heels

Land is no short-term investment

Published 12:07am Sunday, December 11, 2011

With all of the world’s material treasures available, is it possible that the most valuable is dirt?

Beauty fades, today’s cool technology becomes obsolete overnight, but land remains for generations.

Because of that the famous saying, alternatively attributed to both Will Rogers and Mark Twain, still makes a great deal of sense.

“Buy land. They ain’t making any more of the stuff.”

Regardless of who said it, the phrase still applies.

For many Americans the family farm is a very clear way to pass along wealth to future generations.

But somehow that American respect for owning property and thinking carefully about how it is used seems to go out the door in cases in which the government is involved.

Examples of that are all around us.

International Paper’s Natchez mill site is probably the biggest example of it. A few years ago, IP sold the land to the county, which immediately turned around and sold it to Rentech.

The alternative fuels company hasn’t done much with the land. And, apparently, the county pretty much spent most of the proceeds that were not earmarked for future site improvements.

Flash forward a few years and little has been done at the site, and it would seem prospects of any significant Rentech development appear slim, at least anytime soon.

But apparently, the sales agreement offered no way for the county to secure the land’s ownership again. Presumably Rentech could simply sit on the land for decades, doing nothing with it.

The IP site is a huge tract of land with good access, both traits in which many future development projects might have interest.

However, the site would seem off-limits, simply because we forgot that land isn’t being made anymore.

The IP deal isn’t unique, however. It’s easy, apparently, to get caught up in the moment and think that a good deal today will be a good deal going forward, too.

A similar thing has occurred with the Roth Hill site. Years ago, the City of Natchez started working with a developer on the site.

Through years of stalling and waiting, the site is now beginning to be developed again.

Two things are worrisome.

Just like the Rentech-IP land deal, the city’s apparently long-term lease to the developers seems to offer no “out.” The city has simply locked up the riverfront property for decades in a long-term lease.

Already citizens see the writing on the wall with the casino developers. Just like Rentech’s big plans that seem to shrivel, the casino developers’ plans also seem to be getting smaller.

The casino building’s design is the latest change. Most people can already see where this is going. The Preservation Commission will probably deny the developer’s plan changes. If that happens, smart money would be on the Board of Aldermen simply approving the matter if the developers appeal to them.

Both instances are good examples of simply going for instant gratification and not thinking through the long-term ramifications.

Land isn’t short-term.

It cannot be replenished and poor planning can cause key pieces of land to be locked up for generations.

As Natchez-Adams County continues to work hard to develop new business opportunities for existing businesses and new firms relocating here, wise, forward-thinking land use is critical.

Tomorrow’s opportunity may be crushed by today’s lack of forethought.

 

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

  • Anonymous

    The key words are near the end of the article – forward thinking.  That trait appears to be lacking in our public officials in their lack of wisdom in signing onto a contract that has no recourse in event of non-performance by the other party and immediately spending the cash proceeds from land sales on other “necessities”.  Having spent that money, there is none available to buy back the land even if there was a contractual provision providing for that eventuality, thus they would again borrow the needed money at taxpayer expense.  I question whether in the Rentech/IP land case that if the money were borrowed to buy the land from IP, whether that loan was repaid from the Rentech proceeds. 

    I am of the opinion that various tax increases in the past for one time expenditures remain on the books today when those loans were paid off years ago, thus “invisible tax creep”.  In the case of government owned land, take a lesson from 16th section school lands which allows only the interest to be used rather than liquidating the future’s assets.

  • Anonymous

    HOPE WE ALL CONTINUE TO SHARE OUR IDEALS TO MAKE OUR COMMUNITY PROSPER.   

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    It is plain and simple that the Rentech bunch out smarted our Adams county leaders and what I’ve heard months ago that they plan on selling for 10 or more times what they paid for it. I hope that we are retaining taxes for the property at least??!! Yea, that casino reminds me of the bardilo on the Porkys’ movie and its a disgrace for something ofthat at the end of main street!!

  • Anonymous

    One of the worse decisions made by our “leaders” to date.  I’m still trying to survive the statement made yesterday that the wood siding was eliminated in order to keep within the …weight restrictions…..There should not be  casino there.  

  • Anonymous

    You are so right i dont think there should be anything in natchez thats not at least 100 yrs. old and un taxed.

  • Anonymous

    just think . If the land attached to the old homes in natchez was taxed the same as private homes. wow a suddent boom in revenue.

  • Anonymous

    Think for a while what persentage of natchez is made up of this type of property.

  • Anonymous

    You are right about roths hill. Only someone with plenty of money to loose would build anything under there its unstable groung on a proven flood area.I have lived here long enough to know what the outter  two-thirds of the land down there is made up of.And how often it goes under water.So it needs to be light enough to float .

  • Anonymous

    Like you could see it from main street!

  • Anonymous

    Dot worry tho by the time its built it will be hung up on the river bridge by the next flood.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    You must be one of the histerical committee for it looks like a hay barn and if you noticed everything on the banks of Vidalia looks very nice!! You should be able to see it from the bluff as well as the water??!!

    In a message dated 12/12/2011 10:23:31 A.M. Central Standard Time, writes:

    (http://disqus.com/)

    sickem wrote, in response to khakirat:
    Like you could see it from main street!

    _Link to comment_ (http://disq.us/4jm0ey)

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    Yea, they better have pontoons on it with a few ropes! The river will clean it up when it floods!!

    In a message dated 12/12/2011 10:25:51 A.M. Central Standard Time, writes:

    (http://disqus.com/)

    sickem wrote, in response to khakirat:
    Dot worry tho by the time its built it will be hung up on the river bridge by the next flood.

    _Link to comment_ (http://disq.us/4jm1pg)

  • Anonymous

    I wish i was one of the histerical blue haired commitee you could believe i would place no stones in the path of any buiseness in natchez. thats new or old or prospective.. walk out on the bluff and look down at the bottom of roths hill. you dont see much of it now with the leaves off the trees. and you will not be on main street. And yes i am proud of vidalia and the fact they have much fewer regulations and are receptive to anything that will make the city money and jobs. view from water i dont go there anymore.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    I’m for you for I feel the Miss-Lou as a whole is my home but Ms. is dear to my heart for my family help create it and fight for her!!

    In a message dated 12/12/2011 10:56:44 A.M. Central Standard Time, writes:

    (http://disqus.com/)

    sickem wrote, in response to khakirat:
    I wish i was one of the histerical blue haired commitee you could believe i would place no stones in the path of any buiseness in natchez. thats new or old or prospective.. walk out on the bluff and look down at the bottom of roths hill. you dont see much of it now with the leaves off the trees. and you will not be on main street. And yes i am proud of vidalia and the fact they have much fewer regulations and are receptive to anything that will make the city money and jobs. view from water i dont go there anymore.
    _Link to comment_ (http://disq.us/4jmivd)

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    The land that you mention as that of Dunleth and others at the Adams county tax asserors office are classified as farm land and do you see any cotton, soy beans , or vegetables??!! Ms. need the disclosure laws to be enforced to stop this unfair taxing of property taxes!! Time will correct this for the Adams county tax payers are beat up every year and are voicing for a change in these issues.

  • Anonymous

    Here we go with the IDEALS again….geesh…

  • Anonymous

    They forgot to reclassify it when they outlawed slaves, no one left to farm it!

  • Anonymous

    Did you not know that natchez is made up of ideas……….but only from some are the ideas made policy.