Hall County has encountered another obstacle while building the North Hall park and library and may have to condemn a piece of land to complete the park.
Tensions are already high for the project, with the library portion under a temporary injunction until a settlement is reached in the city of Clermont's lawsuit against Hall County.
The county is trying purchase a 1.15 acre tract along Nopone Road and the East Little Fork River owned by Wauka Mountain Farms, Ltd. - which sold the county 127 acres that will be used for the park and library.
The county and the property owner have been negotiating since February but have yet to agree on a price for the land.
On Monday, County Attorney Bill Blalock asked the Hall County Board of Commissioners to approve a resolution that would allow him to begin condemnation proceedings should the county need to go that route.
State law requires a two-week notice to the landowner. The county then must wait 30 days after the resolution is passed to file a condemnation petition.
"We're negotiating, hopefully in good faith," Blalock said. "Hopefully we'll be able to buy it. But if not, the county has the right to go ahead and introduce imminent domain acquisition and condemnation."
Blalock said the price will be set in court if Hall County condemns the property.
"We haven't had a condemnation in two or three years, which means the negotiations generally are successful, and we hope they will be in this case," Blalock said.
The extra acre will be needed because a large portion of the park property lies in a floodplain.
The North Hall park will be built in two phases, naturally divided by the East Fork Little River that runs through the property.
The first phase will include a community center, baseball complex, multipurpose field and track, to be built on 37 acres.
At issue is that nearly 14 of the 37 acres are in a floodplain, which restricts where construction can take place.
Rearden said the extra acre is needed to include a terraced embankment that would serve as a spectator area for the track. If not, a large retaining wall would have to be built as a barrier to the adjoining property.
"With a retaining wall right against the track that opportunity would be lost," Rearden said. "The park would be not as amenable to having competitive sports."
County officials hope negotiations will be successful, but if the property has to be condemned, it should not slow the project down exponentially.
"We're kind of holding for the judge's ruling anyway," Rearden said.
Clermont is suing Hall County over the location of the North Hall library. The suit, filed in April, claims the Hall County Board of Commissioners said on multiple occasions that the new North Hall library branch would be built in the town of Clermont. Hall County officials said no promise was ever made and no vote was taken on the location until the commission voted in late February to place it at Nopone Road.
On Aug. 23, Hall County Superior Court Judge C. Andrew Fuller issued a preliminary injunction that ordered the county to maintain the status quo of the site until the court could make a decision in the lawsuit. The injunction forbid the county to begin construction on the combined library and community center building but allowed the county to continue construction on the North Hall park, which is being developed on the same Nopone Road property.
County Chairman Tom Oliver said he stands behind the North Hall library and park, despite the hurdles the county has encountered along the way.
"That's just the course of doing business sometimes," Oliver said. "The obstacles sometimes present opportunities. The opportunity is to build a facility that is second to none in the U.S. Looking down the road I feel we'll be very proud of what we've built here."