A Mobile City Council committee is still not ready to finalize a new ordinance pertaining to the sale of city-owned property, after attorneys’ differences of opinion were highlighted at a meeting Tuesday.
The council’s ad-hoc committee on property sales got caught in the middle of a disagreement between attorneys representing the council and the mayor’s office and has delayed action on the new ordinance to allow the two sides to come together.
Councilman Joel Daves, committee chairman, said he hoped the process provided an ordinance that did three things.
“We don’t need to jump through a bunch of hoops to get where we’re trying to get to,” he said. “We need an ordinance that does three things. It gives the council advance notice of property being put on the market, advance notice of who is buying it and weighs the property’s worth against a neighborhood’s opinion of its best use.”
One sticking point between Flo Kessler, deputy city attorney and Wanda Cochran, the council’s attorney, was which types of properties and actions would be included in the ordinance. While Kessler had stated in a draft ordinance that only sales and leases of property without ties to federal programs would be included, Cochran amended the ordinance to include some rights-of-way easements and transfers, which Kessler said was unworkable.
While Councilman Fred Richardson argued that all transfers and easements should be considered by the council, Kessler said they already are. As an example, she spoke about three such easements on the agenda from that day’s meeting. Two were with Alabama Power and one was with the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System.
“Those are routine,” she said. “It would slow things down to make them part of the ordinance.”
Other requirements in Cochran’s version of the ordinance would require too much work for administration staff, Kessler said. She balked at requirements to give councilors an idea of possible zoning changes and other development questions.
Daves lamented the disagreements between the two sides, saying everyone seemed to be on the same page during the last meeting before Cochran did “surgery” on the proposal.
“Gosh, we were so close last time,” Daves said. “I just can’t believe we’re back here on this.”
The ad-hoc committee was formed after the city made a highly scrutinized land deal with a local tourism company and put for sale signs on vacant property in the Chateauguay neighborhood.
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