Commissioners to decide land value

Published 10:49 pm Monday, April 13, 2009

By By MaryClaire Foster
Following a March 16 condemnation ruling, defendants Bobbie Weekley and J.E. Golden Family Limited Partnership met with legal counsel for the City of Atmore Thursday to state their cases on what they believe is just compensation for their land.
The meeting, held at Atmore Municipal Airport, brought together legal counsel from both sides of the matter along with three court appointed commissioners who are to decide what would be a fair amount of money to be paid to the defendants for their land.
The condemned Weekley property measures 1.03 acres and the condemned Golden property measures 22.99 acres. Lawyer Bill Stokes, counsel for the Golden defendants, also argued the point that due to the condemnation of the 22.99 acres another 18.64 acres of land adjacent to it would be made an uneconomic remnant and should be included in the city’s purchase.
The value of the property, according to the appraiser used by the city, Edmond G. Eslava III, is $10,000 per acre for Weekley’s property and approximately $4,000 per acre for the Golden property.
To determine the value of the land, Eslava said he compared four of 10 similar properties in the county.
One matter up for question for appraisal purposes with the Weekley property is whether it is considered commercial or residential. Currently, the parcel the city has condemned adjoins another three acres owned by Weekley that is used for commercial purposes by the business Blast Off.
Weekley did not state in the meeting an exact asking price for her property, simply that she wanted a comparable offer to what was offered to owners of a neighboring commercial property, which is speculated to be more than what was offered to Weekley.
An exact amount is unknown due to a confidentiality agreement included in the closing of other properties surrounding the airport and condemned by the city.
Darby also said in the hearing that a higher offer is justified because of how Weekley’s parcel will be used along with its location.
Ed Hines, counsel for the city, said that there are no definitive plans made for the use of the Weekley property and therefore, possible improvements should not be taken into consideration.
Bill Stokes, counsel for the Golden Partnership, said Friday that his client is seeking a higher offer from the city based on two reasons
Stokes cited a sale of 10 vacant acres adjacent to the Golden property in 2007 for $10,000 per acre as a somewhat comparable land transaction.
Marcus Golden, the primary partner in J.E. Golden Family Limited Partnership, said during the hearing Thursday that prior to these proceedings and currently, he and the other owners have plans to develop it for residential purposes, although it is currently used as farm land.
The Golden Partnership is seeking between $15,000 and $18,000 an acre for compensation.
The law provides for a commissioners meeting under Alabama code title 18.
The appointed commissioners for the case are Olin Farrior, county extension coordinator; Steve Brown, extension economist and Thad Moore Jr., real estate appraiser.
Alabama law states that to be an appointed commissioner for the case the people must, “be citizens of the county, must possess qualifications of jurors and must be disinterested in the proceedings.”
Judge Ben Bowden, probate judge for Covington County has presided over the proceedings due to Escambia County Probate Judge Emilie Mims’ decision to recuse herself from the case. Bowden was in attendance at Thursday’s meeting, but did not formally preside over the case.
The commissioners have 20 days to make a decision.

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