Marietta, church to bring in mediator in land deal

by: Tony Thomas Updated:


MARIETTA, Ga. - A large Cobb County church has won a small victory against City Hall.

As part of ongoing negotiations in a proposed real estate deal between the city of Marietta and the Roswell Street Baptist Church, the city had threatened to use eminent domain laws.

But after a show of force by the church Wednesday night, city leaders backed off the hardline approach and opted to bring in a mediator.

Church member Arlene Rocker was one of dozens of supporters who were bussed in by the church Wednesday night to show solidarity at a City Council meeting.

The chambers were packed with people wearing bright yellow stickers proclaiming, "I support my church!"

"We love our church. We don't want it destroyed," Rocker said.

The Rev. Ernest Easley spoke to the council, asking for more talks and a resolution in the dispute.

"I'm asking for the city to treat us fairly," Easley said.

The city wants to widen Roswell Street just east of downtown Marietta. To do it, officials need strips of several church -owned properties.

The two sides have been negotiating for years. Church leaders point to a 2005 appraisal saying the land is worth $1.6 million. The city is offering less than $400,000. The church says it has put $14 million worth of improvements into the land and buildings in recent years and tries to be a good neighbor.

Easley believes the city is discriminating against his church, because the city has offered more money to other businesses in the area.

When talks broke down last week, the city began threatening to use eminent domain.

A vote was on the council's agenda Wednesday evening, but council members opted instead to bring in a mediator to try to move the talks along. None of the elected members wanted to take the hardline approach and put the city in the situation of forcibly taking land from a church.

"My desire is to try and hammer this out, work with the church and the church work with the city, also," Marietta Councilman the Rev. Anthony Coleman said.

"We are willing to give some, but I think you can give some and be treated fairly," Easley said.

The mediator is expected to be chosen in the next 10 days.

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