Atmore officials to lease property

Published 9:45 am Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In an effort to keep the undeveloped property at the Rivercane commercial development off Interstate 65 maintained, the city has agreed to lease the property to farmers.

According to Mayor Howard Shell, the city would begin advertising for bids this week to lease all or portions of the remaining 620-plus acres as farmland.

“This is nothing unusual,” Shell said. “It’s an ordinance that will allow us to lease the farmland (at Rivercane) rather than let it grow back up in popcorn trees. We’ve been getting people to bush hog it occasionally over the years trying to clean it up.”

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Shell said bush hogging the land has been a “continuing expense,” but leasing it will generate some revenue.

“This way it won’t be an expense to us,” he said. “Somebody will be able to farm and we’ll generate revenue.”

Currently the city owes a total of $16,837,393.75 for the Rivercane project broken out into five monthly loans ($24,618 per month total), one twice-yearly bond issue and one yearly bond issue. Despite a debt of that magnitude, Shell said trying to offset debt did not trigger the leasing ordinance.

“We didn’t do it for revenue generation,” he said. “We did it to keep the property clean and in good shape. It’s just good property maintenance.”

Payments on a third bond issue in the amount of $6,805,681.61 are made as property is sold at Rivercane, based on a percentage of sales price, according to city records.

The ordinance will allow the city to lease the land for a term of three years.

“We’re not tying it up for any long period of time, but it will allow us to keep the property at a reasonable and clean situation,” Shell said. “If we don’t do it, it’s going to come right back up in popcorn trees and will not be where we can easily access it.”

The property shall be leased to the successful bidder under the following terms and conditions:

• all land made subject to the lease shall be utilized for row crop production only.

• the lease shall not exceed a term of three (3) years.

• in the event the City of Atmore sells or contracts for sale any portion of the leased premises to a third party, the lease may be terminated as to that portion of the lease premises sold or contracted for sale with lessee given adequate and reasonable opportunity to harvest lessee’s crop planted thereon before re-entry by the City of Atmore or its purchaser.

• city of Atmore makes no warranty, expressed or implied, as to the quantity of land that is suitable for row crop production and/or as to the quality or suitability of said land for such purposes or operations.

• lessee shall maintain said property in a good and reasonable state utilizing good farming practices.

• the property will be leased subject to the rights and interests of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., in said property by virtue of that certain mortgage recorded in OR Book 508 at page 670, and amendment to mortgage recorded in OR Book 510 at page 632, in the Office of the Judge of Probate of Escambia County, Alabama

• any other terms and conditions as determined by the Mayor to be in the best interest of the City of Atmore in leasing said land for the purposes stated, including, but not limited to, an option for lessee to renew for another term.

Currently one lease, due to expire Sept. 30, 2012, has been agreed upon on property last acquired by the city.

“When we bought the Strawbridge property, Bill Brown was farming it, and we did a lease arrangement to allow him to continue farming it if he cleaned up all of the other property that we had out there,” Shell said. “Well, he’s done that and in order to keep them up, him and a lot of other people have suggested that we put it in farmland to keep the popcorn trees from coming back up on it.”

Shell said the city attorney Ed Hines is currently working on the lease agreement. He added that the leasing process including advertising for bids would go forward “expeditiously.”

“It seems that this is a time of year that most all farmers would like to have an opportunity to get in there as soon as they can to get whatever crops they want planted,” he said. “They would like to be in there before the end of April.”

All bids will be reviewed for approval.