2/5/2014 6:00:00 PM Apartment language in Lost Rabbit deal concerns Madison mayor
By MICHAEL SIMMONS Madison County Journal
Apartments have been replaced with "condos" in a report generated during settlement procedures between Madison County and Allstate over Lost Rabbit.
Between Jan. 30-Feb. 1, apartments were removed from a land use plan and replaced with condos.
On Jan. 30, Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler brought up the topic of apartments, complete with photocopies of plans, at her annual State of the City address.
Hawkins-Butler is a strong opponent of apartments and said the Lost Rabbit area may be annexed one day.
She said it's odd that apartments would be replaced with condos in the short period of time from her address and the Rogers Report unveiling on Monday.
"When the sun goes down we have apartments," she said. "When the sun comes up we don't have apartments.
"That's a telling sign that if things had been quiet we would wake up and the apartments would still be in that land use plan," she continued. "Because Madison blew the whistle, the apartments disappeared."
She said supervisors were committed to the settlement agreement, which she refers to as a bailout, at all cost. She said the latest change was nothing more than "bait and switch."
While a 60-page executive summary of the Rogers Report is now available to the public for a $25 fee, Hawkins-Butler wanted to know why the full 300-page document and previous versions are being withheld.
"Why won't they give the previous copies," she asked. "Let's look at that copy that was presented to Allstate. Then, let's look at the copy they are giving to the people. They talk about what's bright and wonderful - what do they have to hide?"
Board Attorney Mike Espy admitted that apartments were in the initial land use plan for a section of land owned by Allstate via tax sale but has reiterated over and over that it is not part of an omnibus settlement agreement.
"When I met privately with Mayor Mary (and her counsel) we looked at the Rogers Report which 'had' a configuration of apartments within the proposed land use plan," he stated in an email.
"Some of the lots which were formerly commercial had a configuration of apartments on some of the lots."
Espy said they simply took the "apartments" from the original land use plan for Lost Rabbit and left in there by a consulting firm, Urbaninsites, from Memphis, Tenn.
"I told her the apartments were in the Urbaninsites model land use plan, but whether they ever are built would depend on the contractor who might buy the Allstate property, and whether the contractor could get approval for them from (Pearl River Valley Water Supply District), the exclusive zoning authority."
He said the change came after meeting with Rogers and some supervisors.
"Since this issue was never to be a part of the settlement agreement and was beginning to get widely misinterpreted, the reference to 'apartments' was taken out of the Rogers Report in the version dated Feb. 1, 2014," he stated. "The official version does not refer to 'apartments' in the model land use plan."
Rogers, too, has emphatically said the land use plan is not anything to worry about because it isn't a part of the settlement.
He said it's up to PRVWSD to approve any site plans and they have nothing to do with it.
"All we did was put forth a plan so we could attach some numbers to it to see if (an urban renewal bond) was repayable," Rogers said.
"Pearl River Valley has to approve anything that happens out here."
Rogers said all they did was take the original plan - which included apartments - and make a few alterations to some of the commercial lots and tennis courts.
He then said apartments were not in the plan, despite them being in there days before.
"The apartments are not in a plan," he said. "Here's the plan. What is shows in this area right here - it says condos. These are like live, work. This plan right here...it does not have apartments in this plan. I don't know how else to say it."
District 1 Supervisor John Bell Crosby told a group of homeowners on Monday that just because it was in the report didn't mean it would become reality.
"The report could say you need a Eiffel Tower out there overlooking the reservoir," he said.
"Doesn't mean it's out there. It's just in that report that came from the third party."