Albany to consider Cutliff Grove settlement

ALBANY, Ga. -- On Tuesday, Albany city commissioners will consider whether to accept a proposed settlement between city officials and the development arm of a local church that would give full title to the property the church tried to use to build low-cost housing to the city in exchange for first refusal rights.

Officials with the city and Cutliff Grove Family Resource Center have been discussing ways to resolve a dispute between the two that ultimately led to the city having to repay $374,000 in federal funding to the U.S. Department for Housing and Urban Development.

In documents prepared for commissioners ahead of Tuesday's commission meeting, City Attorney Nathan Davis wrote that in exchange for the right for first refusal should the city ever desire to sell the property, that Cutliff Grove has agreed to deed the property over to the city.

Cutliff Grove, however, is unwilling to pay any part of the $374,000 that the city had to repay to HUD when the Grovetown project failed.

In the document, Davis recommends accepting the offer "to avoid protracted litigation," writing that the city violated HUD regulations by failing to perform an environmental review before dedicating the federal funding to the project and that the repayment of the federal funding happened after four years of inactivity on the site.

Davis said Friday that in researching the issue and looking through HUD records, he believes that if the city were to use the site for a HUD-eligible-project, that HUD would likely give consideration to reallocating the funding to the city's Community and Economic Development Department.

Should the city accept the proposal, it would have the freedom to decide when and how the property would best be utilized, Davis wrote.

And should the city not accept the deal?

"Absent a settlement, the matter will become involved in protracted litigation," he wrote.