When the Greater Overcoming Church of God Faith Temple sought to build a new building on two Third Street lots, it ran into a surprise: the legal existence of a city-owned alleyway, right across the center of the property.
So before work can begin -- and it was supposed to start in April -- the church has to acquire land it has maintained and thought it owned since 1980, Councilman Henry Ficklin said.
He mentioned the situation to interim Chief Administrative Officer Dale Walker during a city meeting this week.
I think that needs to be mitigated in some kind of way, and not at the expense of the citizen who has maintained the land for all these years, Ficklin said.
There seems to be a lot of issues with things like that, Walker replied.
Ficklin said Thursday that a deed search conducted when the city bought the two adjacent lots didnt turn up the alleys existence.
At that time there was no city right-of-way in there. And all of a sudden, here is a city right-of-way in the middle of their property, he said. My concern was, how did the right-of-way get there?
The churchs pastor, Bishop John Cotton, agreed with Ficklin that the 1980 deed search didnt show the right-of-way, but he declined to comment further.
The discussion is over part of an alley, a total of about 1,176 square feet, between Violet Avenue and Wood Street, according to City Attorney Martha Welsh.
The church owns parcels on both sides of the alley, she said via e-mail.
According to Welsh, deeds for the lot expressly mention the alleyway. In March, the churchs intended builder asked the city to close the alley, she said.
City procedures for closing streets and alleys include a $500 fee to cover legal and research costs, including consent of all who adjoin the land. The builder has agreed to pay that fee, Welsh said.
After checking to see whether anyone objects to the closure, the land can be appraised for fair market value by the Macon-Bibb County Tax Assessor.
Currently we are waiting for the results of the appraisal, Welsh said.
When thats done, mayor and council can vote to approve the closing. If thats successful, the petitioner can buy it.
The final price for such purchases, however, is often far below market value, according to Walker.
And such situations are not always one way. Sometimes the city is believed to control land it really doesnt -- and sometimes city officials themselves believe it.
Some streets that show up on official maps arent really streets, and they arent the citys responsibility, according to Walker and mayoral spokesman Chris Floore.
One example is Peters Street, so overgrown that last month a neighbor got Boy Scouts to partially clear trees and brush from it, in exchange for sending two scouts to Camp Bud Schiele in North Carolina.
Floore said a developer platted the street in 1946 but never built it, and the city never formally accepted the property. There are many such paper streets throughout Macon, he said.
Liability concerns keep city workers off privately owned drainage features, but sometimes it takes research to find out if a drainage easement is publicly or privately owned, Walker said via e-mail. Unless it was deeded to the city following construction, its the individual property owners responsibility.
But the city periodically runs across cases in which, years ago, the city made a gentlemans agreement to maintain ditches it didnt actually own.
In those situations, when a ditch or drain becomes clogged, nearby homeowners still expect the city to take care of the flooding problem, Walker said.
From what I have learned, occasionally Public Works would go and take care of a ditch that a council member requested be taken care of, he said. This in my opinion creates a bad precedent and a huge liability issue.
Telegraph writer Mike Stucka contributed information for this story. To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.