Alabaster exercises eminent domain prerogative

The city of Alabaster made clear its intention Monday night

to take those property owners who do not settle for the sale of their property in the I-65/Exit 238 Redevelopment Plan area to probate court.

Several property owners through their attorney, Jim Pino of Pelham, made it clear they are rejecting offers to buy their land.

The possible court action was defined by Alabaster city attorney Greg Morris as an eminent domain action.

With Councilmember Bobby Harris abstaining, the council voted 6-0 to approve a resolution to take the matter to probate court if necessary.

Morris said the city has been working on the project for about five months.

He also said the city had appraisals on 15 pieces of property which were mailed to their owners.

Morris said the property owners have until the end of the week to accept the offers or the matter would be turned over to the judge of probate.

He said if necessary a complaint would be filed in court to acquire the parcels (an eminent domain action).

Morris said the city had decided that for the promotion of growth and development, the biggest and best use of the property indicates a commercial usage.

He said however, property owners can negotiate the sale of their property until the complaint is filed with the judge which would probably be by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

Harris asked that any property owners in Ward 1, the area of the re-development project, with questions ask them.

Council president Rick Walters said the matter is pending litigation and directed such questions to Morris.

He said the matter would not be addressed in a public forum and did not allow those residents who were affected by the move to speak during the council meeting.

Pino rose to inform the council that he represented property owners Brenda and Jame Hall, Earnestine and Clarence Oden, Mary and Ernest Wright, Elizabeth Swain, Carrie Spence, Lillie Spence and Mattie and the Rev. Clifton Taylor.

When instructed to take a seat, Pino informed the council that those property owners were officially notifying the council that they were rejecting the offers they had received.

Following the meeting, Lillie Spence said she was offered $97,000 for five acres and a large house.

Citing some personal reasons, she stressed, &uot;We don’t want to sell &045; period.&uot;

Spence also complained that the owners were not given a chance to speak.

Councilmember Tommy Ryals said the city was trying to work with property owners in the area.

&uot;I want the property owners to come out of this in the best possible situation,&uot; he said.

&uot;From what I’ve seen, the offers are higher than appraised value overall. And property owners at this point should be talking to the developer or the city attorney.&uot;

When asked why he abstained on the vote, Harris said, &uot;I have always had mixed emotions about people having to give up their property.

&uot;Historically, I’ve had mixed emotions and I have mixed emotions tonight. But you cannot stop progress.&uot;

In other matters, the council held public hearings and rezoned about a half acre of land at Kent Dairy Road from R-3 (residential) to B-2 (neighborhood business) and a 10-foot strip of land between Forest Ridge Subdivision Phase One and proposed Phase Two off Highway 12 from municipal reserve to R-2 (single family residential). Both actions were unanimous.

The council also unanimously approved the purchase of 82 acres of land off Highway 119 for parks and recreation purposes at a cost of $1.5 million from existing bond money.

Mayor David Frings said the property will be used for softball and baseball fields and with ponds on the property, could include walking trails.

Ryals said the public expressed a desire for open spaces in parks, and this property could be a combination to meet both open spaces and sports facility needs.

Other unanimous actions included approval to spend some $32,172 on the Norwick Forest Paving Project; the addition of a senior account clerk position to the city’s Revenue Department and the unfunding of a previous position in that department; set a public hearing for redistricting for Sept. 2; approved an application for a $75,000 no match senior citizens center grant for renovations to be used with a county grant; and approved a resolution to allow the Police Department to escort students and parents to out of town sporting events.

A request for 10 street lights in the Ironwood Subdivision was approved with Councilmember Harris abstained for personal reasons. Minutes of the Aug. 4 meeting were approved with Councilmember Adam Moseley abstaining.

The next Alabaster City Council work session will be Aug. 25 at 7 p.m. And the next City Council meeting will be Sept. 2 as Sept. 1 will be Labor Day