Summerour wants to continue running his independent grocery in Baptist Town, a historically black neighborhood in Marietta. The city wants the store for a community park and initiated condemnation proceedings after negotiations failed.

Summerour prevailed at the appeals court, and the city appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, where the case is pending.

It’s the age-old dilemma of eminent domain: When should the public good override the property rights of the individual?

Marietta wants Summerour’s store, Brenda’s Grocery at 329 Allgood Road, as one of nine parcels for the new Elizabeth Porter Park. The $4.7 million project is to open next spring with a children’s splash pad and playground, picnic area and other amenities.

The storekeeper, though, says his business serves a different need; for many, it’s the only grocery within walking distance. “This is a low-income area,” he told the AJC. “People just don’t have the money to buy cars, so they rely on walking a lot.”

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The appeals court ruled that Marietta had violated the Landowner’s Bill of Rights – enacted in 2006 to safeguard against government abuse of eminent domain powers – by not providing Summerour with details of the city’s appraisal of his property.

In its appeal to the Supreme Court, Marietta says it did comply with the law – and that even if it didn’t, the law doesn’t identify a remedy or a punishment for a violator, so compliance is not mandatory.

A high court ruling could determine the fates of both Brenda’s Grocery and the Homeowners Bill of Rights.

But the underlying issue remains: Is it right for a city to force a man to give up his livelihood – and a neighborhood, its only grocery – for a worthy purpose, a children’s park? Tell us what you think. Send comments by email to communitynews@ajc.com

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