City building legal strategy to recover Cutliff Grove money

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- Discussion on how the city plans to get at least part of its money back from a failed low-income residential development will have to wait another two months as the city attorney prepares a legal strategy ahead of a possible court battle.

The failed Grovetown development caused HUD to demand that the city commission repay $374,000 of federal dollars that were spent on the project, which was initially planned to provide low-income housing.

With federal authorities agreeing to allow the city to make four quarterly installments of $93,000 on debt, some on the city commission feel as though the city should move now to recover some of the tax dollars that are being spent on the matter.

Tuesday, Ward 4 Commissioner Roger Marietta requested that discussion of the project, which was undertaken by the development arm of Cutliff Grove Baptist Church, be put on the commission's agenda.

But rather than the lengthy discussion that was predicted, Marietta asked only one question.

"Hey Nathan, how long to you think it would take to craft a legal strategy for this situation?" he said.

City attorney Nathan Davis replied, saying that it would take 60 days, to which Marietta offered a motion to table discussion for 60 days until Davis could bring back something for the commission.

The $374,000 that city officials say was spent on the purchase of the land for the development, its clearing and pre-construction planning, was demanded by HUD after the city decertified Cutliff Grove Family Resource Center as a Community Housing Development Organization. HUD itself had earlier declared the Grovetown project ineligible to receive federal funding, which prompted the city to decertify the group.

Commissioners have discussed options for recovering the money in earlier meetings. Placing a lien on the property is likely their only viable alternative, although Davis said Tuesday that he is researching other possible avenues.

If the city is able to put a lien on the property, it would likely only cover a portion of the money that is owed. Assessed at roughly $96,000, if the city was able to get that full value of the property it would still only be about a quarter of the tax dollars that have been spent.