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Palm Coast Will Condemn Private Properties, Muscling Through Bulldog Drive Beautification

| September 21, 2010

gus ajram bulldog drive properties palm coast

One of Gus Ajram's two properties on Bulldog Drive, partially facing condemnation. (FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast’s Town Center mega-development started on a skewed footing six years ago. The contortions continued Tuesday as the Palm Coast City Council approved several questionable measures designed literally to clear Bulldog Drive of businesses and enable the city to build its last showcase entrance to Town Center.

The council approved spending public money to move two merchants even though they’ve already been evicted from their Bulldog Drive location. The council also approved launching condemnation proceedings, which can be long, expensive and ugly, to take a portion of a property on Bulldog Drive that the owner refuses to sell to the city at the city’s price. The city needs a 33-foot-wide swath of the property for the right-of-way reconstruction.

Debatable maneuvers have dogged the Town Center development from its earliest days.  (For background on those maneuvers, see “How Palm Coast Invented ‘Blightness’ to Capture and Hoard Tax Revenue.”) Tuesday’s meeting borrow from the same pot of muscling maneuvers.

For several years, the city has been trying to buy out the properties along Bulldog Drive, opposite Flagler Palm Coast High School. Little by little all but one of the property owners gave in. One of the last—Third Coast Holdings—is supposed to sign the deal later this week. One property owner, Gus Ajram, who’s owned automotive businesses there for decades and more recently rented the properties out to other automotive businesses, refused to sell. The city had appraised his two parcels there at $466,000 in August 2009 (the county property appraiser’s just market value for the two properties that year was $249,000). Ajram asked for $1.25 million, citing the commercial value of the properties.

(The difference between government appraisals and actual selling prices can be vast: the Flagler County Commission just agreed to pay at least $3.25 million for mostly unbuildable land along Pellicer Creek that the property appraiser had listed at $500,000).

“For over three years we’ve been attempting to reach a purchase price agreement with Mr. Ajram for his entire property just like we did with everybody else,” City Manager Jim Landon said, without success.

The two sides reached an impasse. On Tuesday, City Manager Jim Landon told the city council that, while leaving the door open to further negotiations, he was foregoing the attempt to get the entire properties, and recommending that the city pursue eminent domain, or condemnation, proceedings against a 33-foot wide portion of the parcels in question.

“There was a statement made that we offered double the appraised value, and that wasn’t sufficient, he wants 1.2,” council member Mary DiStefano said. “I have a serious, serious problem with dealing with this issue. We have in good faith over the years attempted to work with this gentleman, and before we go beyond the assessed value, I think council needs to know, this is absolutely ridiculous. At the time when w e bought other pieces of property we went over the appraised value, but never, to my knowledge, we went double.”

The longer section of Bulldog Drive the city doesn't advertise in its hunt for blight. (FlaglerLive)

Actually, a sampling of properties adjoining Ajram’s that the city bought since 2007 belies DiStefano’s statement. On May 6, the city bought a property immediately to the north of Ajram’s, along Bulldog Drive, for $800,000—more than four times its just market value, according to the property appraiser. In April 2007, the city acquired the property immediately north of that one, along Bulldog Drive, for $235,000—five and a half times the appraised value. The property north of that one sold for almost six times its appraised value.  A smaller parcel the city acquired in the same area, about the same time, cost taxpayers $139,000, five and a half time above its market value of $25,000. Even discounting the usually big disparities between county property appraisals and sales prices, the differences are vast. Applying the same ratios to the Ajram property, the city’s offer, even doubled, falls well below the ratio other properties commanded.

Ajram is represented by Sid Nowell, the Bunnell attorney. Referring to a memo written by a city attorney regarding the case, Nowell said: “When I was reading the document last night, I was struck by the tone of it. With all due respect, commissioner DiStefano, there have been significant negotiations, but quite frankly, that appraised value has no value. There’s no way that that appraised value—and I think everybody, except maybe for the city appraiser, has agreed that this is a unique piece of property.” The result, Nowell said, will be an arbitrary decision on the value’s worth.

