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Decatur City Commission plans vote on taking property away from developer

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Decatur City Commission plans vote on taking property away from developer

Decatur City Hall.
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Decatur City Hall.

The Decatur City Commission will consider voting to use the city’s powers of eminent domain to to take property slated for development near Dearborn Park.

Commissioners could potentially vote on the proposal at the City Commission’s Nov. 6 meeting. That meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be held at City Hall, located at 509 North McDonough Street. All meetings are open to the public and there will be a chance for public comment.

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At a meeting last month, the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals tabled a variance request from developer Neal Hightower with Kudzu Capital LLC. At issue was a 4-acre proposed development site at West Dearborn Circle and Chevelle Lane. Kudzu Capital LLC purchased the land in June 2016. The property is divided into 16 lots, but does not have a road that provides easy access to the lots. Kudzu filed for a variance from the requirements of the city’s Unified Development Ordinance to allow for a private driveway onto the property.

The property has not been previously developed and has a rugged terrain. It is also adjacent to the county-owned Dearborn Park, which is a 7-acre green space with a nature trail and a creek running through it.

The property has been a point of contention for nearly two years. In December 2015, Decatur City Commissioners voted to pay $500,000 to buy the land with plans to expand the park. The city discovered later that the property was already under contract with Redwater LLC, another company affiliated with Hightower. Redwater filed a lawsuit against the previous owner to resolve the issue, and the purchase was completed in June 2016, according to documents filed with the city.

Hightower previously told Decaturish that he is not sure why the city is taking this step now.

“I’m not sure why the city waited two years, caused thousands upon thousands of dollars to be wasted on both sides and aggravated myself, the development department, the ZBA and the neighbors only to exercise this right now, but it is what it is,” he said.

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