West: I won’t profit from land’s sale

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 30, 2001

Natchez Alderman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West said he would not profit from sale of property in which he holds part ownership if developers select it as a site of a $3 million townhouse complex.

Jackson-based Chartre Consulting has pending applications for three properties along St. Catherine Street: one owned by the Illinois Central Railroad&160;Company, another privately owned known as the Nosser City property and a third at St. Catherine and Fourth streets composed of three smaller parcels, each owned by the City of Natchez, the West family and West and partner Wilbur Johnson.

The Natchez Metro Planning Commission meets May 10 to review the developers’ request to rezone all three properties from general business to multi-family residential.

West said Monday that he first became involved with the developers personally while showing representative Christopher Knott of Trustmark Construction the Illinois Central Railroad property nearby.

&uot;Then he asked me about the property across the street,&uot; West said.

West said his family has owned one portion of the parcel, the former site of a community grocery, since 1981. The other and largest of the three, West said he has held part ownership along with Johnson for more than 10 years.

If the Fourth Street properties come before the aldermen, West said he will recuse himself of a vote and refuse proceeds from the sale of the family property.

As for the parcel he owns with Johnson, West said he does not consider any money made from its sale to be profit because it would end up back in the community as does his aldermen salary.

In the last week, West said he has donated money to at least seven local organizations, including the Holy Family concert band and the Girl Scouts.

&uot;It would find it’s way back somehow,&uot; he said of the potential money to be made from sale of the property.

&uot;I’m not interested in profiting from anything,&uot; he said. &uot;I’m only interested in the economic opportunity of a $3 million project and the job opportunities it would create.&uot;

West said if his involvement proves to be a conflict of interest, he, as will the other aldermen, assist the developers in locating another site.

From the information available, City Attorney Walter Brown, a former member of the Mississippi Ethics Commission, said he does not see a problem with the connection between West and the developers at this point.

And as long as the negotiations revolve around rezoning, no contract is involved and Section 109 of the state Constitution is not set into action.

Section 109, Brown said, prohibits a city official from taking part in a contract on which the governing board of which he or she is a part, takes action.

Other aldermen said they are comfortable with West’s involvement.

&uot;I don’t have a problem with it if Alderman West doesn’t have a problem with it,&uot; said Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux. &uot;I don’t know what all the legalities if it are that’s something that will have to be worked out.&uot;

Said Ward 3 Alderwoman Sue Stedman, who is also a realtor: &uot;If it is illegal or unethical, I don’t think you’re going to find Bubber wanting to participate in it in any way, shape or form, as well as the rest of the board.&uot;

Ward 6 Alderman Jake Middleton said he does not know enought about the situation to comment.

Other aldermen and Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith were not available for comment.