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Board postpones condemnation vote

County considering other properties for courthouse

POSTED: August 10, 2008 5:03 a.m.

After two public hearings on land proposed to be condemned for a new courthouse and administrative building, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners postponed the vote to move forward with condemning the property last Thursday.

 

Holding off on the vote allows the county additional time to meet with the property owners and follow-up on alternative locations for the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax V approved courthouse and administration building.

 

The county, earlier this month, scheduled public condemnation hearings for several lots in the heart of Dawsonville.

 

The six lots, between the county’s historic courthouse and the current courthouse at the intersection of Shoal Creek Road and Hwy. 9, are owned by the Turner family. A second parcel currently houses the Dollar General store on Shoal Creek Road.

 

According to the Turner family, for two and a half years, plans have been in place to develop Dawson Square, a multi-use business office park on the six lots owned by the Turner family. The city of Dawsonville last month approved a certificate of appropriateness for the Turner’s proposed project.

 

“We have planned a project here, and we have gone through the process with the city of Dawsonville,” said Michael Turner.

 

“We have received a certificate of appropriateness and the plans have been filed, the engineering has been done,” he added.

 

Once the Turner’s receive comments concerning the engineering back from the city, construction on the office park can begin, Turner said.

 

“This project has a time cycle of being built and delivered to the tenants, and we already have proposed tenants to rent this property, and that first delivery is scheduled for late 2009 and the balance completed in 2010,” he said.

 

Turner met individually with each commissioner during the week leading up to the second condemnation hearing to gather feedback on the project. “I hope you understand that we’ve indicated our willingness to work together and our displeasure at the county’s action to try to condemn this property,” he said during last Thursday’s commission meeting.

 

This is the second time Dawson County has moved forward with condemnation procedures for downtown property owned by the Turner family, Turner said.

 

“In 1975 the county chose to try to build a new courthouse, the courthouse facility that you currently reside in, and at that time there was discussions about trying to condemn this property,” Turner explained.

 

“My grandmother, who owned the property at that time, was not happy about that. Was not happy about losing this property that had been in our family for such a long time,” he said. “Through an agreement between the county and my grandmother, she gave the two city blocks for the current courthouse location and the jail.”

 

For the county to begin condemnation on this property, “We feel like the county has broken their word to my family and gone back on their word in terms of our ability to use that property,” Turner said.

 

Dawsonville Mayor Joe Lane Cox supports the Turner’s proposed office development, “If they are serious and are going to do what they said they are going to do,” he said.

 

“If the county builds the new courthouse on the property on the north side of the (current) courthouse, then there’s room for underground parking, they can go up three stories. We can have our cake and eat it, too,” Cox said.

 

Rosser International is the architect firm selected by the county last month to design the new courthouse. Rosser appears to be leaning toward a design that would place the entrance of the new courthouse along Hwy. 53, according to commission chairman Mike Berg.

 

Berg said Rosser has now been asked to take a sharp look at all the property surrounding the current courthouse and evaluate the area and the land surrounding the lots to determine how the property could fit together for the new courthouse and administrative center.

 

Turner family patriarch K.K. Turner said he is prepared to take the fight to keep the property in question in his family to the Supreme Court if his fight at the local level is not successful.

 

E-mail Michele Hester at michele@dawsonnews.com.

 

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