County to sue over Sugarloaf path land

LAWRENCEVILLE - In an attempt to save $7 million, county officials will take a developer to court for land in the path of the proposed second phase of the Sugarloaf Parkway extension.

Commissioners last week gave county attorneys permission to begin condemnation proceedings for the 6.357 acres between Ga. Highway 316 and U.S. Highway 29 in the Dacula area.

While paperwork for the commission meeting lists the land at a value of $3.5 million, County Attorney Karen Thomas said the county and land owner 20 Loaf Partners are "$7 million apart" in price negotiations.

Doug Chatham, who is listed as the registered agent for 20 Loaf Partners at the Georgia Secretary of State's Office, did not return phone calls left repeatedly last week.

But Commissioner Mike Beaudreau said he is disappointed the county has to pay anything for the acreage.

During the zoning process, Beaudreau said he often has developers agree to donate right of way needed for the extension as a condition of the zoning. He said he asked Dacula officials to do the same when the land was annexed by the city several years ago. Instead, the city annexed the land over the county's objections, placing a condition on it that building permits were delayed for 18 months, said Beaudreau, who has had an on-going feud with the city over annexation matters.

"We asked them to preserve the right of way, period," the commissioner said. "Because it was zoned such a high density, it's going to cost the taxpayers substantially more money. ... How much is debatable and will be decided by the courts."

But Dacula Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks said the city did help by delaying the permits.

"We did what was right and proper," Wilbanks said, adding that many of the property owners along the extension's second phase have wondered about a potential road - then Atlanta's outer loop - since the 1960s.

"I don't see how you can preserve right of way for that long without paying for their property," Wilbanks said.

Construction is under way for the first of three sections to extend Sugarloaf Parkway from its current terminus south of Lawrenceville at Grayson Highway. While funding has not been identified, officials hope to create a loop around Lawrenceville, continuing the route from Ga. Highway 316 to Peachtree Industrial Boulevard along the path of the now-defunct Northern Arc.