The Summerville Town Council has authorized the town attorney to negotiate the purchase of a 30-acre property from its owner, Woodlands Village LLC, for an amount not to exceed $6.5 million.
For several months the town has been in engaged in litigation over the condemnation of a little more than 3 acres of the property that is needed for the Maple Street extension.
With litigation costs adding up, the town reconsidered its approach and decided to try and purchase the entire 30 acres.
Town Councilman Bill McIntosh said purchasing the entire property may actually be a more efficient way to proceed rather than going to trial over the portion needed for the road extension.
He said he doesn’t know if the town will be able to reach an agreement with the property owner or not.
“This is a good faith effort on our part to resolve that litigation and to be able to control what happens to the remaining 26 ½ acres,” McIntosh said. “It’s a gateway to the town. It’s a beautiful piece of property and what ultimately goes there is very important to the town.”
Woodlands Village LLC is a company owned by investors, it is separate from the property owned by the nearby Woodlands Mansion.
Last fall, a Georgia-based developer tried to purchase the land to build high end executive apartments and gift the 3 acres for the road extension to the town, along with $1 million for the development of the road. However, that development proposal fell through among concerns that it could have a negative impact on the neighboring Gadsden community.
Tom Limehouse, who owns the Woodlands Mansion on 11 acres of land adjacent to the property the town is buying, praised the new administration for choosing to purchase the full 30 acres rather than letting the land end up in the hands of a developer.
“Where others saw problems, Mayor Waring and Summerville Town Council recognized opportunity,” Limehouse said in an email to the Journal Scene. “Their unanimous vote to purchase the Woodlands Village tract was a bold and decisive action with short and long term benefits.”
He added that their decision to purchase the entire property will improve traffic congestion by acquiring right of way for the Maple Street extension and preserve and protect a unique green space.
“Mayor Waring and council are deserving of the appreciation of our entire community,” Limehouse said. “I believe that the town will be good stewards of the Woodlands Village tract.”
The Maple Street extension ties into the Nexton Interchange and Exit 197 on Interstate 26.
The project was designed to alleviate traffic on North Main Street. Maple Street will be widened into four lanes between the Nexton Interchange and Highway 78. From there, it will turn into three lanes until West Richardson Avenue. Then the road will cut through the Woodland’s property to connect with Parsons Road.
Much of the Woodlands area sits in Council District 2. Councilman Terry Jenkins represents District 2, he said the town wants to explore the options for how to use the land, if the purchase goes through. Jenkins and McIntosh both mentioned the possibility of a park on some of the property.
“I think there is a strong feeling of some aspect of park there but I think we want to explore what other options are there that would also be equal or more advantageous to the needs of our town,” Jenkins said.
Funds for the purchase of the property would come from different sources, according to town officials.
At least some of the money would come from the right of way acquisition budget for the road project, other funds might be drawn from fund balances.
(Editor's note: this story has been updated to include a comment from Tom Limehouse)