Alabaster sets Friday property sale deadline


News staff writer

The Alabaster City Council on Monday night voted to use eminent domain if a group of landowners refuse to sell their property to make way for a major retail shopping center.

The city has given the property owners until Friday to decide whether they will sell property where Colonial Properties Trust plans to build an 800,000-square-foot shopping center on a 400-acre site near U.S. 31 and Interstate 65. The retail center will have a Wal-Mart Supercenter and several other large stores.

Landowners who still own property within the site have been given the option of selling to land brokers, who, according to one city official, have made offers ranging from $30,000 to $300,000, or they can accept lower offers from the city.

In recent weeks, city officials warned residents that if they didn't accept offers from land brokers, what the city would offer would be much less because under state law the city can only pay fair-market value for their property.

The council Monday night authorized Mayor David Frings to direct Greg Morris, a lawyer hired by the city, to proceed with filing condemnation lawsuits if the hold-out property owners haven't accepted much lower offers from the city by Friday.

Morris said the property owners still have a chance up until condemnation lawsuits are filed to accept offers from land brokers. The condemnation lawsuits likely will be filed on Aug. 27 if deals have not been reached, Morris said.

"The city regrets that it has come to this," he said. "We're still hopeful that many of these property owners will settle without us having to file a complaint in probate court."

Jim Pino, a Pelham lawyer who represents six of the property owners, formally rejected the city's offers at Monday night's council meeting. "They're woefully inadequate," Pino said earlier in the day. "The developer's offer was substantially lower than the fair-market value, and the city offer is considerably lower."

Pino declined to cite a specific example of how big a difference there is in offers from brokers and those that have now been made by the city.

He said his clients received notices in the mail Monday that spelled out the city's deadline and cited amounts.

Pino said he'll just wait until the city files condemnation lawsuits, and he will then file an appropriate response.

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