He continued: “I understand you are energized and want to go to eminent domain. But you can speak to your counsel. It is not a pretty process. And quite frankly, it is a very expensive and time-consuming process.” DiStefano attempted to interrupt Nowell. Jon Netts, the mayor, did not allow it. Nowell returned to the memo: “Basically if you read between the lines, what that memo says is, let’s take advantage of the landlord.” Ajram is an immigrant who speaks with a heavy accent and who’s had a few run-ins with Landon and the commissioners. “Understand what is happening. The government, you, is looking to take away the property of a private land owner. Why wouldn’t that private land-owner be passionate and concerned about his property?”

The properties Ajram owns along Bulldog Drive were rented to two businesses: GW Black Inc., and I & R Enterprises. Nowell said the city went to those tenants and brokered a deal with them behind Ajram’s back, essentially paying them off–$39,000 for GW, $20,000 for I & R, ostensibly within the parameters of a “business settlement agreement,” though that agreement would have had to be made with the landlord first. “The consequence of the city going to our tenats prior to coming to the landlord was that the tenants decided they didn’t have to pay rent, because they were going to get paid off by taxpayers dollars. So we were forced into a position to evict them. What we are concerned about is the fairness of this project and the fairness of this action, and we would hope that you keep an open mind and continue negotiating over the value of this property.”

The council voted unanimously to proceed with the condemnation process, and to pay off the two evicted businesses. Landon said condemnation should cost significantly less given the city’s attempt to go after 33 feet of property initially, rather than Ajram’s entire parcels. Landon said a court’s determination to grant the 33 feet could take place within months. The determination of the price, however, would take much longer.

“You seem to have the impression that because the eminent domain is going to be reduced to 33 feet,” Nowell told the council, “that you’re going to have a significant saving. As Mr. Landon stated, that 33 feet runs right up to an existing building, and that will impact the valuation of the property damage done to my client. The land-owner. You’re focused on the business damages of the tenant. I’m telling you, the important calculation here is the business damage done to the property owner.”

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42 Responses for “Palm Coast Will Condemn Private Properties, Muscling Through Bulldog Drive Beautification”

  1. poseiden says:

    business’s can easily move-although some people have sentimental attachments to those buildings

  2. Kip Durocher says:

    There is an urban legend in America that never seems to go away. Everyone belives that election to a public office doubles one’s IQ. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mrs. DiStefano’s remarks are but one of many examples that this legend is but a myth.
    Why does the City of Palm Coast not just go to the other side of the street and eminent domain the property from the school board. The massively expensive property they have bought, ” A smaller parcel the city acquired in the same area, about the same time, cost taxpayers $139,000, five and a half times above its market value of $25,000″ could be used to make another park or maybe a big warehouse for all the businesses that want to move into Palm Coast, or even a new city hall.

  3. Somebody Who's Concerned says:

    To anyone paying attention the whole idea of putting a busy entrance to Town Center next to a Flagler/Palm Coast High School is demented. When the first accident occurs involving a student where will Landon be? I’m sure by then he will be elsewhere. This entrance idea is a bad idea. They could move it a block or two east but they won’t. Bulldog drive should be a dead ended street.

    Now about being fair to the owner, let’s set the record straight. First, they illegally zoned his property so he couldn’t use for anything else & he couldn’t even use it himself if he wanted to take back the repair shop. Yes the city offered him money to buy it. Did they note that the first offer was $230,000?? I’m sure not. They have continually bullied this Palm Coast resident who owns these properties. So I guess if you get in Landon’s way watch out. Because the owner stood fast the price slow but sure got up to the quoted price of $800,000. But where did that price come from? The city got a separate appraisal from a first rate real estate company. The estimated replacement value $1,350,000. What the city did was pick out only that which they wanted to pay but it doesn’t represent full replacement value. Then the next thing the city did without telling the owner of the property was approach the present business owners renting the properties & offered them money to move. They didn’t advise the owner they were doing this. They didn’t notify the owner that they were heading to the Eminent Domain process. I see nothing “fair” in this process and I’m happy that I’m not a business owner in Palm Coast now. I was but we left and went to Bunnell.

