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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Will Roswell or Milton get Ted's spread? And the castle?

By PAUL KAPLAN / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Published on: 01/23/07

One's a billionaire media magnate, the other's a retired truck driver.
One owns enough land to fill Rhode Island, the other has two acres near Roswell.

Man's castle is home: Rudy and Ruth McLaughlin live in this miniature castle, but they don't know whether it will have a Roswell or a Milton address. The McLaughlins, who are known for their abode, and Ted Turner (known for other things) get to decide on towns.

But Ted Turner and Rudy McLaughlin have two things in common: Both are eccentric, and neither has decided whether to be annexed into Roswell or the new city of Milton.
Their properties are part of a three-mile strip that's one of the last pieces of land not gobbled up in north Fulton. That strip was omitted from Milton's boundary because residents there hadn't decided between the new city and Roswell.

Now all of those several hundred landowners have picked sides — except for Turner, who's known to do things his own way, and McLaughlin, who wouldn't be known at all if he hadn't decided to make his home a castle — a real one.Turner's property is the big prize for the cities. It's a densely wooded 114-acre spread tucked along a quiet back road.

Both cities have made pitches to Turner's representatives, but the CNN founder and former Atlanta Braves owner hasn't responded. Turner owns nearly 2 million acres, mostly in Montana and New Mexico, so a "little" slice of Georgia might not be high on his to-do list. Turner's reps did not return repeated phone calls for this article.

The new layer of municipal taxes that will come due when he joins either city should not be a factor for Turner, said Karen Thurman, a Milton councilwoman.
"It doesn't matter to him if his taxes go up a thousand dollars, or two thousand," she said. "It's pocket change to him."But not to Rudy and Ruth McLaughlin.
"I don't want to go in either city," Ruth McLaughlin said. "Cities don't do nothing for you except send you a tax notice."

Both suburban cities boast good schools, recreation areas and neighborhoods, so making a choice may just come down to whether a resident feels attached to 150-year-old Roswell or the upstart Milton, created last year from part of unincorporated north Fulton County.

Thirty years ago, the McLaughlins built their dream home on two unincorporated acres at the intersection of Arnold Mill and Cagle roads. Rudy McLaughlin's ancestors had a castle in Scotland in the 1600s, but he couldn't afford his own on a trucker's salary. So the McLaughlins built a miniature castle. It's 1,700 square feet of stone, surrounded by a miniature moat and traversable only via miniature drawbridges.

Their home has been one of the most gawked-at structures for a generation of Northsiders.
Folks stop and take pictures of the place every day, said Ruth McLaughlin, a cheerful sort who's 75 years into a deep Southern accent. And if she happens to be outside, they'll pepper her with questions about her little castle in the suburbs.

What do they ask? "Same things you're askin'," she said. There's no deadline for the McLaughlins or Turner to make a choice about which city they want to belong to. But if they can't decide in the next few months, Roswell and Milton will hammer out a deal to see who goes where.

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