City moves to take property

The city of Alabaster is seeking court action to make use of its power of eminent domain to acquire land from property owners who did not settle for the sale of their land in the city’s Interstate 65/Exit 238 Redevelopment Plan.

Complaints were filed last week in Shelby County Probate Court.

The complaints were filed by attorneys Greg Morris and Jeffrey W. Brumlow on behalf of

the city.

With Councilmember Bobby Harris abstaining, the council voted 6-0 at its Aug. 18 meeting to approve a resolution to take the matter (acquisition of property in the area) to probate court if necessary.

Morris said at the time the city had 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 at that time property owners had until the end of the week to accept the offers for sale of their property to the developer or the matter would be turned over to the probate court.

If necessary, he said, a complaint, which he defined as an eminent domain action, would be filed in court to acquire the parcels.

Morris said the city had decided that for the promotion of growth and development, the biggest and best use of the property, which they designated as &uot;blighted&uot; was commercial.

He said however property owners could negotiate the sale of their property until the complaint was filed with the judge.

According to Kim Melton, chief clerk in the Shelby County Probate Court, the complaints were filed last Thursday.

She said a preliminary hearing will be held Sept. 24 at 2:30 p.m. to make sure everyone who needed to be served in this matter has been served.

A trial of condemnation will be held on Nov. 20 at 9 a.m.

&uot;We have filed the appropriate action in probate court. We regret this action was necessary,&uot; Morris said.

At the August 18 meeting of Alabaster City Council, Harris asked that any property owners in Ward 1 (the area of the re-development project) with questions should ask them. But Council president Rick Walters directed questions to Morris.

Pelham attorney Jim Pino informed 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 and that

those property owners were officially notifying the council that they were rejecting the offers they had received.

Property owner Lillie Spence said she was offered $97,000 for five acres and a large house.

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

Spence 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.

When asked why he abstained on the vote to take the matter to court if necessary, 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;

Last June, the Alabaster City Council approved a resolution on a 6-0 vote with Councilmember Harris abstaining to adopt the I-65/Exit 238 Urban Renewal and Urban Redevelopment Plan.

The area under consideration is located behind the BP station on the I-65 North side of the interstate between Highway 31 and Weatherly.

Despite concerns expressed by residents of the area, the council made it clear then that there were only three choices … deal with a developer directly over the price of their land, deal with a developer through city attorney Morris or sell to the city at fair market value.

Colonial Properties Trust is the developer of the planned Walmart SuperCenter commercial development to be located at the intersection of Interstate-65 and U.S. Highway 31 in Alabaster.

According to the resolution adopted by the council, the project area &uot;is blighted, contains blighting factors or is in the process of becoming blighted.

&uot;That the blight and blighting factors existing in the project area impair economic values and tax revenues and, if the project area is not renewed and redeveloped, can cause an increase in the spread of disease and crime, and can constitute a menace to health, safety, morals and welfare of the residents of the city of Alabaster.&uot;

The resolution also gave the council the option of using eminent domain to acquire the land they wish to re-develop.

The mayor has the power to enter into agreements with one or more re-developers to carry out the purposes of the plan relating to infrastructure.

While many residents of the area expressed concern that their property might be purchased at less than fair market value or that they did not want to move, no action was taken to reconsider the matter.

Harris also told the crowd that if they felt the price of their property was not right to talk to city attorney Morris.

Councilmember Ryals explained that those with property in the project area could deal with a developer on the price of their property.

However, he said, by law, if it comes to the city, the city can only pay fair market value.

Ryals also suggested that property owners in the area get their own property appraised.

According to the complaint:

The city has ascertained it is &uot;desirable and necessary in the public interest to pursue the acquisition of property within the Development Plan though the use of its power of Eminent Domain.&uot;

Complaints for condemnation filed in probate court on Thursday were against:

Emma Spence, deceased, Lillie B. Spence, unknown heirs of Emma Spence; Estella Mae Hamiel, deceased, Shelby Land Partners LLC, Mattie Bell Pickett, unknown heirs of Estella Mae Hamiel; Elizabeth Swain; Plaza Pines LLC, unknown tenants of Plaza Pines LLC; Ernest W. Wright, First Select Corporation;

Mary Hall, deceased, Bobbie Jean Cohill, James E. Hall, Jimmie Hall, Billy Hall, Mattie Hall, Shelby Land Partners LLC, Mark Edward Osburn; James E. and Brenda Hall, First Family Financial Services Inc., Show place Homes Inc.; Bobbie Jean Cohill, Shelby Land Partners LLC, Mark Edward Osburn; and Ernestine Oden, Clarence Oden, Shelby Land Partners LLC, Mark Edward Osburn