Judge OKs Natchez pecan plant sale for condo development

Published 11:26 pm Saturday, November 18, 2006

An Adams County judge has ruled for the city of Natchez in a lawsuit filed by a group of residents opposed to a condominium development at the site of a closed pecan factory.

The residents argued the city broke the law when it sold the old Natchez Pecan Shelling Company land below its appraised value. The developers paid $500,000 for the bluff property. The residents argued the appraised value was $700,000.

Circuit Judge Forrest A. Johnson on Friday said the “price for the property was reasonable, given all of the factors considered, and within the authority of the mayor and board to accept.”

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State law allows governments to sell land below its appraised value if the benefits from the sale more than justify the selling of the property, former city attorney Walter Brown said recently.

Johnson ruled against the developers on plans to refurbish current public sidewalks and “securing” them at night. Johnson said the general public must have access to the public sidewalk.

Brown, who represented the city in this case, said he was pleased with the ruling.

“I’m hoping this will end the matter for all parties,” Brown said. “We’re just pleased that we’re at the point where we can proceed.”

Brown said he thought the developers would probably move forward with the project. Construction was put on hold pending a ruling.

Gwen Ball was one of the plaintiffs in the case.

“We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision, and we will now consider the legal options available to us,” Ball said Friday.

When asked if the plaintiffs would appeal the case, Ball declined to comment.

The developers were not involved in the lawsuit.

The developers plan to build a 75-unit luxury condominium complex with a total construction cost of about $19.3 million. The building, situated on the north end of the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, will be torn down to make way for the condominiums.

The site of the old 1940s era Natchez Pecan Shelling Co. has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1983, but city officials said it was of little historical value.

The city transferred the property to the developers in late May but the lawsuit has stalled any work on the project.