City still negotiating contract for casino

Published 10:36 pm Sunday, June 3, 2007

NATCHEZ — The city and a company planning to locate a casino under Roth’s Hill are close to agreeing on contract conditions, officials said this week.

The board of aldermen voted to lease the land to Lane Company in December, but a contract both parties can agree to has yet to be presented.

Lane Company spokesman Ted Doody said working out all the kinks in a 50-year contract took some time.

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“Sometimes these leases take a long time,” Doody said. “When you have a lease that long, you have to be careful. A lot of work goes into it.”

Both sides have agreed upon most of the terms, Doody said.

“I came up to Natchez last week and had a good meeting with the board of aldermen,” he said. “We hope to execute the contract at the next meeting.”

Two out of three sticking points had been agreed upon, and Natchez Mayor Phillip West said he hoped the third would be settled within the next few days.

West said he wasn’t sure the topic would come to a vote at the next meeting, June 12, but was still optimistic.

“We hope to finalize the contract in the very near future, within the next few weeks,” he said.

West wouldn’t comment on what the points of contention in the contract were because the two groups were still in negotiations.

“I don’t want to say what they are at this particular point,” West said. “Once we finalize the contract, we will share those points.”

In its request for proposal to the city, the Atlanta-based real estate development company laid out plans for a botanical garden, a landing and a riverwalk, along with the casino.

“We’re in the process of acquiring our vessel,” Doody said. “We have done a preliminary site plan and are working on figuring out parking.”

Lane and the city have discussed the possibility of a parking structure to serve both the coming casino and downtown, Doody said.

As for the land-based investments required by the state — some casinos choose a hotel, others riverfront developments — plans are still up in the air, he said.

“There are a lot of ideas being put on the table right now,” he said. “Absolutely nothing has been decided. We’re still very much in the early stages of figuring that out.”