Family's home in jeopardy in domain battle

BUFORD - Georgia cities and counties can exercise eminent domain to condemn property and purchase it for reasons that would be beneficial to the public's general well-being, such as for road improvements, transportation systems, or a dam to stop spring floods.

The Georgia Constitution defines these privileges.

Buford City Commissioners on Monday voted to begin proceedings in Gwinnett County Superior Court to condemn property at 608 Sawnee Ave. for road improvements.

The property is owned by William T. Yancy, who has operated his business, Yancy Rebuild Service, on the site for 22 years. Yancy rebuilds automotive starters and alternators, and he and his wife live in an apartment in his shop. Several buildings stand on the acreage that are 40 to 60 years old, said Yancy.

Buford city officials have offered to buy the property from Yancy.

"I can't divulge their price right now, but it's not enough," Yancy said.

Yancy is being represented by Attorney Gibson Dean, and he says he is prepared for a court battle. If Buford acquires the property, it will remain as greenspace for the time being, Commissioner Michael Smith said.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled to expand the use of eminent domain in the Kelo v. City of New London, Conn., case that allows the city to seize private land for a development of offices, a hotel and conference center.

The Georgia Senate recently examined two house bills regarding eminent domain. Georgia Senate Bill 86, authored by Sen. Jeff Chapman, District 3, passed the Senate in 2005 on a 40-10 vote. It would prohibit using eminent domain for economic development purposes. The House could vote on it next year. SB 30 would have required governments to hold a hearing for condemnation when zoning and land-use decisions affect a property's use. It did not pass the Senate in 2005.

Several Georgia property owners are fighting the use of eminent domain. Stockbridge Florist and Gifts Inc. is facing condemnation that allows Stockbridge to proceed with its urban redevelopment plan.

Boat storage location rezoned to office/warehouse

Fred Jones intends to close his boat and recreational vehicle storage facility at 548 Polar St. The traffic patterns and exposure on Poplar Street just didn't make boat storage feasible. Commission members voted to abandon the special use permit on the property and rezone the 2.5 acres to office/warehouse, which is compatible with surrounding zoning.

Commission members stipulated that Jones must clean up trash and debris on the property within 30 days and fully develop the property within 18 months. Buford's Planning and Zoning Department recommended approval of the project.

Special-use permit granted for boat storage

Boat owners won't have far to travel to store their boats. With the blessing of Buford's Planning and Zoning Department, commission members voted to rezone 17 acres at 6699 McEver Road from light industrial to commercial, and grant a special-use permit to allow for a boat storage facility. Buford's Comprehensive Land Use Plan 1992 to 2012 shows the site as commercial.