SNELLVILLE - Five years and numerous fights, elections and lawsuits later, Snellville is preparing to finish the land swap that allowed the construction of a new City Hall and senior center.
The move, which could be closed in a week or two, will give the city ownership of a strip center on U.S. Highway 78 and Snellville United Methodist Church ownership of the city's former senior center and recorder's court buildings.
The two already swapped the city's former municipal building for another shopping center, which was demolished in favor of a two-story City Hall and senior center.
Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer said it feels like the transition has taken more than a half-decade.
"It seems like it's been a lifetime," he said. "There were a lot of trials and tribulations, but it makes me appreciate it more."
The city made the land swap in two parts after a citizen filed suit about the title of the land.
The new City Hall opened earlier this year at 2342 Oak Road. Oberholtzer said it now stands as a downtown landmark in an area officials are trying to transform into a more traditional city center.
"It really gives Snellville a presence," he said. "We took an old shopping center and revitalized it. We fixed a traffic problem, and we have a great senior center."
The traffic fix he referred to is a realignment of Oak Road with Henry Clower Boulevard, which separates the shopping center now being swapped from the city hall building.
City Manager Jeff Timler said the city waited until the center's tenants moved out to finish the swap.
The building will be demolished in the coming months and the city will lay down new grass and add park benches until officials decide on a more permanent use for the land, Timler said.
Oberholtzer said he's already getting some ideas from constituents - a town green or maybe a veterans memorial.
Describing his election as mayor in 2003 as a referendum on the City Hall, Oberholtzer said he wasn't sure if the municipal complex and land swap would survive the long battle.
But he said he hasn't heard complaints since the new edifice was opened.
"I've not heard anybody - now that we're finished - I haven't had anybody say it was a bad idea," he said. "It was a way for us to tell people we wanted Snellville to have a downtown. ... It's given us a sense of purpose. I'm just glad its done."
While the land swap is nearly complete, the city is still working on plans to turn the land behind the new City Hall complex into a live-work-play area.