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Simpsonwood Plaintiffs Disappointed

Simpsonwood to be Sold?
Simpsonwood to be Sold?
The Peachtree Corners plaintiffs trying to stop the sale of the Simpsonwood property were rebuffed April 24th by Gwinnett Magistrate Mark Lewis (sitting by designation in superior court) when he concluded that the plaintiffs did not have standing to seek to overturn a previous superior court declaratory judgment (that was granted based on the pleadings and without opposition). The previous declaratory judgment allowed the sale of the Simpsonwood property that is in the heart of the City of Peachtree Corners and one of the largest forested undeveloped tracts of land along the Chattahoochee River in Metro Atlanta.  

The Peachtree Corners plaintiffs maintained that Simpsonwood was deeded as a gift, in trust, to the Trustees of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church by Ludie Simpson in 1973, such conveyance made with the understanding that Simpsonwood would be forever preserved intact and in its natural state. Unfortunately, money became paramount in this matter, the Trustees of the Methodist Church's North Georgia Conference and others bringing the previous declaratory judgment case apparently because the Methodist Conference was losing money on the 227-acre property and wanted to sell it, notwithstanding any perceived wishes of Ludie Simpson. 

Of course, development of the property for single family large lot residences (one of its two zonings - the other agriculture) might be a good capitalistic use of the land, but such use would affect schools, transportation, and public use of undeveloped land that is becoming so scarce in Metro Atlanta.

To add to the drama, apparently actions by counsel for the Methodist Conference, Matt Reeves, have been perceived by the plaintiffs' counsel, Grace Evans Lewis, as attempts to have plaintiffs drop their action by bullying and intimidation through abusive personal attacks and threats. On the other hand, Mr. Reeves has said the Methodist Conference is in discussions to sell the property to Gwinnett County as a park, accusing the neighbor leading the attempt to overturn the previous declaratory judgment, Jim Erdy, of trying to interfere with the sale because Mr. Erdy would rather see million-dollar homes built.

In the meantime, Magistrate Lewis has left in place a lis pendens document filed in the county deed records by the plaintiffs that effectively chills any sale of Simpsonwood up through any appeal, should the plaintiffs timely file an appeal of the ruling by Magistrate Lewis. Apparently the plaintiffs and their counsel, Grace Lewis, will need to decide what next step, if any, will be taken in the near future. Without an appeal the lis pendens will become ineffective and the Methodist Church's North Georgia Conference Trustees will not be barred from selling the property. 

These machinations and the eventual result of this legal battle should keep Peachtree Corners citizens interested.

The website for Citizens for Simpsonwood Conservancy is  http://www.savesimpsonwood.com/, and the website for The North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church is http://www.ngumc.org/. See, also, http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/simpsonwood-neigbhors-say-church-tried-to-bully-th/nfghw/ and http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/judge-dimisses-attempt-to-block-sale-of-simpsonwoo/nfg2k/ and http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/news/2014/apr/24/judge-rules-against-peachtree-corners-neighbors/.
David B. Manley April 26, 2014 at 04:17 PM
Spellcheck fails again. It has been corrected. Thank you EB.
Elizabeth Elizabeth April 26, 2014 at 07:04 PM
This is why you do not leave property to a CHURCH!!!! They will ultimately do whatever the heck they want to feeling that God justifies their behavior and doesn't know what agreement this lady thought she made in good faith... Better off leaving it to an environmental group who might actually gave an interest in protecting what God made!!!!
Cain Harris April 27, 2014 at 08:18 AM
I agree Elizabeth, the lady left the property to the church with the stipulation included Not To Sell It! I dont blame the neighbors for being mad. How can anyone agree with selling the property unless Of course they have another agenda. Whole deal sets bad precedent for leaving anything to the Church!
Michael Hipp April 28, 2014 at 03:10 PM
The original intent of the original owner was for the land to stay in tact and in it's natural state. The latest judgement is technically correct because PTC resident's don't have standing, but that doesn't mean that the church is doing the right thing is they sell it to be developed. The church should honor the person who gave them the land and either sell it to an entity that will keep it undisturbed or not sell it at all.
EB Allen April 28, 2014 at 03:37 PM
I'm a bit confused: If indeed the property was designated to be kept in its natural state as God made it then where does the precedent of placing hotel buildings on the virgin woodland arise? Was there a loophole the UMC found or were the terms of the will for these structures to be created as part of a Retreat Center for the UMC?

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