Council members directed city attorney Joel Dodson to file needed documents with the courts to get clear title to the seven-acre site of the former General Western Cotton Mill. The rubble of the historic mill now covers the property after fire destroyed it in May 2012.
Mayor Harvey Persons said it was “incumbent on the city” to take action on the beleaguered site – which will be adjacent to the new Ga. Hwy. 92 when the road is completed by the end of the decade.
“We’re trying to move forward to do something,” Persons said.
Dodson said the property at 6398 E. Broad St. “had been a troubled property for a number of years” before the city bought it for $29,000 at a tax sale in 2011.
Former owner Inman Park Properties had purchased the former textile mill building and its seven-acre site at the corner of Broad and Hagin streets for $405,000 in 2001, according to county tax commissioner records. It still has the right to gain control of the property if it pays back taxes and other fees, Dodson said.
However, the city would like to get a “clear” title to the land and will ask the courts to do so, he said.
The historic building formerly there reportedly employed up to 3,000 people and was the county’s largest employer as late as the 1950s.
However, the crumbling structure had not operated for decades and was regularly visited by vandals and metal thieves before it burned in May 2012. Three teens were convicted of burglary and arson in November in the incident.
Real estate experts have said a private company was not likely to invest in the property because of the amount of cleanup involved. The city was considering doing an environmental assessment, officials said last week.
“I don’t think that site is right for an outside investor at this time,” Dodson told city council members.
Council members asked about the possibility of securing grants to clear the site for redevelopment, though Community and Downtown Services director Marcia Hampton said she felt any grants would be “wrapped around” what was found in an environmental assessment.
Ward 2, Post 2 Councilman Mark Adams, who represents the area which includes the old mill site, said he would like to see the mill’s old water tower saved to preserve some part of the site’s original structure.
He said he had heard some of his constituents say they wanted something on placed the site to honor its place in Douglas County history as a major 20th century employer.
Ward 2, Post 1 Councilman Dennis McLain, said the site could serve as a future “gateway” to the city when Ga. Hwy. 92 is built.
“We’d like to see something nice there,” he said. “There’s a lot of history on that site.”