Ahead of a scheduled Sept. 8 vote on the annexation and zoning of a 30-acre property located at the southwest corner of State Highway 181 and Champions Way — site of the proposed Daphne Innovation and Science Complex (DISC), the city of Daphne provided Lagniappe with 146 pages of emails that give some background information on the project.
The collected emails, requested by Lagniappe in mid-August, show correspondence from June through August from Daphne Mayor Dane Haygood to Daphne City Council members and Industrial Development Board (IDB) members and provide information about the project’s funding, planning and infrastructure.
Haygood, a real estate salesman and property manager, has been a vocal proponent of DISC, extolling its virtues at a handful of meetings with property owners associations and in comments at recent City Council meetings. His efforts have been criticized by some City Council members and from some members of the public who believe the project has been shrouded in secrecy.
An email June 2 from IDB chairman Toni Fassbender to Haygood includes information about two grant agreements between the IDB and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA).
The first agreement allows for the transfer of $15,000 in grants from BP funds from the AEMA to the IDB to pay for an economic impact study by Troy University to address the city of Daphne’s losses related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Haygood said the state reimbursed the city for the cost of the study, which he provided to Lagniappe Monday.
The Troy study showed the city lost an estimated $4,192,852 following the oil spill, including significant losses of $1,581,007 in lodging and $1,514,500 in food and drink services revenue. It further concluded the city’s 6 percent unemployment rate would be closer to 5 percent had the oil spill not occurred.
Apparently the study provided the justification for Daphne’s second grant agreement with AEMA, allowing an allocation of $426,768.26 from the city’s unused early BP funds for the initial 30-acre land purchase for phase one of the DISC project.
The document says the IDB will be responsible for $325,231.74 in matching funds for the land purchase, which is expected to cost $752,000. The city already possesses the $426,768.26 in BP money, but had to seek permission from AEMA to use it for the purchase.
Approved minutes from the IDB’s Feb. 23, 2015, meeting show the board’s intention to commit its portion of the funds. A motion by member Dan Romanchuk, seconded by Denis Kearney, was approved at the meeting. Other board actions at the Feb. 23 meeting included approving a $7,500 expenditure on an economic impact study for DISC by Dr. Semoon Chang and $6,500 for the development of marketing materials and a website for the park.
Both documents were signed by Haygood on May 1, 2015, and by Fassbender on May 5, 2015. The June 2 email includes a bank statement showing a balance of $420,618.88 in the IDB’s account.
The emails include an invoice from Daphne-based public relations firm JJPR LLC for $4,500 for research, design and the development of a logo for DISC and corporate branding and marketing materials.
Included in the emails is a June 3 letter from BBVA Compass bank to Fassbender committing the lender to giving the IDB a $850,000 non-revolving line of credit to provide matching funds for potential grants, for the purpose of developing the infrastructure for the DISC project. According to Haygood, the line of credit was necessary to provide proof to the grant writing service that the IDB could match the funds.
“My preference is to not have to use the line of credit at all, but it is there if we need it,” Haygood said.
A report prepared by Preble-Rish shows infrastructure costs for the project to be an estimated $1,693,166.95. The infrastructure costs are broken down as follows: $673,260 for grading and drainage, $539,335 for roadways, $81,080 for water, $192,450 for sewer and $207,041.95 for engineering, planning, inspection, planning fees and environmental permitting.
Haygood said the project’s initial phase could be “sub-phased” into three parts if the IDB cannot secure the necessary infrastructure funding.
The report says the site will be accessed by way of a boulevard entrance from State Highway 181 and a pair of entrances from Champions Way. Preble-Rish’s environmental report for the complete 76-acre tract shows some hydric soils within the site’s drainage areas, but does not indicate wetlands are present within the site, which is not located near a floodplain. At the time a wetland survey had not been performed at the site.
He said he has no intention of the city competing against the private sector, noting the city would install the infrastructure but will ask its “vertical partners” in the private sector to construct office buildings at the site.
The emails also include an exchange between Haygood and city planning coordinator Adrienne Jones in which Jones details the DISC project’s Planned Unit Development (PUD) restrictions, including rules for buildings at the site to not exceed 110 feet or seven stories and office space not to exceed 20,000 square feet per acre.
Also included is a handful of supportive letters from South Alabama Regional Planning Commission executive director Christopher Miller and Turner Supply Company vice president of operations Steve Goodrich, and a supportive letter signed by the city’s school feeder pattern principals.
A letter dated July 16, 2015, from Lake Forest POA President Steve Sasser asks the mayor to reconsider the project’s proposed PUD zoning, saying it is not consistent with nearby residential and agricultural zonings.
“I think the opposition since then has waned a little bit,” Haygood said. “Obviously we aren’t going to please everyone, but I do think we have been able to move the needle in our favor.”
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