    So much for fair

  4. gmemom says:

    You want the man’s property…then pay his price.

  5. PCer says:

    Shouldn’t they be focusing on bringing more businesses in to the Town Center???

  6. I don't get it says:

    I may just be one person in this community, but as soon as my son graduates from high school, I am out of here!!! The politics of this small quiet community, well, they suck!!!! First the ABC drive through on PCPwy, ( not really, but it might as well be) now threats to take peoples property so they can build an entryway to a community that is not even half complete. And I may not be as bright as the city council, but did they already break the law by negotiating with tenants behind the land owners back?? I do not see good things for Palm Coasts future and I can not wait to get out of dodge. I wonder if they care about one more empty house, and one less tax payer????????????hmmmm

  7. gmemom says:

    Mary DiStefano said “I have a serious, serious problem with dealing with this issue. We have in good faith over the years attempted to work with this gentleman, and before we go beyond the assessed value, I think council needs to know, this is absolutely ridiculous.”

    I think that it is ridiculous that “HIT & RUN MARY” would sit in judgement of anyone!!!!

    This goverment is not interested in jobs, they are interested in spending. The whole goal is to secure a grand entrance to their new “Taj Mahal” city hall that they are conniving to build.

    After they exhaust whatever little reserves the city still has (from gouging the new construction during the boom), then they’ll whine ‘ we really thought that businesses would flock to a piece of expensive, highly restrictive, barren land off the main drag because we have a pretty entrance.” Now that is ridiculous!!!

  8. Charlie says:

    Since when is “bullying” new to Palm Coast? Ask them why SONIC, the fast food business, that was supposed to build on the corner, changed their mind!! As for Mary, she wants to use her publicity over the Hit and run, to be Mayor. Good training..

  9. Mark says:

    It is time to vote these idiots out of office. Wasting taxpayer money and driving a man out of business to boost their egos even more.

  10. Howdy Doody says:

    After the city paid more than 4 times the value for the first property what position did they think the other property owners would take. DUH.

    The highly paid city manager, who Mary DeStefano and Halsey Moorman claim is doing an outstanding job, previously stated that eminent domain is a costly process that does not always obtain the desired results. Now he and the rest of the crew are all in lock step for eminent domain.

    A four year term for councilors is far too long to be stuck with incompetence. We have some real knuckleheads masquerading as town councilors.

    I just hope that when this issue goes to trial that the judge isn’t bought off and Sid Nowell prevails.

  11. W.Ryan says:

    Thank you for putting it out there!!! This is a good look at the dealings in government. Why would such personal spite affect this mans life. Since these officials aren’t connected to Mr.Ajram he gets the shaft. The City should do the right thing by this individual and compensate this man in good faith.
    Shame on them!!! Stop the bitterness with condemnation or eminent domain. Pay the man what he wants. This land is prime!

  12. disgusted says:

    What I can’t understand is the City of Palm Coast buying land from Ginn at a ridiculous price and you can’t build on it. However, just take someone’s land and give him pennies come on! Anyone knows if he wanted to have another automotive shop in a prime spot it would cost a great deal. Pay him the price he wants, you gave it to Ginn. It always seems the rich make out in this county never the working person. I would like to ask one question, How does the council sleep at night?

    I have to agree with the other blogger, make this street a dead end. I have a child driving and attending the high school. I don’t want a lot of traffic around the school. Why?

  13. DP says:

    Time for a change in city council positions, for that matter the city manager to. When are we the tax payers going to stop the bullies “CITY” from running us into the ground? Imminent domain? I don’t see any life or death issues that are necessary for this process to be taken. STOP WASTING OUR MONEY, PAY THIS GENTALEMAN WHAT HE’S DESERVES. BTW I know him and have used his business many times for a very reasonable price. GO GUS you have my support.

