Golf and Gardens land should be offered first to original owners

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One of our country's most revered founders, James Madison, once observed that "Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties or his possessions."

It is with this concept in mind that I recently filed Senate Bill 431, legislation that would grant a right of first refusal to the original owners of real estate acquired to create the now-defunct Georgia Golf Hall of Fame Golf and Gardens. My motive for doing so was simple -- I believed that it was the right thing to do.

Just a short time ago, the state of Georgia made some Augusta landowners an offer they couldn't refuse: sell your property to us for the Golf Hall of Fame, or we will condemn the property, take you to court and pay you even less for it.

At the time of the offer, few, if any of the landowners were actively seeking to sell their property. Some sought unsuccessful options for excluding their property from the acquisition. Given these choices, almost all of the landowners yielded to the state's efforts to acquire their property on the Savannah River for the benefit of the Augusta community.

We now know that the project for the Golf Hall of Fame fell well short of the predictions and expectations, and the state's willingness to appropriate additional funding for future operations has been lost.

STATE AND COMMUNITY leaders are already proposing actions designed to determine another "best use" for the Golf Hall of Fame site. As with the Golf Hall of Fame a decade ago, they are also working to convince the community that the new and different projects now being proposed offer unyielding benefits that will tremendously improve our state and local economy.

Unfortunately, the original owners who were forced to sell their property to the state cannot reclaim their property rights, even though the legal basis for the state's acquisition has vanished.

Since taking office in 2005, I have championed economic development in Augusta by introducing and supporting legislation to provide our great city the resources and services it needs to be competitive in a global economy. I will continue to do so as long as you allow me to serve. I, too, would enjoy some of the possible amenities now being discussed for the land in question.

However, my legislation would protect the rights of the original property owners by first offering them a chance to buy the property back from the state. My bill is not an albatross to economic development, but more a safeguard to protect a right we all enjoy.

SB 431 seeks to consider the rights of original owners who accepted state law, even though the law may have been inconsistent with their wishes and plans for the use of their private property.

I AM MINDFUL of the arguments presented in opposition to the bill. Some argue that it is not in the best interest of the community to break up the site. They contend that it would be too difficult and too costly to assemble another site of that size and quality on the Savannah River, and that it would substantially delay redevelopment of the Golf and Gardens site. Others argue that the original property owners should have vigorously challenged the state's attempts to acquire the property.

This is one of those times where I struggle to find the best answer in my efforts to strike a fair balance between what is best for the community and my belief that private property rights should be protected. This is one of those times where there is no easy answer.

I am, however, committed to working together to find the best possible solution for our community.

We will never know why the vision and expectations for the Golf and Gardens failed to materialize. However, today, SB 431 presents one option for lessening the impact of this situation on the initial property owners by mitigating the impact of good intentions gone awry.

Notwithstanding the outcome, it is worth the effort to seek a solution that ensures both the protection of individual private property rights and provides for the redevelopment the Golf and Gardens site for the benefit of Augusta.

Our country was founded on the principle of liberty -- a powerful concept whereby all people are considered equal and possessing of certain basic rights to be codified and protected by the government. The civil liberties we enjoy, including our right to own property and the privacy we safeguard, all stem from this fundamental and profoundly important idea.

ANY ATTEMPT by the state to curtail or undermine this principle cannot be tolerated, for the thread that holds our democracy together would surely unravel. To underscore this point, President George Washington correctly stated that "arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness."

I will always represent the interests of people, be it one or 100, for we all are equal and bestowed with certain rights that must be protected. SB 431 is a shield to defend our liberty, not a spear to strike down economic development.

(Sen. Ed Tarver represents the 22nd Senate District, which includes Richmond County. He may be reached at 404-656-0340, or via e-mail at ed.tarver@senate.ga.gov.)

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junebug
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junebug 02/18/08 - 01:34 am
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Original owners - you mean

Original owners - you mean American Indians? And who was "forced to sell"? Mildred Goolsby never sold her property at the corner of Reynolds and 13th to the Golf Hall did she?

BobbieGeeWhiz
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BobbieGeeWhiz 02/18/08 - 02:04 am
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Why does Mr. Tarver neglect

Why does Mr. Tarver neglect to mention his relationship with Easter Seals, one of the property owners in question?

coco rubio
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coco rubio 02/18/08 - 02:27 am
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if mr. tarver doesn't know

if mr. tarver doesn't know why the golf gardens didn't work then i have to wonder why he thinks it's a good idea to sell this land back to the original owners......& the easter seals connection must be addressed.....can we please move forward or must we always go backwards?

