Pecan factory sold

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 31, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; The deed to the Natchez Pecan Shelling Company site was transferred to Ed Worley and Larry Brown to the sound of enthusiastic applause Tuesday evening.

But not before a group of citizens submitted a legal objection to the land sale during a special meeting of the Natchez Board of Alderman.

Through attorney William Manhein, Natchez residents Rena Jean Schmieg, Gwen Ball and Nancy Shook filed objections to the sale of the pecan factory property.

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The group alleges the sale violates the provision in the state constitution that prohibits

municipalities from selling land for less than its appraised value.

The land on the pecan factory property has been appraised at a little more than $700,000, Brown said.

In the option agreement with developers Worley and Brown, the city agreed to sell the property for $500,000, some $200,000 less than its appraised value.

But that does not take into account another provision of Mississippi law, City Attorney Walter Brown said Tuesday.

Under that provision cities are allowed to sell land for less than its appraised value, &8220;if they could legislatively determine if the benefits from the sale more than justified the selling of the property,&8221; Brown said. &8220;In this case it would be in economic development and the revitalization of downtown.&8221;

The provision in the state code originally applied to airports. But in recent years the use of the provision has been greatly expanded, Walter Brown said.

Recently the attorney general&8217;s office wrote an opinion under similar circumstances concerning another Natchez project, Walter Brown said.

In that opinion, the city was allowed to sell land for the doctor&8217;s building next to Natchez Regional Medical Center for less than its appraised value after the city found that the benefits from the sale would outweigh the selling of the property.

After receiving the objections and conferring in executive session, Walter Brown recommended the &8220;city consummate the transaction and recognize the developers&8217; exercise of the option agreement.&8221;

Walter Brown also recommended the city seek an immediate judgment to settle the legal matter.

&8220;This is a great day for the city of Natchez,&8221; West said. &8220;As far as I am concerned, nothing will stop us from moving forward.&8221;