    Mary DeStefano you should have been gone a long time ago for your stupid stunt you did, you are nothing but a disgrace to all of us. I wish you were in my district I would definitely run against you and spare no expense.

  14. BarneyFyfe says:

    Mary DiStefano… nothing more than another sanctimonious pusillanimous politician. Politicians have forgotten that they work for us not the other way around. Another show of power, except I see a distinct conflict of interest somewhere in this story where one owner can receive $800K or 4x the appraised amount but yet another is offered far less than the appraised amount. This should be investigated as well as the payoff of tenants to relocate by the Attorney General and if they won’t entertain it maybe the likes of Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity would love to expose these hypocrites for who they are. Small, local story? I don’t think so. Eminent Domain is tearing apart family businesses solely at the discretion of cretins – our elected officials. Enough already. Gus, don’t back down.

  15. Ajram's Friend says:

    I can assure you that all of Gus’ friends will be at any Eminent Domain hearing. Those of us who know him know him to be an honest business man who probably personally knows more about automobiles than anybody in the state. He fixes cars, he doesn’t gouge the customer, and he charges an honest price. He is just an honest human being and I’m not sure I can say that about our council people. He entered this country many years ago, married has 4 wonderful children, he is a great father & grandfather and a wonderful husband. He is a good citizen of Palm Coast.

    Eminent Domain can take years and cost money so what’s the plus side for the city? Already they have spent money on Government Relations People, lawyers, inhouse staff, realtors, etc. Why not do the fair thing and just sit down with the man and treat him fairly. But first let’s gets some facts straight.

    1- He has 5 parcels not two.
    2- They have to buy the properties from the landowner not the renters. Why are they giving money to the renters? Is something crazy here?
    3- The city got an appraisal but didn’t pay any attention to it they picked & chose what they wanted to pay.
    4- There has been NOTHING fair about this whole process, absolutely nothing.
    5- The council needs to reign in the City Manager as he is running amok with his heavy hand against citizens of Palm Coast. I live here & will do so until I pass into the blue yonder. Landon will be gone in a a few years when he finds something better. He doesn’t care about this city except as a means to an end. He cares only about his resumee. City Council needs to reign him in and stop following him like he’s the Pied Piper.

    Remember Gus’ friends will fill the court room and will all testify in his behalf. He has too many friends Mr Landon. So try to do the honest thing sit down with him and bargain honestly.

  16. I SAY IT. says:

    Mr. Landon . Your not GOD no matter what you believe. The day you walk on water , is the day Palm Coast will kiss your ass., Pay the man like you paid everyone else…

  17. enough says:

    It may bark, but if u mess with it , it will bite.

  18. Disappointed says:

    Shame, shame, shame on the City of Palm Coast. It is a wonder the officers have not been visited by the Ethics Commission. As someone who works for county government, I am horrified by the callous nature with which the city has proceeded against this property owner, who has the right to be dealt with openly and fairly. I expected more from our mayor.

  19. PALM COAST says:

    Where were you when I was being evicted, This is unheard of . I do think this should be checked into and investigated. No matter how high you think you are . Theres always someone higher , you will all soon see. What comes around goes around. Your day is coming. Thanks Mr . Landon……………..

  20. taxpayer says:

    Hey PALM COAST!!
    Have you ever seen that much money at once??? Not thank you Mr. Landon thank you tax payers!!!

  21. excop says:

    On Christmas Eve over a decade ago, my partner and I noticed lights on at one of the properties on Bulldog Dr. We investigated, as it was in the middle of the night, and found Mr. Ajram, alone, working on a car. When we asked him what he was doing there on Christmas eve near three in the morning, his response was simple: “I have a mortgage to pay and kids to feed.”

    This has always stayed in the back of my mind. I told my kids about it. This immigrant was still there at this hour, fixing a customers car to make ends meet, regardless of the fact that he should be at home with his family on Christmas Eve.

