Update, Sept. 15: The Gainesville City Council unanimously voted on Sept. 15 to table this item until Oct. 6.
Update, Aug. 18: The Gainesville City Council unanimously voted on Aug. 18 to table this item until Sept. 15.
Update, Aug. 4: The Gainesville City Council unanimously voted on Aug. 4 to table this item until Aug. 18.
Update, July 22: The Gainesville City Council unanimously voted on July 21 to table this item until Aug. 4.
Update, June 16: The Gainesville City Council voted Tuesday, June 16 to table this item until July 21.
Update, May 19: The Gainesville City Council voted Tuesday, May 19, to table this item until June 16. City Manager Bryan Lackey said discussions with the property owner have been "productive," and the city's attorney has advised that the item be tabled one month at a time while discussions continue.
Update, April 21: On Tuesday, April 21, the Gainesville City Council voted to table this item until May 19.
The city of Gainesville could use eminent domain to acquire the former Peppers Market building, the pink structure at 628 EE Butler Parkway.
The 0.3-acre property is adjacent to Walton Summit, a mixed-income housing development that opened in 2018. Walton Summit replaced the Green Hunter Homes on Atlanta Street, a 131-unit public housing development built in the 1950s.
To accommodate for Walton Summit, the city used a quitclaim deed to take over a portion of Atlanta Street along the former Peppers Market property, then deeded it to the Gainesville Housing Authority. City Manager Bryan Lackey said the city was notified in 2018 that the property owner disagreed with that decision, and then in September 2019, the property owner filed suit against the city to claim losses on the property due to the removal of the right of way.
The property is owned by SSB Properties LLC, based in Clermont, according to tax records. The LLC is owned by Rick Gailey, who has owned the property for 20 years.
“Because of the response to that, the lawsuit filed by SSB Properties, the City Council made the determination that condemning this property was in the best interest of the city since it’s part of the midtown redevelopment plan,” Lackey said.
The City Council will vote on the use of eminent domain at a meeting Tuesday, April 21 at 6:15 p.m. By state law, eminent domain hearings must be held after 6 p.m. The meeting will be livestreamed on the city’s Facebook page, and people are encouraged to watch online rather than in-person at the Public Safety Complex, 701 Queen City Parkway.
Gailey said he does not want to give up his property, which has been home to several businesses such as a grocery store and beauty salon. A tenant just signed a 10-year lease, and the property was about to be remodeled, he said.
Gailey said disagreements with city officials over the property have been going on for years.
“We had problems 10, 12 years ago. They’ve been mad about it ever since,” Gailey said. “They don’t like the piece of property, and they want it gone.”
In 2007, Gailey painted the structure pink amid a disagreement about code enforcement violations. Gainesville’s government has seen some leadership changes since then, but Gailey said he doesn’t like how the Atlanta Street deed and eminent domain proceedings have been handled.
The property lost its Atlanta Street entrance when the housing authority took over that portion of the street.
Gailey said city officials spoke with him about his intentions for the property while Walton Summit was under construction.
“I want to wait and see what the apartments look like, see what clientele we have there, and I will do something with my building to fit the need for the area,” Gailey said he told officials at the time.
Gailey said the city has offered him $270,000 for the property. He said he had originally asked for $1.2 million.
Lackey said the city got an appraisal on the property and has made an offer in that amount, although due to pending litigation, the city cannot comment further.
Tax records show the property’s value as $233,800.
Lackey said the property could be well-suited for a small housing development.
“We think that best fits because of the Walton Summit adjacent development to it,” he said. “I don’t think it will ever become a part of that development, but because of the old Atlanta Street facility that was there, then becoming the Walton Summit project, we think some type of tie-in with housing right there might be a really good fit.”
Gailey said he hopes renovations at his property could be a positive addition to the area.
“Just ride up the street less than 300 feet from there. There’s buildings that look worse than mine, and I’m trying to work on mine,” he said.
If the Council approves the item Tuesday, the city’s attorneys would then file suit for eminent domain. Lackey said the process could be delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a lengthy process,” he said. “Because we had already set this in motion, the Council decided to go ahead and consider this item next Tuesday night, and as soon as the courts are back open, our attorneys will take the next step, assuming the City Council votes to approve this.”
Gailey said he plans to challenge the decision if the Council votes in favor of using eminent domain.
“I’ll take it to the highest court,” he said.