Darling International, Inc. v Carter

This case involved a dispute over title to a 7.63 acre parcel of land located in Bacon County. The parcel was originally part of a 95-acre parcel owned by H.S. Carter that was taken by Bacon County via eminent domain proceedings commenced in 1973. As a result of the condemnation proceedings, Bacon County acquired over 2500 acres for creating a public recreation project known as Lake Alma and the Carter parcel was just one of the parcels condemned for that purpose. The proposed Lake Alma was part of a larger urban development project so that the City of Alma and Bacon County could execute a development plan that included, among other things, an industrial park, a waste water treatment plant, and improvement of the local airport, in addition to construction of Lake Alma. The other projects were completed but the Lake Alma project was abandoned and never constructed. After the project was abandoned, at the request of the city and county, the General Assembly passed an amendment to OCGA 36-9-3 that permitted counties to sell back to the original owners land that had been acquired for development, but the legislation failed to provide for repurchase of land by the heirs of the original owners. By that time, H.S. Carter was deceased and his original parcel was one of the only parcels condemned for construction that was not repurchased by the original owner. In 2010, OCGA 36-9-3 was amended again to grant the heirs of the original landowners the right to repurchase the land. Heirs of H. S. Carter sought to repurchase the original 95-acre parcel. The City of Alma executed a quit claim deed to Bacon County conveying its undivided interest in the 95 acres and, that same day, Bacon County executed a quit claim deed conveying all of its undivided interest in the property to the heirs. The heirs then filed a petition to quiet title and for ejectment against Darling and Southeastern Maintenance with respect to the 7.63 acres. Darling asserted it was entitled to summary judgment with respect to the quiet title and claim for ejection because, as a result of the county’s previous conveyance of the disputed property to the Development Authority and the subsequent chain of conveyances by which Darling ultimately obtained title, the heirs did not have title to that property. Without addressing Darling’s bona fide purchaser argument, the trial court entered judgment in favor of the heirs along with a decree that title to the property vested in them and was superior to Darling’s claim of title. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in concluding that the heirs’ title was superior to that of Darling’s as a result of Bacon County’s failure to comply with the requirements of OCGA 36-9-2 with respect to a 2003 conveyance of its interest in the property to the Bacon County Development Authority. Furthermore, the trial court erred in finding the 2003 conveyance to Southeastern Maintenance was invalid as a result of the governing authorities’ failure to formulate a new economic development plan. The trial court’s order granting summary judgment to the Carter heirs was reversed and the decree establishing title was vacated. View "Darling International, Inc. v Carter" on Justia Law