    Where was the city of palm coast then??? Non existent! Now the city is stepping on the toes of one of the people that makes this city a good place to live.

    Wake up city!!! Citizens I beg you, vote them out!!!

  22. hand cuffs says:

    it’s time for new bracelets for all these city officials its called hand cuffs and indictments /the feds will have a field day /where is our attorney general where is our supreme courts to put these guys where they belong
    landon / Mary DiStefano/ ect = bracelets than we will see who will rat first to get less time .

    1 -changing property zoning with out notice
    2-deniying zoning to owner and driving him out of our city
    3-buying out his tenants to make him fold
    4-rigging an appraisal for there favor
    5-finaly threats of the muscles

    INVESTIGATION ==INVESTIGATION==INVESTIGATION /ITS TIME FOR SHAME ON YOU
    TO MR AJRAM’S I HEARD ABOUT YOU IN NEW YORK BRING ON THE YANKEES IN YOU AND GIVE THEM A HOME RUN

  23. honest man says:

    To Mr.Ajram, DO NOT BACK DOWN, We will be By your side in court.

    God Bless

  24. excop says:

    hey guys check out facebook.com go to Ajram eminent domain at palm coast and palmcoast politics court

  25. Ready to Rally says:

    Gus has worked on my cars for over a decade. He is the most honest, hard working man I know, not to mention the best mechanic. I went to visit his hoome on his birthday a few years ago, and would you like to know what he was doing? Putting in tile in the bathroom! The man does not rest when it comes to hard work. He is generous to a fault, always giving back to the community. His wife, Colleen, has been active in the community, helping out with baseball leagues, etc. They give back so much. Whenever I brought my son to Little League, I would always see their company banner. When my daughter was scraping to go abroad on the People to People ambassador program, the Ajrams were there to pitch in. They run a family business, and they work long hours. They have poured their hearts and souls into their work and this community. It is time we give back to them. Just post the court date, and we will be there. In fact, if I find out they need any money for attorney’s fees, I plan to pitch in. These people are not bottom feeders that are trying to be greedy – they are pillars of our community who set an example for standing up to what is right. Gus and Colleen, my family and I are behind you!

  26. Robert says:

    If enough voters feel that they do not have adequate representation from those they have voted into office, then one alternative is the right to recall the council members they feel are not fulfilling their obligations.

    However that course of action must be supported by facts and not innuendo.

    It may also be true that the town manager form of government is not serving the needs of the citizens.

  27. Barb and Russ says:

    We have know the Ajrams for years and very proud of it. I don’t understand what all of you want. ( except something for nothing) If you want the site pay for it. Mr.and Mrs Ajram had to work for it. No one gave it to them. HEY PUBLIC OFFICALS, GET REAL

  28. pete says:

    I am looking into doing business with gus ajram and i cant believe what i am reading here. It sounds like this city is trying a hostile takeover of bulldog drive. After i was contacted by a city employee, i wont name , and warned that i might want to rethink my business dealings with gus i sat back and was quite surprised that a city official would say those things to me i wont repeat. i have done business with mr ajram in the past and i know how he conducts business. Let me say this, i would trust this man with my life. i jumped at the chance to rent that property on bull dog drive and put several people to work,and what happened???? i ran into trouble getting a license to operate the same type of business there thats been there for years. im thinking im better off to open a business in a depresseed area than deal with these ——- . I can see through things as i talked with a couple people at the city hall. let me tell you, i was thinking i was back in south boston with the good fellas. i hope they take there 33 feet because i will have a great business there in a high traffic area and will be a very good tax payer. i will be there,and all you nice folks that know gus will know me. look for fresh paint on that building soon and a new sign.

  29. mimi says:

    THIS IS A SHAKE DOWN SHAME ON US FOR VOTING THESE PEOPLE IN THEY FORGOT WHO THEY WORK FOR

  30. PALM COAST says:

    Give the man what the Hell deserves ,Mr Landon. Then get the Hell out of PALM COAST. My taxes and my child’s future can not afford your salary anyway .

