City board accepts donated downtown property

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 10, 2015

City board accepts donated downtown property

By John Howell
Batesville aldermen voted 4 to 1 Tuesday to accept the donation of a small lot from the owner who has been trying to donate it to the city since Fall, 2013.

Ward One Alderman Bill Dugger cast the lone dissenting vote, unusual among Batesville’s aldermen who most often approve decisions unanimously.

In November, 2013 aldermen by unanimous vote accepted the lot’s donation from landowner Patricia Traylor and then voted unanimously to deed it back to her the following month.
The lot is a dog-legged rectangle behind the row of buildings from 98 Eureka building (old theater) to the old Shackeroff’s Building. The city owns and 11-foot-wide alley between the buildings and the Traylor property.

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At the January 21, 2014 city board meeting, Alderman Stan Harrison asked fellow city officials to reconsider their decision and accept the lot’s donation.

During that January, 2014 meeting, city officials determined that a city-owned gas line was located under the lot and that the city had an easement that would allow them to clean up and maintain the property.

In meeting conversations among city elected officials in 2013 and early 2014, Alderman Eddie Nabors raised his concerns about what environmental and other liability the city might accept along with the donation of the property.

In May and June, 2014 several people spoke at meetings of the board of mayor and aldermen, urging them to accept the lot.

Miles Insurance owner Jim Kelly Miles, whose business is located in the Eureka/Shackeroff’s block, asked aldermen, during their May 6, 2014 meeting, to reconsider their December, 2013 decision to deed the lot back to Traylor. Miles said the lot could provide additional parking for businesses.

In June, 2014, Lomax Street resident Betty Jane Billingsley spoke for several residents asking that the  overgrown lot strewn with trash be cleaned up.

It was Alderman Harrison who again brought the question to the table Tuesday.

“I’ve got an issue I’d like to get settled with this property behind Shackeroff’s,” Harrison said. “A lot of those people who came in here… they’ve asked me to give them an answer.”

Harrison’s request came late in the open portion of Tuesday’s meeting and triggered a 10-minute discussion that revealed:
• The city does not have an easement that would allow it to clean up the property without the usual due process of a clean-up hearing;
• Assistant City Attorney Colmon Mitchell had recently contacted Traylor at Harrison’s request and learned that she would still be willing to make it a donation to the city.

“She doesn’t live here; she doesn’t use the property; she pays taxes on it; she gets no benefit from it; she wants to give it to the city;” Mitchell said.

“We don’t have to own it to clean it up and keep it cleaned up,” Dugger said, referring to cleanup by city employees and equipment, following a public hearing the cost of which is then assessed to the property owner by attachment.

“Why don’t the people that own the buildings take it?” Dugger asked.

You don’t think that the property owners right there would want it?”

“I can’t speak for them;” Harrison said. “I just know that it’s a terrible eyesore and the people there and some of the business owners want something done.”

Harrison owns two of the buildings in the block. Other owners of buildings in the block are indicated as Fred Nosef, Sarah Janelle Baker, Larry Britt and Sherry Sullivan, according to the Panola County property search application.

Alderman Teddy Morrow said ownership of the lot would be consistent with the city’s ownership of areas behind most buildings on the Public Square.

Alderman Eddie Nabors said that pending construction on the Public Square could eliminate parking that would become available on the lot if it was accepted.

“My original thoughts on it were based on a multitude of seminars that said that ‘Be very, very, very careful of accepting donations,’” Nabors said. Nabors also said that going through the public hearing process every time the lot becomes overgrown was time-consuming and cumbersome.

Alderman Ted Stewart joined Harrison, Morrow and Nabors to pass the motion for the city to accept the lot donation pending its clearance with an environmental survey.