Columbus’ long library park nightmare is over.
At 9:48 a.m. today, plaintiffs dismissed a lawsuit filed July 26, 2007, to compel the city and school board to build a park along Lindsay Creek behind the Columbus Public Library at 3000 Macon Road.
The plaintiffs’ voluntary dismissal of their lawsuit is the result of a compromise reached by Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington and Muscogee school board chairman Philip Schley.
In an agreement approved by both Columbus Council and the school board, the city gave the school district 5 acres of city land once occupied by a movie theater; the school district gave the city 3 acres adjacent to 6 acres it already had for building a city services center, swimming complex and parking garage; and the city released to the district $1 million in 1999 sales tax funds to remove asphalt and plant 14-15 acres along the creek.
It’s the last part that was crucial to those who sued the city and school district, claiming that in a campaign for the 1999 library sales tax, voters were promised a park adjacent to the facility. The tax passed and the library was finished in 2005, with $6.1 million left over.
In the summer of 2007, a battle of words began over whether to spend that money on a park. When proposed compromises were rejected, the lawsuit began.
The plaintiffs were David Rothschild II, T. Samuel Rawls, Lucius Morton, Michael Herndon, Harry Brill and Nadine Moore. Rothschild died before the conflict was settled, but on his deathbed asked Wetherington to resolve it.
By then the lawsuit had gone all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court after Muscogee Judge Doug Pullen dismissed it, ruling the plaintiffs had no standing to sue over how governing bodies spend sales tax funds. The Supreme Court disagreed, and sent the case back to Muscogee Superior Court.
There it languished until Wetherington and Schley announced their compromise.McKoon said the plaintiffs dismissed the lawsuit today “without prejudice,” meaning it can be filed again, if necessary.
The attorney said the dispute could have been settled three years ago, had local leaders been willing to listen. That a resolution took so long is “unfortunate,” he said.
“But the good thing is, and where my focus is, is that we were able to get it resolved, and I think it was resolved to the public’s benefit, ultimately, in that we got the campus of public buildings that had always been discussed from the genesis of the sales tax, and we also got the guarantee that some of that property is going to wind up being developed so that people can enjoy the outdoors as part of the whole library campus,” he said.