Dan King
Dan King · July 24, 2023

SPARTA, Ga.—Late last week, Sandersville Railroad Company filed an amended petition with the Georgia Public Service Commission to take acres from eight new parcels of land in order to build a rail spur (the “Hanson Spur”) that will service a private rock quarry. The eight parcels are owned by various Institute for Justice (IJ) clients who have previously voiced their concerns over Sandersville’s proposed land grab. 

In its initial petition for the Commission’s blessing to use the state’s power of eminent domain to take land, Sandersville only asked for permission to take property owned by IJ clients Don and Sally Garrett. Other IJ clients in the path of the Hanson Spur—Blaine and Diane Smith; Marvin and Pat Smith; Leo and Georgia Briggs; Joel and Kathy Reed; siblings Sally Wells, Verne Hollis, Herus Garrett, and Donna Garrett; and Thomas Ahmad Lee—moved to intervene in the proceeding against the Garretts, arguing that what happened in that proceeding would affect their ability to hold onto their property. In response, Sandersville is now moving to take their land as well And it is only the people who sought to intervene in the Garretts’ proceeding that Sandersville is targeting–there are additional pieces of land that Sandersville identifies in its petition as necessary for the Hanson Spur project, but so far Sandersville has only moved against IJ’s clients’ properties. 

“After Sandersville moved to take the Garretts’ land, we knew it was just a matter of time before they did the same to us, which is why we’ve been with the Garretts in this fight all along,” said Blaine Smith. “This land has been in my family for generations. I plan to keep the land fully intact and fully in my family’s hands.”  “Sandersville’s unconstitutional land grab continues to get worse as they threaten more property owners with condemnation,” said IJ Attorney Betsy Sanz. “Taking land from several private individuals to build a rail line that will really only be used by a private company is not a public use – it’s an abuse of the state’s eminent domain authority.”