EDITORIAL: Let’s not pay twice for those apartments
Published: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 13, 2010 at 10:56 p.m.
The Northport City Council should proceed cautiously as it finds itself in the middle of a tug-of-war between the Alabama Department of Transportation and a private developer over a 10-acre property at U.S. Highway 43 and Tom Montgomery Road.
The risk is that taxpayers could end up paying for the property twice: once in subsidizing the construction of an apartment complex, and a second time when it comes time to tear down those apartments to build a state highway.
The developer, David Morrow, wants to build a low-income apartment complex, despite outcry from some of the residents of more upscale developments in the area .
Meanwhile, ALDOT wants to purchase the property near Tuscaloosa County High School for the proposed Eastern Bypass that could eventually connect Interstate 20/59 and U.S. Highway 82.
“The property in question is in the proposed right-of-way of the approved alignment for the Tuscaloosa Eastern Bypass, so yes, we are pursuing the acquisition,” said Dee Rowe, Fifth Division engineer for ALDOT, last week. The first section of the $220 million bypass will be built between the interstate and Jack Warner Parkway at the Paul W. Bryant Bridge, but construction will not begin for about six years. Construction of other sections between the Bryant Bridge and U.S. 82 is even further off, but property acquisition has already begun.
The state received approval Wednesday from the Federal Highway Administration to assign an appraiser for the property where Morrow wants to build, although bypass construction would not affect that site for another 10 years or so, Rowe said.
This comes as the Northport City Council held a first reading last night that would allow the annexation of the property into the city, a step Morrow needs to proceed by getting city water service.
Morrow has approval for $826,223 in housing credits and $1,638,930 from the federal HOME program, which provides money to developers who build housing for low-income residents.
Smith does not yet own the property, but he does have an option to buy the land. If ALDOT buys the site from the owners, they must also purchase Morrow’s option or wait until the option agreement runs out.
This northern phase of the Eastern Bypass is still a long way from becoming a reality. That will continue to be an issue for developers and landowners in this rapidly growing area of the county.
Private property owners can take their risks. But what we should not allow is that taxpayers pay for improvements on property, only to buy it back at a higher price for a different purpose later on.
Getting city, state and federal agencies to coordinate their plans to avoid this may be expecting too much.