by: Richard Elliot Updated:
ATLANTA - Some Southeast Atlanta residents are worried the city could come in and use eminent domain to buy their homes to demolish them as a way to help mitigate future flooding in the area.
The city of Atlanta replied by stating eminent domain would be a last resort move, but added such a move was not impossible.
In 2012, areas of the Peoplestown and Summerhill neighborhoods along Atlanta Avenue and Ormond Street suffered damage due to flooding. The city promised to take steps to mitigate future flooding through a plan it called the Southeast Atlanta Green Infrastructure Initiative.
The plan called for the construction of a massive five-million gallon water storage vault under a Turner Field parking lot, along with permeable pavers lining certain streets. Construction on the Turner Field water vault was completed in February. The Watershed Management Department plan also called for the possible construction of "bio retention areas" and "storm water retention ponds."
Neighbors worry the city plans to use the legal system to purchase and condemn their homes, demolish them and turn the entire block into green space and a retention pond. Such a pond could help alleviate future flooding in the area.
"We consider this very concerning," said Peoplestown resident Tanya Washington. "We would all have to find other places to live."
But city of Atlanta spokesperson Melissa Mullinax said that, while the idea of purchasing an entire city block for flood control is not impossible, there are many legal hoops the city would have to jump through to start the process. Mullnax said the city would first have to hold community hearings then get city council approvals to purchase something like 44 homes, none of which, she said, has happened yet.
Mullinax did confirm the city purchased four homes in the area as part of a legal settlement from the 2012 flooding.
El Baker is still worried his Summerville home of 17 years could be bought up.
"There are a bunch of people who want to sell," said Baker. "Then there are a bunch of people who want to stay. They don't want to go anywhere. And there are some people who have been here all their lives, and they don't want to leave."