June 7, 2017 11:24:43 AM
The Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority exercised a purchase option Tuesday and acquired a 5-acre parcel that will serve as the location for a substation that will power a proposed Starkville industrial park off Highway 389.
The $4 million infrastructure investment by 4-County Electric Power Association will eventually provide 60 megawatts to the Golden Triangle Development LINK-backed development.
The LINK purchased the five acres for $62,750.
"Although this process has taken longer than we've experienced in the past, we've not lost sight of the job we were hired to do and our responsibility to Starkville and Oktibbeha County," said Golden Triangle Development LINK Chief Executive Officer Joe Max Higgins in a release.
The parcel was jointly owned by three different sellers: Margaret Copeland, Daniels Investment LLC and LMK LLC.
Copeland, LMK and others owning property adjacent to the proposed 380-acre development -- Bettye Bell, Mary S. Bell and Laura White -- are contesting Starkville's previous rezoning of the industrial park to manufacturing and have also filed a bill of exceptions against the city's latest comprehensive plan.
The comprehensive plan, which was originally adopted with a split 4-3 vote in December, will come back before aldermen June 20 after the city missed a required 15-day notice of publication for the document.
"We think there's a legal deficiency in the process that led to its adoption, and we need to cure that legal deficiency," said Mayor Parker Wiseman before Tuesday's board of aldermen meeting. "We haven't had the discussion with the opposite counsel as to how they'd like to proceed, nor have we had a full board discussion as to the city's position."
A hearing on the parties' bill of exceptions against the comprehensive plan has not yet been scheduled.
The neighboring property owners are, however, appealing Circuit Judge Jim Kitchens' May affirmation of Starkville's rezoning change to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
On May 16, Kitchens issued an order stating aldermen "had a reasonable evidentiary basis" for its split 6-1 vote in January.
The change, he wrote in his order, "was not arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory or illegal," and the appellants did not meet their burden "to show that the decision was invalid."
The proposed industrial park is expected to house advanced manufacturing developments, while the LINK will market Cornerstone Park off Highway 25 for more traditional industries once a 4-County substation is constructed next year.
Even if the contests surrounding the park are decided in the city's and LINK's favor this year, Higgins previously said, the delays caused by litigation have pushed its construction date to 2018.
Higgins is also expected to appear before aldermen and county supervisors next month to outline steps for securing the remaining properties and discuss the timeline for constructing infrastructure.
The city and county previously pledged a combined $14 million toward the project.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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