Originally created 09/27/03

Sides spar over courthouse land



BRUNSWICK, Ga. - A group that opposes the addition of eight parking spaces on the grounds of the historic Glynn County Courthouse says the county no longer owns the property.

Because it has not used the building for court since at least 1996, the county's hold on the courthouse and grounds has reverted to Brunswick as required in an Oct. 25, 1905, deed that conveyed a city park to Glynn County, said Fletcher Farrington, a Savannah lawyer representing the Old Town Preservation Association.

That deed says that if there is a two-year lapse in using the building for court, the property would revert to city ownership.

Mr. Farrington said he has researched the issue carefully and he believes Glynn County held its last court in the nearly century-old building in 1996, when Juvenile Court hearings were conducted there.

The State Board of Workers Compensation held hearings there until 1999, but those are administrative proceedings and not considered judicial hearings, Mr. Farrington said. Even if those hearings were deemed court actions, the two-year time limit has run out, he said.

"At the very latest, the city obtained title in 2001," Mr. Farrington said.

Mayor Brad Brown, who first learned of the matter this week, said he does not welcome the prospect of the city acquiring another public building.

"I've got enough city halls now. If we own it, we don't want it," he said.

Brunswick has three city halls, two historic buildings undergoing renovation and the current Brunswick City Hall, a leased bank building. It is unlikely the city has the power to refuse ownership even if it wants to, Mr. Farrington said.

At the very least, he said, the grounds should be protected from county plans to add eight parking spaces and to erect a huge air-conditioning unit, he said.

County commissioners say that they have doubts about Mr. Farrington's assertions. Commissioner Howard Lynn says he believes Brunswick gave the property to the county free and clear.

"They're going to do everything they can to stop us," Mr. Lynn said of opponents to his plans. "The city doesn't want it back."

And if the city does get the grounds and building, he said, "we'll send them a heck of a bill on the renovations we've done."