July 8, 2009
Neal Wagner -
Lowndes County economic development officials may be nearing an end to their search for property options from more than 30 landowners in the city''s Burns Bottom area.
The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors last month authorized Columbus-Lowndes Development Link Chief Executive Officer Joe Higgins and area economic developer Charleigh Ford to seek property options from 31 landowners in a more than 71-acre area near the Hitching Lot Farmers'' Market being considered for the city and county''s proposed soccer field complex.
"So many property owners have contacted Joe and Charleigh before they could even go out and talk to them," District 1 Supervisor and Board President Harry Sanders said during a Tuesday morning Board of Supervisors meeting. "I''d say at least 90 or 95 percent of folks down there are willing to sell their land to the county."
Although city and county officials have not yet formally decided where to construct the six soccer fields, Link officials are determining the cost and feasibility of constructing the sports complex in Burns Bottom.
The city and county also are considering a 156-acre tract of land near the Columbus Riverwalk and a 50-acre plot near the Highway 82 Macon-Meridian exit for the soccer fields.
During Tuesday''s meeting, a few supervisors voiced support for the Riverwalk and the Grayco-owned land near the Macon-Meridian exit.
"I have gone back and looked at all three properties, and I don''t think Burns Bottom is a viable option," said District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks. "We need to cease seeking these property options and go back and look at more viable options.
"By the time we go back and inflate the price, the Burns Bottom property will be more than the Grayco property. And the Grayco property will require less prep work," Brooks added. "I think the Riverwalk property would be fine too."
District 2 Supervisor Frank Ferguson also voiced disapproval of the Burns Bottom land.
"If the votes are there, I think we need to make a decision on where to put this sportsplex," Ferguson said. "I am not in support of Burns Bottom, but I think we need a sportsplex somewhere."
However, Sanders urged the board to vote in favor of seeking the property options in the Burns Bottom area.
"It''s time to put up or shut up," Sanders said. "We can either go forward or we can stop this and start all over again."
Following the discussion, the board voted 2-1 to authorize Board Attorney Tim Hudson to draft property options for the Burns Bottom landowners. The board also voted to allow Link officials to hire an appraiser to determine the value of the 31 pieces of land in Burns Bottom.
In both motions, District 3 Supervisor John Holliman and Sanders voted for, and Brooks voted against. Ferguson and District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith abstained from voting.