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'The Roman' redevelopment project called off, Clayton County taxpayers wait for refund from developer

Developer Roman United has until May 11 to respond to a letter from the county. The project would have included a hotel, condos and more.

LAKE CITY, Ga. — Many people in Clayton County say they're upset and waiting to get more than $500,000 back. It's tied up in a massive redevelopment project no longer happening.

The county's development department called Invest Clayton discussed the next steps of ending the contract for a now-defunct business and commercial incubator at its Tuesday meeting.

A letter sent by Invest Clayton to Roman United shows the county wants to terminate the contract because the developer did not meet deadlines for funding and permits. 

Charles Smith owns the UPS in Lake City, which is across the street from what would have been an $800 million redevelopment project in a lot sitting vacant for years. 

“Right now, I'm disappointed," Smith said. "I thought it was a great idea that the commission had partnered with this developer to bring more jobs and opportunities into this community.”

Smith looked forward to getting new business with the redevelopment of a 26-acre lot for a project called "The Roman" at Lake City Crossing off Jonesboro Road. It would have included a hotel, condos, an office building, and an amphitheater.

“I was hoping it would stimulate the economy in this area," Smith said. "Anytime you bring jobs and other opportunities in this area, it brings in businesses.” 

Vanessa Durham also works at the UPS in Lake City and thinks the project could have moved Clayton County forward.

“I think it could have brought a lot of revenue to Clayton County. It could have helped out with jobs, homes," Durham said. 

Development Authority of Clayton County Executive Director Larry Vincent declined an on-camera interview but discussed some specifics of the situation with Roman United at Tuesday evening's meeting. 

“We sent the letter out, and we have a request to respond by the [May] 11th. That’s all we’re going to put out about Roman United," Vincent said.

A big part of the controversy is the county paying Roman United a total of $559,000 for three separate presentations. Clayton County Commissioner Dr. Alieka Anderson told the developer at an April meeting she wanted that money returned to taxpayers. 

“As a taxpayer in Clayton County, I'm disappointed," Smith said.  

Smith hopes something can still come of the dilapidated building and empty parking lot across the street from his business in the future. 

“I think it would be great to look at other opportunities and other developers that would bring some of the same ideas and energy into the community," Smith said. 

Invest Clayton said it would send 11Alive a statement, but we did not receive it as of Tuesday night. 

Roman United did not return 11Alive's messages for comment and has until May 11 to respond to the county's letter. 

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