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Oktibbeha supervisors reach deal with Highlands Plantation


Tim Pratt



STARKVILLE -- The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors Monday night put one ongoing controversy to rest -- at least for now -- but rekindled the flame in another. 


County attorney Jackson Brown said he met recently with Sheriff Dolph Bryan, County Administrator Don Posey and representatives of the Highlands Plantation resort community, and reached a resolution on which all sides agree. 


The resolution, which supervisors passed Monday, asks the State Tax Commission to revoke the resort status on the 400-plus homes in Highlands Plantation, but allow resort status to remain on the commercial portions of the development, like Cowbells Sports Grill. The decision ultimately is up to the Tax Commission, but a resolution signed by the county, the sheriff and the Highlands Plantation Home Owner''s Association might influence the Tax Commission to act on the recommendation, the board has said. 


The resolution also assures developers of Highlands Plantation won''t build a convenience store on the property where beer can be sold 24 hours a day. Resort status allows businesses in Highlands Plantation to sell alcohol all day, every day.  


One of the hang-ups in negotiations between the sheriff, Highlands Plantation developers and the county was Cowbells'' hours of operation. Because of the resort status, Cowbells stays open later than bars in the city of Starkville. 


Sheriff Bryan has said patrons leave bars in Starkville, which close at midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and then drive out to Highlands Plantation. The practice lends itself to drunken driving, he said, with young people going not only to Cowbells, but to house parties in the development. 


As part of negotiations with the sheriff, Cowbells'' property owner Larry Mitrenga agreed to shorten the establishment''s hours of operation.  


As it stands, Cowbells stays open until midnight from Sunday through Wednesday and until 3 a.m. from Thursday through Saturday. 


The new hours will see Cowbells remain open until midnight from Sunday through Thursday and until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. An exception can be made during Thursday night sporting events, Mitrenga said, when Cowbells will again stay open until 3 a.m. 


"We''re really only losing a couple of hours," Mitrenga said after the meeting. 


It is unclear how long the State Tax Commission will take to act on the request to revoke the resort status on homes in Highlands Plantation. 




Land dispute 


Before the board even discussed Highlands Plantation Monday it got an earful from James Williams -- the man involved in a property dispute with the county. 


Williams said county officials pestered and threatened him so he would donate a portion of his land needed for a right-of-way on the Longview and Poorhouse Road paving projects. Williams eventually signed his land over to the county, but said he was deceived into doing it by Board of Supervisors President John Young. 


"(Young) told me I''d be sued, my name would be in the paper and my family would be embarrassed if I didn''t sign over my land," Williams said. "He didn''t tell me the second part -- that I''d be compensated for my land when we went to court." 


Fortunately for Williams the physical description of his property was inaccurate, so the deal was no good and county needs to acquire the land from him once again. It totals about 1/10 of an acre. 


This time he knows he''s entitled to compensation for his land and he''s refusing to donate it to the county. 


The board Monday approved a motion to take Williams to court, where an appraiser representing the county and an appraiser representing Williams will testify to the value of the land in question, Brown said. A judge will then decide how much the county will pay Williams. 


County engineer Ed Springer will have to pay the county''s attorney and appraisal fees since the inaccurate land description was his doing, the board said. 


The vote to take Williams to court, however, wasn''t without its fair share of controversy. 


District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer first made a motion to pay Williams $4,200 for the disputed land. The vote passed 4-1, with District 4 Supervisor Daniel Jackson voting against it. But Williams said he would accept no offer less than $10,000. 


It was later in the meeting when the board voted to take Williams to court.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment KJ commented at 6/23/2009 2:04:00 PM:

Good for Williams.


Article Comment MB commented at 6/24/2009 6:09:00 PM:

I would not be against some compensation for land but the road is being widened and being paved which helps the total value of his property. I just think that 1/10 of an acre is not worth $10,000. Just remember our tax dollars will be paying for this along with the road. Just do not know if I believe what the man is saying. Why would a supervisor act like that knowing that the word would get out and he needs peoples votes to be elected.


Article Comment DFKT commented at 7/5/2009 10:22:00 PM:

I feel sorry for the man. He has learned what a lot of us have. You can't trust our officials. As for the Highland Plantations problem, I have an idea, why don't the citizens vote of whether or not Oktibbeha County is wet or dry. Who decided that we could serve in the city, but not in the county? Isn't the city located in the county? I think that the people should have a say in it, not the Sheriff and/or the supervisors. This is also something that we need to remember when time to vote.


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