Danville property purchase debated

March 23, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

Danville City Commission made farm pasture on the bypass vulnerable to urban sprawl when it voted to build a southend fire station next to the water tower, a local high school teacher told commissioners at Monday's meeting.

Ryan Montgomery questioned commissioners about their decision and said he doesn't understand why the station won't be located across the bypass where development such as Kroger and Applebee's already exists.

"I'm not anti-growth, but I don't want sprawl to take over," Montgomery said.

The city had narrowed its potential sites for the new station to two pieces of property: behind Goodwill, or next to the water tower on the bypass. Earlier this month, in a split vote, commissioners chose to buy an acre next to the water tower for $75,000. The price was actually a 25 percent increase over the original asking price of $50,000. Commissioner Jamey Gay said at the time it was double the price.


On Monday, Gay said he agrees with the mayor that $75,000 is a fair price for the land.

The alternate place was cheaper and smaller. None of the commissioners said how much the property behind Goodwill costs. However, the three-fourths of an acre was offered to the city for $40,000-$45,000, significantly less than what it could have been sold for commercial development, Tom Johnston, of CRM Development Co., said in a telephone interview today.

"We thought it would be good for the community to have that location," he said.

There were already utilities and a paved street to the property.

The city will have to build utility lines to the site it bought. Commissioner Terry Crowley said that as other landowners tap onto the lines, the city could recoup its cost.

Gay told Montgomery Monday that he was frustrated that the public wasn't asked about the location because he believes it is a dramatic change in the city's southern landscape.

The acre the city voted to purchase and the land surrounding it are zoned AR-1 for residential and agriculture uses. By law, cities can put municipal buildings anywhere regardless of zoning and aren't required to hold public hearings when land is purchased.

Ed Hays, a city attorney, said that property sale negotiations should generally be done in private, although public hearings could be held.

Crowley said he wasn't sure that the public should have been polled, but that he thought the choice would open up the bypass for more linear development. He said the decision was basically a disagreement between the commissioners about what was the best place for the station.

Crowley and Gay voted against the decision to buy land by the water tower. Commissioners Ryan Owens and Chester Kavanaugh and Mayor John W.D. Bowling voted for it.

Fire Chief Mike Thomas reiterated Monday what he wrote in a 2002 memo that either place would have been suitable.

Bowling wasn't at Monday's meeting. Kavanaugh said he believes the commission made the best decision.

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