Villa Rica halts controversial road project amid eminent domain dispute

The Mirror Lake Connector Project in Douglas County, which sparked significant protests last month, is now on hold after city leaders expressed reluctance to engage in an eminent domain battle. 

Raphael Augustine, a property owner affected by the project, is still grappling with the city's decision to potentially seize his newly purchased home without offering any compensation. 

"They didn't give me any dollar amount. We just had meeting after meeting, email after email," Augustine said. He had bought the house for his mother-in-law for $60,000 and spent thousands on renovations, only to be told by the city of Villa Rica that his land was needed for the project. Augustine's story echoes those of dozens of other property owners facing similar threats. 

Villa Rica Mayor Leslie McPherson acknowledged the mishandling of the situation, stating, "Why weren't people offered money? I wish I could answer that question. From the beginning, this thing was mishandled." 

In response to the growing unrest, Mayor McPherson announced the city has paused the project and dismissed City Manager Tom Barber. "It was understandable why people were upset. So, right now we're looking at alternative routes," McPherson said. 

The multi-million-dollar road project is intended to connect the Mirror Lake neighborhood in Douglas County to downtown Villa Rica in Carroll County, with plans to add shops and housing along the route. While some developments are already underway, halting the road project could jeopardize upcoming projects and potentially lead to lawsuits from developers. 

"We have to realize the financial cost compared to the cost of doing something that people will remember for decades," McPherson added, reflecting on the broader implications of the city's actions. 

The situation remains in flux and without an immediate solution, but city leaders hope to explore the issue further before moving forward on anything.