ALBANY, GA (WALB) - For the first time, Albany's mayor publicly criticizes an Albany businessman who owns more downtown property than anyone.
Peter Studl says he's committed to helping downtown grow and says city leaders need to be more progressive. But Mayor Willie Adams calls Studl an "impediment" to downtown redevelopment.
The catalyst for a growing battle between a businessman and the city-- the cross.
"There's some people including myself wondering if he's throwing a rock and hiding behind the cross," said Mayor Willie Adams.
Peter Studl put crosses on top of one of his downtown buildings. The city said they violated codes and ordered them down. "I have absolutely nothing whatsoever against crosses but I think somewhere in the Bible it says Christians should obey the lands of the law also," said Adams.
On January 5th, Peter Studl wrote a newspaper editorial criticizing the city's actions and called them an attempt to hold him back from his development plans. In a letter dated the next day, Albany Mayor Willie Adams fired back.
"As I said in my letter, I have not seen many of these things come to fruition and after about five years you have to wonder why hasn't he been successful," said Adams.
Adams says he was excited when Studl came to town a few years ago. "I like many people have stood by and waited for things to happen and got excited when a few things looked like they were about to happen but I can tell you in about five years, I've been somewhat disappointed that nothing seems to hold or to take off," said Adams.
The city also stepped in to help things take off on both the local and state level. "By the state level I mean the Department of Community Affairs. We brought people down to assist and possibly develop these properties and try to make things go but there seemed to be a lack of interest on Mr. Studl's part," said Adams.
And right now Studl owns numerous properties downtown. Adams says a big problem comes down to money. "It's my understanding that several offers have been made to Mr. Studl for some properties but the money he's asking compared to what he paid for them, there's too wide of a gap," said Adams.
Public development downtown is winding down. Everyone agrees more private developers need to step up. But Mayor Adams says Studl is holding them back.
"Mr. Studl has an opportunity to either develop his properties or bring them up to code. There's no in-between," said Adams.
In response to Mayor Adams letter Studl writes, "The plan I published three or four years ago is still holding up, except when the city and its departments and agencies and the pols start to block and feel threatened."
He also writes, "Put up real dollars in a real-deal contract and I guarantee a busier downtown."
Adams says time's up. "We don't have any reason for not wanting him to be successful but we certainly can't sit back and wait for him to flip properties so to speak," said Adams.
We tried throughout the day to get in touch with Peter Studl to get more of his side of the story but we could not reach him.