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Council OK’s zone change for Wal-Mart

DEMOPOLIS – The only major obstacle to the location of a Wal-Mart Supercenter was removed Thursday when city council members voted in favor of rezoning more than 20 acres of land for commercial development.

The city council unanimously approved the request of Bryan W. Compton to rezone the parcel of land from residential to commercial so that the retail giant could move forward with construction plans.

The council took the vote, which required unanimous consent for consideration, at the first possible opportunity in spite of the fact that Wal-Mart had not granted a request by adjoining property owners for access to the stores “loop road.”

“I just want the council to consider the concerns that the property owners had,” Ben Sherrod, who owns a number of adjoining parcels, told council members before the vote.

Mayor Austin Caldwell informed council members that Wal-Mart had responded to each property owner concerning the access request, relaying to them that the company had declined to grant any access.

In an interview prior to the meeting, Sherrod told The Times Wal-Mart officials had informed him by letter that they could not accommodate the curb cuts requested.

Only Councilman Willard Williams abstained from the vote without citing specific reasons for the abstention, quipping: “I will have to abstain from voting, and if I could vote for it, I would.”

Wal-Mart attorney Don Cannada of Jackson, Miss., and two associates attending the meeting, but Caldwell inadvertently skipped over them for comments prior to the vote, asking for their comments only after the measure had passed.

“I’m sorry, do you all have any comments,” Caldwell asked.

Cannada, quickly rising to his feet, responded: “No, sir. Just thank you.”

Following the meeting, however, Cannada declined to speculate as to the timetable for construction of the proposed 158,000 square-foot store that could employ more than 200 workers.

“I don’t know their timetables, but once they begin construction it’s a fairly rapid pace,” he told Williams.

In other city business, council members approved a revision in its minutes from the June 17 meeting to clarify the constitution of a committee appointed to study the Arch Street project.

Council members approved the following change to the minutes:

“Councilman Moore suggested that a Committee be formed to consider possible revisions to the grant for the Arch Street Project.

Councilman Moore suggested representatives to this committee to include Horticulturist Linda Teaford, Historic Preservation Commission representative, Parks and Recreation representative, Marengo Historical Society representative, property owners along Arch Street representative, Chamber of Commerce representative and the grant writer be used as a resource person with the committee because of expertise in writing the grant and made this in the form of a motion.

Kirk Brooker operations Manager of the Marengo County Historical Society whom requested in a letter to the Mayor and Council this committee be formed inquired about who would be in charge of getting this committee together.

The Council agreed to allow the committee to meet and nominate a chairman.

Councilman O’Neal seconded the motion and with no objections, the Council voted by a show of hands all were in favor.”

Council also:

Voted to decline all bids received for concrete work and asphalting at the Higher Education Center. Caldwell said he believed the bids were too high for the work that was to be performed.