“I hope this one will come around because we want to be fair, but you cannot acquire a whole block by saying, ‘Pretty please, pretty please,’’ Mayor Eva Galambos said. “So we’re having to get serious.”
Trishia Thompson, zoning director for the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, raised a red flag during the council discussion, calling it a “very serious act.”
“There are a lot of people here going, ‘eminent domain,’ and that always triggers reaction,” she said.
Public sentiment hit a high note earlier this year when loyal customers of a Sandy Springs Waffle House mounted a letter-writing campaign to save the restaurant that has sat on the proposed city square location for 30 years.
“The restaurant has been there since 1983, so it built up a lot of long-term customers,” Waffle House spokesman Pat Warner said. “Our position all along was, we want to continue operating in Sandy Springs.”
Within the past month, the sides struck a deal allowing the city to buy the current site and permitting the restaurant to relocate to a nearby, as yet undisclosed, location.
Not everyone on the council is on board with using legal action to acquire the downtown property.
Gabriel Sterling, who cast the lone dissent in the recent eminent domain vote, said he can envision using eminent domain as a last resort when it involves an improvement for the wider public good, such as a road, a sidewalk, a school or a park. A government complex, he said, doesn’t rise to that threshold.
Property taken in eminent domain cases must be used for public use, a stipulation that might prohibit the city from allowing retail in certain areas near the government complex.
“I think we can come to a negotiated agreement with people,” Sterling said. “You may pay a little bit more, but at the same time, you get the widest possible range of use.”