November 22, 2015
This is serious folks. The JDA just voted 5-2 to sell land in the Stanton Springs development to a developer at a large loss—a loss of our tax money. This loss will be as much as $4,500,000 (yes, MILLION). Both Newton County representatives to the JDA voted against this proposal.
The land in question is situated in Newton County. However, Jasper County owns 10%, Morgan County owns 15%, and Walton and Newton County own 37.5% of this development. All 4 counties share costs and losses in these percentages as well, and have been putting money in this project year after year.
Stanton Springs is governed by a Joint Development Authority, JDA. It is made up of two representatives from each of the four counties. Steve Jordan and Carl Pennamon are Jasper County’s representatives. They both voted “yes” to approve this deal, as did representatives from Walton and Morgan County.
Paraphrasing from a Newton County Commissioner in an email to his constituents about the deal:
The JDA met last Monday, November 16, 2015, to discuss and vote on this 1500 house project in question. The question at hand was whether to sell the land to the developers for their residential ambitions. Both of our Newton reps spoke at length against the project and noted that the prominent developer involved, Kippy Clark, has had at least 50 tax liens placed against him over the years.
The JDA voted 5-2 in favor of selling the land, wholly inside of Newton County and against the wishes of those representing this county. Mort Ewing and Keith Ellis, Newton County’s JDA reps, voted against the sale for the project.
Concerns with the proposed sale & development
First, this plan does not go along with the original plan of Stanton Springs.
See original plan here—yellow denotes residential.
Second, the people in the east part of Newton County do not want their area to become like the west side of Newton County with lots of congestion and the major complications such a housing development would bring.
Third, Newton County would be responsible for infrastructure outside of the development, including more police, fire, EMS, and schools if it comes to that; yet they would only get 37.5% of the taxes from the development.
The new plan makes changes in the master plan. The development would be at the bottom of the Stanton Springs development.
See new plan here—yellow denotes new residential plan—see bottom, right of plat.
We got ripped off when the land was bought, now we are going to get ripped off again when the land is sold.
When the land for Stanton Springs was bought, appraisals were $4,000,000 lower than what was paid for the land. JDA attorney Tommy Craig said he thought it was worth $7M instead of $3M. We can only wonder why.
According to a report in the Newton Citizen, “Under the proposed contract, the price paid for developable land would be $8,000 per acre; the price for flood plain land would be $3,000 per acre. According to Ellis and Ewing, the cost basis value of the land was set at $13,569 per acre by accountant Wayne Tamplin. They also point out that the land has not been appraised.” In addition, the contract has “a requirement that the JDA contribute up to $1 million for a parkway into Stanton Springs” to serve the development.
There will be 481 acres of land owned by JDA sold and another 55 acres of land owned by TPA (JC Flex) sold in the deal. According to Ellis and Ewing, $7,705 per acre loss would be incurred by the taxpayers –who have put in all the money into this project. ($7705 x 481 ac = $3,705,105 loss on land plus $1,000,000 for road to land being sold = $4.7M loss)
The only hope to stop this bad deal for the taxpayers
The next Newton County Planning and Zoning meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 7:00PM upstairs in the old court house. They will vote to approve or deny the changes to the master plan.
The Newton County BOC will meet the next week to approve or disapprove the P&Z Board’s recommendation.
The only hope for the citizens that have put up so much money for so long into this development, is for Newton County BOC to vote against the zoning. If they do, the sale will not go through.
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Citizens, be informed and stay informed! Only by being informed can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.