Buford votes whether to take American Legion land

BUFORD, Ga. -- The American Legion Post 127 knows all about war. But it never imagined it would have to fight its own government.

Buford City Schools wants their 33 acres of land off Sawnee Ave. as part of a long range plan to build a new school. It made an offer to the American Legion, which has so far been denied. So the district has scheduled a vote on Monday to determine whether to try to take it by eminent domain.

It's the past against the future -- land that's been home to countless celebrations and fundraisers for 66 years versus growth and development.

"We knew it was probably going to happen," said Legion CFO Troy Zavitz.

The Legion's property is surrounded by school buildings. It leases a portion of its land already to the city for baseball fields. But Zavitz says they didn't know about the district's official plans until the school board held a special meeting on Veteran's Day, voting to condemn the property.

In the district's offer to buy the property, it says was the Legion that suggested the idea. Zavitz says no way.

"We're very happy where we're at, we've been here forever. It just, it breaks my heart to see it. This place is beautiful, it's everything we ever would need," he said.

But he says members are realistic. They're willing to talk, but they don't believe the $1.8 million currently offered comes close to what the property is really worth, let alone what it would cost them to move. Zavitz says their last appraisal in 2006, put the value at more than $4 million. Granted, that was before the housing crash, but it also didn't take into account several new buildings since added to the property.

The Legion says its limited in where it can move. Many of its members are elderly and can't drive far. Pllus, it would need a location with enough land, that their fundraisers to aid vets, as well as needy children in the community, wouldn't be a problem.

11Alive tried to talk with Phillip Beard who serves as the City Commissioner and is also a school board member, but were unable to reach him. In a written statement th district superintendent said he still hoped to reach an amicable solution, but wouldn't rule out eminent domain.

The American Legion is planning a rally on Monday before the vote, urging the city for more time to talk.


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