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Judge ponders consolidating property cases

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A judge will consider consolidating two cases involving a controversial land deal to buy property for the McGinnis Ferry Road extension.

Tony Powell, an attorney representing Old Peachtree Partners, asked Judge Debra Turner to consolidate the breach of contract case the county filed when the partners backed out of the contract with the county's condemnation case filed a year later.

But Deputy County Attorney Mike Ludwiczak said combining the two "simple" cases would create "one mess of a case that is fraught with danger."

The case made headlines earlier this year when county officials considered buying 16 acres between Interstate 85 and Northbrook Parkway at a price of $5.3 million to settle the lawsuit, even though the original contract showed the county only needed 2.6 acres.

Ludwiczak said the original offer of $1.1 million for the smaller tract and the settlement offer should not be presented in a condemnation case, where a jury would only determine the fair value of the land. But if the other case was added on, the contract amount would be brought up.

Usually, cases can only be consolidated if both parties agree, but Powell presented Turner with a case involving the condemnation of two tracts of land, where a judge was allowed to consolidate the cases.

"I just don't have the time to try it twice," Turner said before the arguments were complete.

Later, she said she would look at the information and issue a ruling in the next several weeks.

The case was expected to go to trial next month, but Turner said she would give the parties more time to prepare after the ruling is issued.