JimCox
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JimCox 02/18/08 - 07:26 am
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According to Tarver's bill,

According to Tarver's bill, former owners have the option of selling their "rights" to the parcels they once owned. Sounds like someone might be putting together a play to make a backdoor purchase of the property. As for Easter Seals, I understand that they continue to enjoy about $60,000 a month in interest income as a result of the sale. Tarver's recollection of history is a bit skewed as well, not a single declaration of eminent domain occurred, every owner had the option of saying no. If this bill passes, it will set off a chin reaction of similar bills to correct alleged wrongs across the state. Rest assured that this bill and Tarver's career is destined to die in committee.

MyTake
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MyTake 02/18/08 - 08:09 am
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Well this is a blindside and

Well this is a blindside and regardless of its merits, speaks poorly for the unity of our so called leadership. Tarver can blow constitutional smoke all he wants, but one has to suspect he has some personal interest in the business. When is the next election?

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/18/08 - 09:07 am
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I like the idea that Tarver

I like the idea that Tarver is promoting here. Returning the land to private hands could lead to a better development in the long run than the unfriendly brick walls. And the real estate would go back on the tax rolls. Let's see what the marketplace can do! It will be better than what the government has done and is likely to do.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 02/18/08 - 09:55 am
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If this bill goes through it

If this bill goes through it will line the pockets of the author.

karmakills123
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karmakills123 02/18/08 - 10:17 am
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Come on little lamb ...are

Come on little lamb ...are you that gullible?? tarver is looking for believers (??) just like you..this is a scam to put monies into HIS pockets..plain and simple... please don't fall for his double talk.

smage
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smage 02/18/08 - 10:41 am
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What is Tarver's hidden

What is Tarver's hidden agenda? Does he know something that the general public does not?

b1
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b1 02/18/08 - 10:45 am
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This is nothing but CRAP!

This is nothing but CRAP! This stadium would do so much for downtown and Augusta. Tarver needs to get out of the way! This bill is as transparent as glass. It also makes NO sence. I am so tired of our politicians screwing things up for this city. Start using common sense.

WW1949
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WW1949 02/18/08 - 11:10 am
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Easter Seals would have to

Easter Seals would have to had sold the property for approximately 18 million toget 60000.00 a month in interest. If they did they would be crazy to give up that income.

read this
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read this 02/18/08 - 12:03 pm
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The people that acquired the

The people that acquired the land for the Golf Hall of Fame were extremely persistent and quite bullheaded about putting this collection of warehouses and small businesses together. The vision was to enhance a gateway and give a destination to benefit the convention potential in Augusta. Like most passive entertainment, "seen it once....satisfied." I totally agree with Sen. Tarver, good letter. When will everyone learn that these silver bullets are wasteful of my money and yours? When will anyone agree that the Judicial Center needs to be located on Broad Street if the legitimate intention is to revitalize Broad? Putting another stadium downtown so that a few thousand people will possibly visit for a couple of hours a week is ludicrous. Put our institutions down there that are industry equivalents........that means jobs.....8 hour a day jobs....up and down Broad Street. A job is a much better reason to travel to downtown.

coco rubio
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coco rubio 02/18/08 - 01:14 pm
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the judicial center will be

the judicial center will be downtown.....remember we have REYNOLDS.......GREENE......TELFAIR......WALTON WAY.....all running downtown.....BROAD STREET is not the only street......a vibrant downtown will have things on all these streets......and a modern baseball stadium is a perfect fit on the river with the old golf gardens as a much needed green space.....

read this
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read this 02/18/08 - 02:04 pm
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Coco, I hear you. And I

Coco, I hear you. And I believe your sincerity, regardless of your business investments downtown. But I stress that taking my taxes and putting it into another entertainment investment risk is not going to grow downtown. Yes, it will add customers for the restaurants down there, but it is not going to do anything for the excess storefront and office inventory. A vibrant downtown requires more than just restaurants. It must be multi-dimensional. How do you think shopping centers and malls work? They have major anchors that bring in customers and pay the rent. The other stores benefit from the anchors because they subsidize the rent they pay and provide the volume of customers that they would not otherwise enjoy. See how vibrant National Hills is compared to Daniel Village. See how Target compares to Peach Orchard Plaza. Jobs downtown are a much better investment for the future than is the chance of a winning season for another stadium.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/18/08 - 02:10 pm
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Thank you, Denarli, for

Thank you, Denarli, for showing the malicious absurdity of J-10 Jeep's post about interest of $60,000 per month. Notice how so many people SAY the government should build a baseball park, but they never justify why Ripken's business should get such a gift (called a "gratuity" in legal parlance) and other businesses wind up with the shaft.

FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 02/18/08 - 04:42 pm
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We dont need a ball park

We dont need a ball park downtown.

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