Battle brewing in Decatur over Dearborn Park - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Battle brewing in Decatur over Dearborn Park

A densely wooded area on private property has always been considered an unofficial extension of Decatur's Dearborn Park A densely wooded area on private property has always been considered an unofficial extension of Decatur's Dearborn Park
DECATUR, GA (CBS46) -

If a land developer has his way, the winding walk running through Decatur's Dearborn Park will be replaced with a paved street, and all the trees west of the path will be cut down to build million-dollar homes.

The private land has always been considered an unofficial extension of the park, and Decatur planned to buy it from the previous owner, but a quick moving developer swooped in and grabbed it under the city's nose.

It will be a big project that will involve leveling off a deep ravine, redirecting a waterway and disrupting a wildlife habitat.

On Monday, about 200 people attended a late night meeting at the city commission chamber to voice their opposition to the plan. No one spoke in favor except the developer and his attorney.

CBS46 tried to find the developer to get his side, but we ran into the same problem neighbors experienced when they tried to look him up.

"You can't find his phone number. We don't actually know who he is or if he's done business elsewhere," said Kevin Polite.

Several addresses and numbers are listed on the internet and on applications for construction permits, but they are all out of date or disconnected.

Signs just went up in the woods this week displaying notice of a November 6 eminent domain hearing.

While the city makes the developer wait for construction permits, they're working on a new plan to take the land from him by force.

Eminent domain means the city can take the owner to court and make him sell if his property is needed for public use. A park would definitely qualify as public use.

Still, some neighbors expressed concern the city won't be able to afford whatever the courts decide the land is worth.

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