A Superior Court judge has ruled that the Town of Clayton was within its rights to take a county commissioner’s land for a sewer project.
Allen Mims and his wife, Lee, challenged Clayton’s condemnation of a narrow swath of their land for the Sam’s Branch sewer line, saying Clayton should have used nearby town-owned land instead. That land is Legend Park, a former unregulated dump that Clayton argued could lead to contamination. Visiting Judge Jack Hooks agreed.
Hooks spent three months making his decision, but the Mimses were always going to have a high threshold to meet in turning Clayton away from their land. Ultimately, Hooks said Clayton’s route through the southern boundary of the Mimses’ 200-acre farm was the cheapest, most direct line for the project, which is pretty much all the town had to prove.
“[The] defendants have failed to show the Town of Clayton acted in bad faith or abused its discretion in this matter,” Hooks wrote in his decision.
During February hearings, the Mimses tried to show Clayton had ignored a long-established understanding that the couple preferred to be left alone by development. As the north side of town began to catch on with builders, Clayton came calling with an extension of the Sam’s Branch sewer line for those residents. The Mimses said they believed allowing Clayton to buy their land for the sewer line made them complicit or supportive of development. They proposed a different route, one crossing Sam’s Branch and running along the murky borders of the old town landfill.
That route, Hooks determined, would cost $121,000 more, add 584 feet of line and require three additional creek crossings. Hooks also determined that Clayton never seriously considered its own land instead, but the judge said it didn’t have to.
“While the exact boundaries of the landfill are currently the subject of debate, no evidence has been received that these boundaries were a factor in Clayton’s decision when it condemned the Mims’ land,” Hooks wrote. In explaining his decision, he said local governments make their own decisions about where to place projects.
“The Town of Clayton is very pleased with the decision of Superior Court Judge Hooks,” Town Manager Steve Biggs said in a statement. “The judge recognized the town did its due diligence, and we are committed to following all legal processes as we work to provide services in Clayton.”
Biggs said the sewer project is nearly complete, with the town having moved forward as condemnation proceedings were still going on.
Mims said his family intends to appeal the decision but declined further comment.
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson