A recent state appeals court decision could let Fulton County taxpayers off the hook for spending millions of dollars to buy land that county officials say they don’t want or need.
But critics say the decision also could leave private property owners statewide at the mercy of governments that abuse their powers to take land for public purposes.
The Court of Appeals of Georgia last month ruled Fulton County was within its rights when it withdrew a condemnation lawsuit against a property owner after a court-appointed special master said the land was worth about $5.2 million — far more than the county wanted to pay.
The decision voided a lower court ruling that Fulton County would have to buy the land even though it claimed it no longer needed it.
The decision could spare taxpayers the cost of the land. But an attorney for the property owner says it could give governments an unfair advantage in eminent domain cases. It would allow governments to file lawsuits against property owners, then change their minds if a court decision on the value of the property didn’t go their way.