Looking to pick up a piece of land in a hot neighborhood near Freedom Parkway? The state Department of Transportation may have just what you’re looking for.
DOT has spent decades acquiring property from landowners for road-building and now it needs to figure out what to do with the leftovers.
All 9,268 pieces.
A new database may help. Records of the parcels, much of it unkempt paperwork, is scattered in offices all over the state where the land was acquired. A scathing 2008 audit said that DOT didn’t know how much land it owned, but the agency has set about trying to find out, an effort that cost about $2.7 million.
This may not have been a big problem if DOT intended to hold on to the land for possible future use in road-widening. But financial pressure is on now to determine if there are pieces it really ought to sell.
The agency has contracted to create a database of the land, which may go online for internal DOT use in June, state Right-of-Way Administrator Phil Copeland told the DOT board this week.
One example of idle property is near Freedom Parkway, acquired in 1966. DOT originally planned to build a big highway there, but a neighborhood legal battle scaled the project down.
After someone has expressed interest in that piece of land, DOT began evaluating whether it should be put on the market. It is one of 1,686 pieces DOT has deemed “significant,” meaning they span more than a half-acre and have reasonable frontage access that might appeal to buyers or renters. Property that is landlocked from roads or smaller parcels might not be as marketable.
Eleven other pieces of “significant” land, located in Bartow, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Paulding and Forsyth counties, are on sale as part of a pilot project.
The solution is not as easy as merely putting it all on the market. Will DOT someday want the land for a road? One board member said if DOT district engineers had their way, they might never give up the land. And DOT does need money for building other roads.
There is the option of leasing some of the properties, but according to DOT officials, state law requires that DOT have the right to reclaim the land in 30 days, reducing an incentive for renters who want to invest in improving their space.
Board member Jay Shaw argued for a vigorous selling program and hiring real estate professionals.
“The whole thing is marketing,” Shaw said. “You can’t sell something if you put it in the legal section and expect to get a proper return.”
After the database goes live, DOT will figure out whether to make it a public tool.