August 4, 2009 10:36:00 AM
Lowndes County officials during the next few weeks will move closer to securing land for the proposed soccer complex project in Columbus'' Burns Bottom area, amid unanswered questions of how the project would be funded.
The developments came during a Monday morning Lowndes County Board of Supervisors meeting, as Columbus-Lowndes Development Link Chief Executive Officer Joe Higgins updated the board on the project''s status.
"The green areas represent landowners we have met with, and who have agreed to go to the next level," Higgins told the board as he referenced a map of the Burns Bottom area near Columbus'' Hitching Lot Farmers'' Market on Second Street North.
The Board of Supervisors in June authorized Higgins and Link official Charleigh Ford to seek property options from 31 landowners in the Burns Bottom area.
City and county officials are considering the more than 70-acre Burns Bottom plot for a six-field complex to house the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority''s soccer and football programs.
In addition to the Burns Bottom land, officials also are considering a a 156-acre tract of land near the Columbus Riverwalk and a 50-acre plot near the Highway 82 Macon-Meridian exit.
Although Higgins and Ford received verbal agreements from nearly 20 Burns Bottom landowners, the pair still must meet with the remaining "dozen or so" landowners during the next few weeks, Higgins said.
"If they said they were ready to go to the next level, I told them we would go ahead and appraise their property and prep the property options," Higgins said. "We want the county to make an offer on their property based on the appraisal. We are in the process of appraising the properties right now.
"The thing I want to stress is that everyone in green was receptive to having their property appraised and selling it to us, but no dollar figures have been thrown out yet," Higgins added. "There''s no guarantee that the green will stay green."
Of the 31 property owners in the area, one so far has refused to sell property to the county, according to Higgins. The less than 1-acre property lies near the intersection of Second Street and Second Avenue North.
"That red block on the map is the only property owner that said he didn''t want to sell," Higgins said. "That property owner also owns three other properties throughout Burns Bottom that he said he would be willing to sell.
"He just said he thinks that property will have better value for him on down the road," Higgins added.
Officials also are attempting to determine the owner of a multi-acre, wedge-shaped tract of land near the intersection of Moore''s Creek and Main Street.
The property may belong to the Mississippi Department of Transportation or the Army Corps of Engineers, Higgins explained.
Because the Link officials still must meet with several property owners, Higgins likely will give his final presentation on the land during the board''s Sept. 15 meeting, he said.
Although city and county officials have not yet decided on the soccer facility''s location, District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks requested the board begin discussing funding options for the project.
"I think there needs to be more discussion on how we are going to pay for this. If we were to purchase the property tomorrow, how would we pay for it?" Brooks said. "I don''t want to get everyone all hyped up until we have a plan in place to fund this."
Because the property cost may be split between the city and the county, District 1 Supervisor and Board President Harry Sanders suggested the city pay its portion with in-kind utility services and property donations.
Columbus is one of the 31 Burns Bottom landowners, and holds more than 7 acres of the property, according to the Link map.
"Through property and infrastructure donations, the city could pretty much balance out the county''s price on this property," Sanders said.
"If the city''s part is only land and utilities, who''s going to pay for the rest of the project?" responded District 2 Supervisor Frank Ferguson.
"I didn''t say the city would be done with their part after that," Sanders laughed.
Because city and county officials must decide where to construct the soccer complex and how to fund the project, Higgins said he will ask the Burns Bottom property owners to sign a 12-month property option.
"That should give us some time to get some of these questions answered," Higgins said.
HK commented at 8/4/2009 12:11:00 PM:
A soccer field should be the LAST thing of eveyone's mind right now.. People we have some major things that need funding--not soccer!
i love my hobby commented at 8/4/2009 10:00:00 PM:
I have several hobbies too. Would the people of Lowndes County please step up and fund my hobbies? I would love to have the county/city spend millions on my hobby. I think that we could draw a crowd in here if we would just fund my hobby. How about we take some prime land to do my hobby on as well. I'd like it to be out front where everyone can see it. By the way my hobby would be something fairly exclusive and would not be a facility that could be used for a lot of things but we would look like an up and coming city if we wear my hobby out front. Course it would be nice to build more of a multi-function center but my hobby is so fun that I would rather spend our millions on my hobby. I'll be sure and try to get other people in here to use the facility so that the rest of you can make a living off of my hobby. So really I am sharing. Even if I don't share my toys, I will ask my friends to share their money with you. Ain't I generous! With time the rest of you will learn to enjoy my hobby as well even if it is not something you do now.
Leeroy Jenkins commented at 8/5/2009 10:15:00 AM:
@ I love my hobby
That ais a great idea. Unfortunately the county will then want just a "general hobby" fund which the supervisors vote on who gets what and THEY will probably just ague about which of their friends get the money for THEIR hobby.
Leeroy Jenkins commented at 8/5/2009 10:17:00 AM:
How about having your hobby put at Leigh Mall?
Still Wondering commented at 8/5/2009 11:13:00 PM:
I still cannot understand why Columbus and Lowndes County wants to build soccer and football fields in Burns Bottom.
There is a 156-acre tract of land across the street that could house soccer, football and plenty of softball and little league fields.
I guess the grand pooh-bah's are not too concerned about attracting summer tourhaments to the city (where Propst Park can house overflow games). They know we don't have the hotel space for visitors!
Columbus Parent commented at 8/6/2009 5:47:00 PM:
Critics of the soccer complex miss the major points. Columbus and Lowndes County are being bypassed by other area and regional competitors - Starkville and Tupelo to name two. One reason is quality of life.
Among quality of life offerings in any community is available recreational facilities. Soccer is the fastest growing sport in the nation and it generates an incredible amount of sales tax revenue in communities that have committed to building attractive facilities.
We live in an area that is enjoying a great deal of economic growth and is attracting new people from across the country...across the world, for that matter. These newcomers to the area are looking to live in communities that offer a good quality of life. If they choose Columbus and Lowndes County, they increase demand for housing which increases property values. (As a homeowner, this is okay with me.) If they choose Columbus and Lowndes County, they provide demand for services provided by local businesses, which in turn will employ more people. If they choose Columbus and Lowndes County, they increase sales tax revenues for local governments which will provide benefits for local residents - both newcomers and long-time residents.
Burns Bottom can be part of a larger picture that develops over the next few years. Coupled with the Riverwalk, with landscaping, and with additional sports facilities connected to other parts of the Riverwalk, the soccer complex could start the ball rolling to making Columbus and Lowndes County "the place to be" rather than continuing the trend of "losing the battle" for residents, etc., to cities in nearby counties. At one of the recent community meetings, the point was made that this complex could be "the start" of something bigger.
The Supervisors should be applauded for recognizing this need in our community and for pursuing it.
For some time, our elected officials have been promoting economic growth in this community, and now they are attempting to help us reap one of the benefits of that growth, while continuing to keep the ball rolling!
A soccer complex is a necessity for young people and families in this community. And it is a necessity for the continued growth of this community.
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