Phoebe case won't be on TV - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Phoebe case won't be on TV

February 8, 2006

Albany -- Last year Phoebe Putney Hospital used their condemnation powers to take an Albany home from the owner who did not want to sale, so they could expand their employee's child care center.

A 93-year-old woman has lived in that home for 26 years, and does not want to move. The home's owner is fighting Phoebe's take over, and vows to keep fighting in court to keep control of her lifelong friend's home.

A Dougherty County jury is deciding the value of the home on Fourth Avenue, 93-year-old Julia Lemon's home.

But the first thing Phoebe Putney Hospital lawyers demanded was WALB's Camera out of the courtroom, so you could not see the proceedings. "There should be no cameras in this courtroom," said Phoebe lawyer Rick Langley. "I'm going to ask the camera be removed."

Judge Loring Gray ordered our camera to be removed before the hearing started. Plaintiff l awyer Eddie Meeks said "I'm sure that they would prefer that Ms. Lemon and Ms. Montgomery be limited in their influence."

Julia Lemon is caught between the lawyers, eminent domain laws, and Phoebe's desire to expand their Family Tree child development center, next door to the duplex she has lived in for 26 years.

Home owner Julie Montgomery does not want Lemon shoved aside. "Move to this other spot, and here's some money. Even if you have any affection or sentimental or history with your property...."

Julie Montgomery bought the home in 1979, and in 1980 promised that Lemon, who cared for her as a child, could live there as long as she wanted. "It's just she's a wonderful friend. You don't want to see that happen to anybody."

Phoebe says it has 167 employees on a waiting list to put their children in Family Tree. They want to expand it 20,000 square feet, and says it need Lemon's home to do it.

Montgomery refused to sell, so last year Phoebe took it through eminent domain, and won state appeals. Montgomery said "OK, this is the thing I'm going to fight about, to the end."

Now a jury trial is underway to decide how much the home is worth. Phoebe bought a Dentist's office on Fourth Avenue for $250,000. They have offered Montgomery $53,000, but she says all wants is for Lemon to be left alone.

Phoebe says they will not make Lemon move. Phoebe Spokesperson Jackie Ryan said "Whatever Mrs. Lemon's desires are. Whether it's to relocate or to stay in the property, this is what we want to do."

The jury heard testimony on the property's value, but no decision has been made yet.

Montgomery vows to keep fighting for Julia Lemon's home, and appeal the case again to the State Court of Appeals.

Phoebe Attorney Rick Langley said that he did not want our cameras in the courtroom, because it would distract the jury.

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