  31. Concerned 17 year Resident Tax Payer says:

    I know Gus Ajram very well and agree with all of the positive posts regarding his character, honesty and that he is a hard working contributor to this community. He has been a long time resident, businessman and taxpayer of Palm Coast. This is not a corporation or non-resident investor. This is our fellow neighbor. He is not being treated fairly in this process and I believe this matter should be raised to the State or US Federal courts because it is obvious that politics and good ole boy bullying is getting in the way of a legal and fair process. Paying his tenants behind his back to move or stop paying rent is absolutely illegal. How can the citizens stand by and allow our government leaders to commit illegal acts? City Council I urge you to engage an independant mediator to intervene in this as it is obvious that the parties are tainted by personal agendas/vendetta. Do what is right or we will vote you out in the next election!!!

  32. Barney Smythe says:

    What other ‘city’ builds a town center around a HS? Only those that are just a bassackward as PC!!

  33. A Voter says:

    I agree lets look at recalling some of these so called politicians.

  34. Enough already says:

    Have contacted CH 13 news , this has gone to far .Do not back down from these bullies, we are here for you GUS.

  35. concerned citizen says:

    That private property rights are under assault in the name of expediency for our local governments should be a cause of concern for every person in the community. I find it offensive that the city can use the heavy hammer of their authority to condemn someones property or declare an area blighted to make way for development. With the exception of essential public works projects this should be a tool that is rarely used by governement because it overrides such fundamental American rights of the individual, namely ownership and control of private property. I am sick of seeing localities pave the way for development on the backs of the individual property owner. To many cities, this abridgment of a fundamental right seems to be just another tool in their box for getting things done, but the effect over time is to diminish our historic commitment to personal freedom and private property. If a developer wants to develop a property for profit (eg Daytona Beach and their use of emminent domain to increase their tax base) they should have to buy the owner out. If a city can’t get a property owner to cooperate with a vital project and emminent domain must be invoked, the city should have to pay a premium for his property. I would be in favor of a state commission that provided oversight of the use of emminent domain by communities to better protect all our rights. Everyone should be concerned when a city manager can get fed up with the progress of negotiations and resort to the strongarm coercement of emminent domain against an individual (unless of course extraordinary efforts to resolve the situation otherwise have been exhausted and the project is essential for the public good). I especially don’t think that clearing the way for development for private profits and to enhance the county’s tax base ( as seems to happen more and more frequently these days) is adequate reason to suspend a citizens rights to decide what they do with their own property.

  36. hand cuffs says:

    conspiracy by local government mayor /city manger ect

  37. Sandra says:

    Hi our names are Sandy and Gary. We have been friends with Gus and Colleen Ajram, for 27 years. Colleen is my very best friend; She is the sister I never had.
    Let me tell you a bit about their family. Gus was once a carpenter. He would work all day and then attend school at night. He worked out of a small garage doing car repairs in the few hours he had available between work and night school. Colleen stayed home to take care of the children. We all lived in an apartment complex in Peekskill, NY, and that is how we met. Colleen was an excellent mother; Her house was always spotless, and she always made sure Gus had a fresh, warm meal, no matter what time he arrived home. We were both young, struggling couples just trying to make ends meet.
    After Gus opened his garage, I became one of his customers. He was honest, fair, and even let me make payments on the work he did on my car. How many people would do that?
    As time went by, I gave birth to our daughter. Colleen had a son named Elia and was pregnant with her next child, Marie. I Then became pregnant with my son, and Colleen became pregnant with her last daughter, Patricia. We both purchased homes not too far from each other. Our kids went to the same school district. Colleen then had her last child, Mitchell.
    Because of finances, I had to continue to work. Colleen would put my son on the bus and care for him after school. I insisted that she take money and she adamantly refused every time. Finally she agreed on a whopping $2 per hour.
    Gus continued to make repairs on my car. He still worked with me on payments. He charged me for parts only and did the labor for free. What a great person he is. If it were not for Gus and Colleen, I would not have been able to work, and my children would have gone hungry.
    It was around the year 1992 and my husband came down with pneumonia. I was so upset because it was the week of Christmas. I kept thinking my children would think that Santa had forgotten about them because there wouldn’t be any presents under the tree for them.
    Colleen had handed me an envelope and told me not to worry. I opened it. Inside there was a note from her. She had held on to the money I gave her from babysitting. She had saved it all for me. I cried so hard that night, The next day at work, my boss gave me a Christmas bonus, and then my husband came home from the hospital on Christmas Eve. It was our Christmas miracle, and it started because of the loving kindness of Colleen. I really can just keep going on and on about all the generous things that they have done for everyone.
    Gus and Colleen are a far cry from being greedy people. It hurts me to see them in this situation. Why , WHY give them a hard time? How dare these people try to take advantage of my friends! These are people who started out with nothing; just like most of us do when we venture out on our own. Its only fair for the government to pay the asking price for the property. There aren’t too many people left like Gus and Colleen. Hang in there, Guys, we love you with all our hearts!!!

