Pelham purchases U.S. 31 land for $4.94 million

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Pelham officials likely will close on a deal on July 15 to purchase about 35.78 acres of land off U.S. 31 for $4.94 million, Pelham Mayor Don Murphy announced during a July 11 City Council meeting.

The announcement came a little more than three months after the council voted 3-2 to purchase the land, which was originally expected to appraise for about $7.8 million.

The land is broken into three parcels near Pelham City Park, two of which are undeveloped and one of which currently contains the Belle Vista mobile home park.

Council President Mike Dickens said the city does not have any immediate plans to relocate anyone in the mobile home park, but said the city will give residents “at least six months notice” if Pelham does move forward with developing the property.

“Now that we are going forward, the (Belle Vista) residents need to know what is going on,” Dickens said.

Dickens and Pelham Mayor Don Murphy said they would like to one day see a multi-purpose recreational center built near the property’s frontage on U.S. 31.

“I would like to see us construct a recreational center that will serve and accommodate in many different ways and different capacities the majority of the people in Pelham,” Dickens said. “Currently, we don’t have anything like that. We have facilities that serve some people, but not everyone.”

Murphy also said he would like to see the city set aside “an acre or two” to construct a veterans park to honor those who have served in the military.

Dickens said it took weeks of negotiation before Murphy was able to reach an agreement with the owner of the Belle Vista property. The Belle Vista property was estimated to appraise at about $6 million, but the city purchased it for $3.14 million.

“This gentleman (the landowner), on more than one occasion, rejected this offer (of $3.14 million),” Dickens said. “The mayor did a great job negotiating with him.”

“I think it’s an excellent buy for the city,” Murphy said.

The city will purchase the properties with cash in its reserve funds. If the council decides to fund further projects on the property, such as a veterans park or a recreation facility, the city likely will issue bonds for the projects.

Dickens said the city’s next plans are to hire an architect to draw up possible projects for the land and see what would be possible.

“If the council passes these projects, I think this could be the legacy of this council,” Dickens said.

In other business, the council:

-Voted unanimously to make improvements to Pelham City Park to make the park compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and to pay $7,000 in attorneys’ fees for D’Wanna Williams.

The announcement came after the out-of-court resolution of a lawsuit Williams brought against the city. Pelham must bring the park up to the act’s standards by July 1, 2012.

-Voted unanimously to accept a $14,860 bid from Gexpro for two reduced voltage starter electro mechanical autotransformers for the city’s wastewater treatment plant.