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Posted: December 29, 2008 5:00 a.m.

BOC moves to condemn property for reservoir

The Newton County Board of Commissioners took steps on Tuesday to condemn the land of a homeowner who has thus far refused to sell his land to make way for the Bear Creek Reservoir.

The BOC approved a move to retain an outside law firm to begin proceedings in the Newton County Superior court to condemn 4.086 acres of land owned by Emmett Denby and Rhonda Jean Denby and First National Bank of Newton County.

Emmett Denby has been an opponent of the Bear Creek Reservoir for more than a decade and has refused to sell his land to the county to make way for the reservoir. The land owned by the Denbys is the last bit of land that the county requires for the 1,242 acre reservoir, which is still awaiting a construction permit from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

This is not the first time the county has moved to condemn Denby’s land.

The resolution approved by the BOC states that condemnation action is being pursued "due to the expeditious nature of the necessity to acquire such property."

"Just and adequate compensation" are to be paid to the Denbys for their land, according to the resolution.

Denby said he had not been notified by the county or its attorney’s that they were moving to condemn his land.

"This is completely new to me. The last time I talked to [County Chairman] Aaron Varner or [County Attorney] Tommy Craig was in March," said Denby referring to a public meeting on the reservoir during which he was escorted from the building after he refused to give up the microphone when he was not called on to speak by Craig during the Q&A session.

Denby ran twice unsuccessfully for county chairman, once in 2004 and once in 2008.

"I’m a little upset right now because I hadn’t heard about this," Denby said, adding that he has been waiting for the county to take action for 12 years. "They condemned me back in 2002 and then they dropped that condemnation back in 2006 and now this is 2008."

Attorneys with Tommy Craig’s office declined to comment on the resolution to condemn Denby’s land, which was passed after a closed executive session at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

Denby threatened legal action of his own if the county condemned his land.

"I feel that I’ve been deeply wronged by this and if necessary I will sue the county," he said.

The BOC approved a second resolution to condemn two tiny separate pieces of land needed for the reservoir that together total one tenth of an acre. The land is needed for flood easement and to fulfill buffer requirements.

James Griffin, an attorney with Tommy Craig’s office said the county decided to condemn the land because the estate that owns the land is split between a large group of heirs that do not live in the area.

"The hard part is getting the heirs to sell off their interest in the property when you can’t get a hold of [them]. We’re condemning the property not because it’s an adversarial position," Griffin said, adding that the value of the property is less than the fee of the surveyor.

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