    Gary, Sandy, Tanya, & Gary jr. – Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.

  38. Sandra Burstell says:

    Hi our names are Sandy and Gary. We have been friends with Gus and Colleen Ajram, for 27 years. Colleen is my very best friend; She is the sister I never had.
    Let me tell you a bit about their family. Gus was once a carpenter. He would work all day and then attend school at night. He worked out of a small garage doing car repairs in the few hours he had available between work and night school. Colleen stayed home to take care of the children. We all lived in an apartment complex in Peekskill, NY, and that is how we met. Colleen was an excellent mother; Her house was always spotless, and she always made sure Gus had a fresh, warm meal, no matter what time he arrived home. We were both young, struggling couples just trying to make ends meet.
    After Gus opened his garage, I became one of his customers. He was honest, fair, and even let me make payments on the work he did on my car. How many people would do that?
    As time went by, I gave birth to our daughter. Colleen had a son named Elia and was pregnant with her next child, Marie. I Then became pregnant with my son, and Colleen became pregnant with her last daughter, Patricia. We both purchased homes not too far from each other. Our kids went to the same school district. Colleen then had her last child, Mitchell.
    Because of finances, I had to continue to work. Colleen would put my son on the bus and care for him after school. I insisted that she take money and she adamantly refused every time. Finally she agreed on a whopping $2 per hour.
    Gus continued to make repairs on my car. He still worked with me on payments. He charged me for parts only and did the labor for free. What a great person he is. If it were not for Gus and Colleen, I would not have been able to work, and my children would have gone hungry.
    It was around the year 1992 and my husband came down with pneumonia. I was so upset because it was the week of Christmas. I kept thinking my children would think that Santa had forgotten about them because there wouldn’t be any presents under the tree for them.
    Colleen had handed me an envelope and told me not to worry. I opened it. Inside there was a note from her. She had held on to the money I gave her from babysitting. She had saved it all for me. I cried so hard that night, The next day at work, my boss gave me a Christmas bonus, and then my husband came home from the hospital on Christmas Eve. It was our Christmas miracle, and it started because of the loving kindness of Colleen. I really can just keep going on and on about all the generous things that they have done for everyone.
    Gus and Colleen are a far cry from being greedy people. It hurts me to see them in this situation. Why , WHY give them a hard time? How dare these people try to take advantage of my friends! These are people who started out with nothing; just like most of us do when we venture out on our own. Its only fair for the government to pay the asking price for the property. There aren’t too many people left like Gus and Colleen. Hang in there, Guys, we love you with all our hearts!!!

    Gary, Sandy, Tanya, & Gary jr. – Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.

