During a specially called meeting Wednesday morning, the Dunwoody City Council voted to put an end to its attempt to obtain, through eminent domain, a 4-acre parking lot for use as a softball facility.
Prior to the meeting, First Baptist Church of Atlanta officials applauded the move, saying they “are relieved by this promising development and so grateful for the city’s favorable response to our appeal. We consider it an answer to our prayers.” First Baptist owns the property, which is located across the street from its campus.
During Wednesday’s brief meeting, Dunwoody’s city attorney Ken Barnard said First Baptist has “no interest in selling the property in any circumstance or at any price.”
In addition, Bernard said, the church has plans for future development on the site, located at 2202 Peachford Road, and that they had received several offers above the appraisal that the city had obtained. He did not disclose the appraised amount or the offer that the city had made to the church.
In a statement released by First Baptist, church officials said the city had offered to purchase the 4.8-acre site for $350,000, and when it was refused, began eminent domain proceedings.
“We were particularly troubled that the city began the process of eminent domain within just days of our refusing their offer to purchase our property for $350,000,” First Baptist Director of Business Operations Kelly Stewart said. “In the previous 18 months, our board of trustees had declined two separate offers from a developer to pay us $4.8 million. We’ve made it clear: we simply want to keep our land for the opportunity is gives us to expand our ministry in this community.”
Aside from hearing Bernard’s comments before the vote, the council did not discuss the measure, which passed unanimously. After the meeting, Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch said city officials heard the message loud and clear.
“The point of posting the notice [about eminent domain] on the property was to foster communications,” Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch said after the vote. “Clearly this process worked because we heard from a lot of people.”
According to First Baptist’s statement, the church is looking at a variety of initiatives for the land, including “establishing a support center for families with special needs children, starting a daycare center, expanding the church’s current foster care ministry with a ‘safe place’ for displaced children for whom a foster home can’t be found.”
The church is also discussing the possibility of building a K-4 through 12th grade school.
This is not the first time in recent history that Dunwoody residents have expressed concerns about building a softball field within the city’s limits. Residents whose homes are located near two proposed parks – one on Vermack Road and the other on Roberts Drive at the former Austin Elementary School site – said they have serious worries about the amount of traffic that a softball field would draw to the neighborhood.