January 16, 2014 10:46:30 AM
A landowner's refusal to grant an easement to the Golden Triangle Development Link required for water and sewer expansion for the CalStar project has forced county leaders to pursue an eminent domain claim on the property.
On Wednesday, Lowndes County supervisors unanimously approved a motion by board president Harry Sanders to exercise the power to take property for public use. The county and Wayne Fishback, a California resident who owns the tract, will have the matter settled in County Court. If the county prevails, the judge will decide how much the landowner will be paid for the property.
Link vice president Brenda Lathan told supervisors that work has been ongoing since October to acquire all easements necessary to make the expansion for the sustainable material manufacturing company, which agreed last year to locate a facility in the Golden Triangle Industrial Park. The company develops exterior masonry products including pavers and bricks that are used for streetscapes and parking lots.
"There was one landowner that actually owned property we needed an easement on. I believe he had purchased it on a tax sale," Lathan said. "The original owner was able to reacquire the property and that's when our problems began. We have been unable to come to an agreement with him as to the price of the land and I was advised by his attorney yesterday that we should go ahead and proceed with eminent domain because he wasn't willing to accept what we felt was a reasonable price."
Lathan added that after consulting with engineering firm Calvert-Spradling, which the Link has been working with on the project, it was decided the Link couldn't legally pay what the owner wanted for the land. The tract is less than a third of an acre. The Link's offer was made based on $20,000 an acre -- approximately $6,400.
Sanders clarified that the property joins county right-of-way.
"It actually, in our opinion, would benefit the landowner as much as it would benefit us," Lathan said.
CalStar officials confirmed in July it would locate a facility in Columbus and create 17 jobs when it begins operations this year. That number is set to increase to 58 over three years. The company is investing $8 million in the project.
Matrix Design Group awarded JLUS implementation contract
Last year, Matrix Design Group conducted a study, which included a series of public hearings on the possibilities of joint land use at the Columbus Air Force Base. That same group has now been chosen to implement the study.
Grant funding from the U.S. Department of Defense in the amount of $160,240 will be paid to the planning firm.
A joint land use study is a land use planning effort between a military institution, surrounding counties, as well as state and federal agencies.
Mary Cates Williams, Link executive vice president for governmental affairs and business development, said the main finding of the study was that someone with planning experience was needed to review all land around the base that could be utilized for economic development but work collaboratively with CAFB and the community at large to ensure nothing is done that would compromise any of the base's activities.
"We're hopeful that they'll sign their end their contract by the end of the week," Williams said. "We'll get started next week and they will lay out their plans to us as to how they want to proceed. We want (joint land use) to be conducive to any economic development, any type of industry and retail. We want the base to have whatever they need secured to make sure their mission can be carried out."
In other business, the board:
■ Closed the applications for its appointment to the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau board of directors. There will be five candidates for the position: Fred Kinder, Lester King, Willie Petty Sr., Clifford Reynolds and Sidney Runnels;
■ Presented a resolution honoring recently retired justice court clerk Brenda Edwards for more than 26 years of service and accepted a request for a resolution honoring recently retired E911 director Sheri Fancher;
■ Approved minor language changes in the county's hospital trust fund legislation.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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