  39. sandy & gary says:

    Hi our names are Sandy and Gary.  We have been friends with Gus and Colleen Ajram, for 27 years.  Colleen is my very best friend; She is the sister I never had.    Let me tell you a bit about their family. Gus was once a carpenter.  He would work all day and then attend school at night.  He worked out of a small garage doing car repairs in the few hours he had available between work and night school. Colleen stayed home to take care of the children.  We all lived in an apartment complex in Peekskill, NY, and that is how we met.  Colleen was an excellent mother; Her house was always spotless, and she always made sure Gus had a fresh, warm meal, no matter what time he arrived home.  We were both young, struggling couples just trying to make ends meet.    After Gus opened his garage, I became one of his customers.  He was honest, fair, and even let me make payments on the work he did on my car.  How many people would do that?    As time went by,  I gave birth to our daughter.  Colleen had a son named Elia and was pregnant with her next child, Marie.  I Then became pregnant with my son, and Colleen became pregnant with her last daughter, Patricia.  We both purchased homes not too far from each other.  Our kids went to the same school district.  Colleen then had her last child, Mitchell.    Because of finances, I had to continue to work.  Colleen would put my son on the bus and care for him after school.  I insisted that she take money and she adamantly refused every time.  Finally she agreed on a whopping $2 per hour.    Gus continued to make repairs on my car.  He still worked with me on payments.  He charged me for parts only and did the labor for free.  What a great person he is.  If it were not for Gus and Colleen, I would not have been able to work, and my children would have gone hungry.      It was around the year 1992 and my husband came down with pneumonia.  I was so upset because it was the week of Christmas.  I kept thinking my children would think that Santa had forgotten about them because there wouldn’t be any presents under the tree for them.    Colleen had handed me an envelope and told me not to worry.  I opened it.  Inside there was a note from her.  She had held on to the money I gave her from babysitting.  She had saved it all for me.  I cried so hard that night,  The next day at work, my boss gave me a Christmas bonus, and then my husband came home from the hospital on Christmas Eve.  It was our Christmas miracle, and it started because of the loving kindness of Colleen.  I really can just keep going on and on about all the generous things that they have done for everyone.    Gus and Colleen are a far cry from being greedy people.  It hurts me to see them in this situation. Why , WHY give them a hard time? How dare these people try to take advantage of my friends! These are people who started out with nothing; just like most of us do when we venture out on our own.  Its only fair for the government to pay the asking price for the property.  There aren’t too many people left like Gus and Colleen.  Hang in there, Guys, we love you with all our hearts!!! Gary, Sandy, Tanya, & Gary jr. – Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Seems like PC in turning into Bell, CA. FlaglerLive can you post this story to keep PC citizens informed and involved.

    September 25, 2010

    ‘The stories involve the small working-class city of Bell, Calif., less than a 20-minute drive southeast of downtown Los Angeles. This week, eight current and former city officials were arrested and charged with enriching themselves with public money. Major investigations are under way.’

    Follow the rest of the stroy at the following link

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130108851

  41. Joseph P. Smith, Jr. says:

    To the elected officials who want to run a private, TAX-PAYING citizen out of business:
    Please allow me to present you with a textbook answer to why your position is unsound:
    “Litigation is expensive and will risk the firm’s public image” (Managers and the Legal Environment, Bagley and Savage, 2010). If you want this private citizen’s land, then step-up, do the right thing, and pay fair market value for it!
    As a very dear friend of Mr. Ajram for many years, I can assure you that: 1) This issue being about property on Bulldog Drive is more than ironic because a Bull Dog is EXACTLY who you are choosing to legally challenge and he will, most assuredly. re-define your understanding of tenacity! 2) the above refenced text is exactly what you will find to be your realized outcome, accepting the fact that you stand a very real financial risk of LOSING THIS LITIGATION and paying more of the tax-payer’s money when it is all over, than it would have cost you to do the right thing in the first place, in addition to ruining your public image, which will, subsequently and realistically ruin any chances that you MIGHT have had for re-election by employing such under-handed and publicly-unacceptable business practices!!!
    Joseph P. Smith, Jr.

  42. JOHN says:

    This is bullshit. Down with big government. Down with the tea party and down with crackpot creationists.

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