In a case that has garnered national attention, a Henry County judge ruled late Monday that the city of Stockbridge cannot use eminent domain laws to buy the shop and use the property for a downtown revitalization project.
Co-owner Regina Meeks was the one feeling revitalized Tuesday as she stood among the elegantly arranged roses, Easter egg baskets and Beanie Babies and fielded congratulatory telephone calls from strangers in Detroit, Dayton, Ohio, and Tennessee.
“The old saying [is] ‘You can’t fight City Hall,’ ” Meeks said Tuesday afternoon. “I guess you can.”
Henry Superior Court Judge Arch McGarity’s two-page decision said Stockbridge did not show the shop would be used for public purposes. The city has 30 days to appeal and may decide what to do at a meeting Monday, said City Manager Ted Strickland.
The dispute has brought standing room audiences to the typically placid City Hall and prompted state lawmakers to jump into the fray. On Tuesday, Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a revised eminent domain law that could help landowners in future eminent domain disputes, but not the Meekses.
On the west side is Eagle’s Landing, a country club community that will soon host the only annual Ladies Professional Golf Association tournament in Georgia.
On the east side of town are mom and pop stores like the flower shop Regina Meeks opened in 1983 in a wood frame house on North Henry Boulevard, one of the city’s busiest roads. City Hall is two blocks from the flower shop.
City leaders look at the east side and envision 22 acres with a new City Hall, homes and shops. Last year, the city sent condemnation notices to property owners. Most worked out deals to sell their land.
Others, like Regina and Mark Meeks, thought the city’s offer was too low. The Meekses accused the city of negotiating in bad faith. The city said the Meekses were misrepresenting the facts. A special master ruled the shop was worth $325,000. The couple appealed.
We need to see more victories like this one. Private property rights should never be taken for granted. I cannot tell you everything I have been through to finally grab my little piece of the pie, and I pity the fool that tries to take it from me.