Citizens protest proposed land purchase

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

For the second time in less than two months, the McDonough City Council is scheduled to vote on a land purchase that has garnered many protests from residents and merchants in the city.

A special called meeting has been set for Wednesday, Dec. 30, at 10:30 a.m. at City Hall. The only item of city business on the agenda is “the land purchase of 5.59 acres located on the north side of Bridges Road.”

Three citizens requested and were placed on the agenda for public comments along with their topics. They are:

* Jea Gackowski – To hold off purchasing any land until there is a plan and how will the plan be formed.

* Annette O’Banion – Reasons to not approve this purchase of land.

* Shelley DeLisle - Ethics.

The reason for the land purchase is not listed on the agenda. When asked by the Times, city administrator Keith Dickerson said, “The City has discussed utilizing this property as a park or amenities for the adjacent neighborhoods, but no final decision has been made.”

A great deal of discussion on social media in the past two weeks has focused on why this land might be bought and why it is being done at precisely this time.

Residents have pointed out that District 2 already has the expanding Alexander Park as well as proposed park land in the Wesley Lakes area. Opponents of the purchase have also said that if the purpose is to provide amenities for specific neighborhoods, that is not the city’s responsibility.

More than one opponent of the plan has stated that District 2 council member Sandra Vincent lives in the subdivision adjacent to the property in question.

A copy of the appraisal solicited by the city in September shows the value of the land at $85,000. It was purchased by its current owner that month for $61,000. The council reportedly is prepared to pay $150,000 to acquire it.

Given that the appraisal was ordered several months ago, some have questioned why a special called meeting was scheduled on a weekday morning during the holiday season to approve the purchase, especially since the Dec. 21 regular council meeting was cancelled. Citizens have asked the council to delay this agenda item until a future meeting at a time when more citizens can attend.

The Dec. 30 meeting would be the last one in which current council member Gail Notti could participate as a voting member of the council. She was defeated in November in her bid for re-election.

Notti was criticized by many of the same people opposing this land purchase when she cast a vote two days after the election to approve a $300,000 purchase of land adjacent to her own home for the expansion of Alexander Park. DeLisle and Gackowski spoke out at a subsequent meeting in which the council was asked to reconsider the vote but refused.

Gackowski, who lives in Vincent’s district, said last week that Vincent refuses to answer her constituent inquiries about this or any other issue.

The Times reached out to all council members and the mayor via the email addresses listed on the city’s website. None of them had offered a comment on this issue as of Tuesday morning.