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City buys DOC land: City will purchase, annex land near I-65

By By Brian Blackley, Publisher
Atmore city officials hope a new land acquisition will put the city at the front of the pack among municipalities competing for a piece of the Hyundai pie.
Friday, city officials announced that 410 acres of land that border Interstate 65 and Alabama Highway 21 will be purchased from the Alabama Department of Corrections for use as an industrial park.
The sale, which is expected to close next week, means that the land – purchased for an estimated $2.66 million – will, according to Mayor Howard Shell, be annexed into the city, while no other property in the area, excluding Jefferson Davis Community College, will come under city domain.
Shell said the city has no plans to include other property in the annexation.
The land is split into two portions, with 90 acres located on the east side of Highway 21 and south of the interstate and another 320 acres south of the interstate and west of Highway 21.
The 90-acre area surrounds the Best Western and Creek Family Restaurant, but doesn't include this business.
According to Shell, the only structure on either section of land is a house owned by the DOC that once served as a home to the assistant warden of Holman Prison, but which is now vacant.
The purchase comes following months of speculation as to what the fate of the property would be as rumors swirled concerning the sale of the land. Official statements regarding the sale were released through the Alabama Department of Corrections, but the terms of the sale have remained well-guarded.
Shell did not comment on any specific negotiations ongoing with industrial prospects, but he said the sale would allow Atmore to be in an ideal position to attract a tier 1, 2, or 3 industry that could set up shop in the state to supply parts for the Hyundai plant that is being built in Hope Hull.
The event was not an open forum, but an announcement where comments and questions from the audience of about 40 were not taken.
Chris Terry, whose family owns Terry's Texaco on Highway 21 near Interstate 65, jeered the announcement and left as the mayor concluded, exclaiming loudly, "This is not over yet, Mayor."
Terry is concerned that the city will incorporate his family's business causing increased taxes. The mayor, however, said there are no plans to annex any property other than the property that was purchased and JDCC.
Other reactions appeared positive and audience members applauded it and greeted it with cheers.
Shell met with members of the media following the announcement and said the city has asked The Facilities Group of Atlanta, a group that specializes in land development for industrial purposes, to inspect the land and to make recommendations as to how to best develop it as an industrial park.
He cited the price of the land as being "a little less than $6,500 per acre" and said the city is working with banking institutions to finance the deal.
He said no firm plans have been made regarding how the loan will be repaid.
Shell said the city plans to move "as expeditiously as possible" with finalizing the purchase and the annexation, though he had no timetable for when he expected the work to be complete.
Shell also seemed very optimistic about the city's potential to recruit a top prospect, saying chances are "excellent" that the city could land a Hyundai spinoff.
Shell was also thankful to several organizations and people who helped make the project become a reality, including Gov. Don Siegelman who approved the sale of state lands to the city.
Shell also praised the work of DOC Commissioner Mike Haley, Ala. Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, Todd Strange, ADO's David Hutchinson, Ala. Sen. Pat Lindsey, Ala. Rep. Skippy White, and IDA member Dr. Ulysses McBride.
Brian Blackley is publisher of The Advance. He can be reached by calling 368-2123 or by emailing brian.blackley@atmoreadvance.com