The following are notes from the April 4th Quality of Life Commission meeting regarding the alleged Corey Moore Sports Complex (and all else that is proposed to be included within).
These are the exact notes that were sent to ClarksdaleNews by attendees at the meeting. This time the Quality of Life Commission had a quorum of 3 of his 5 members (they did not have a quorum at the previous meeting before that, and the QOLC had only one meeting prior to this one through much of the first third of this year.
An article was published about this meeting by the Clarksdale Press Register, but some of you may find that some of the points within the notes below were not included in that article.
• After pointing out that members appointed to the urban renewal board serve voluntarily, Dwan Brown spent about 20 minutes ranting about “untrue stories in the media” regarding the sports project. Did not cite any particular stories or name media outlets but said that he communicated with and has made himself available to the media (I pointed out that he has sent exactly ONE email in six months; he responded “you have my number”). Later he said that Piggly Wiggly, Best Western and others are seeing negative comments on Facebook by the community.
• Dwan said he has been working on the project since October 2017 and stated numerous times that he has not gotten “one dime” from the city, but has paid bills for lawyers, insurance, legal notices etc. Said many times that the project is not costing the city any money and city is not a party to the project, calling it a private transaction involving Piggly Wiggly, Best Western and others. Future tax revenues generated from the project will reimburse the developers. (After meeting it was said that the QofL board is appointed by the city and is a quasi-government agency, and making the Piggly Wiggly announcement at a city board meeting gave a public impression that the city has some level of involvement. Dwan did not argue that intentions and actions by the City indicate that this is a City project to the public.)
• More parcels have been added to the project (Piggly Wiggly and housing subdivision) bringing total area to 108 acres. Brown said the latest option to purchase the land from the Hopson Nance family expired 2/28/19, and farmer has since been out of town. The proposed housing subdivision required rezoning and a new plat which will go before the planning commission on 4/13. The proposed Hotel in the complex originally was to be 5 stories, but it has been downsized to 4 stories to limit construction costs. Brown presented architect’s drawings for Piggly Wiggly store which will now include a clinic offering shots and walk-in services, a full service restaurant and stage for live entertainment. He said the city board voted to make the area an “entertainment district” to permit such use.
• Brown said that $1.8 million has been spent so far on the project, but none by the city. He was asked who has spent the money, Dwan said it’s split three ways among his company and other partners (architects, Core Construction, architects and design firms). Also said he has “no obligation to report his spending or activities” since the project is privately funded, repeating that the city has not spent any money on the project.
• Although Wing Stop is not connected to the sports project, Dwan commented on that. Said that it’s also a “private business enterprise” and said he has a copy of the lease on the bus station executed by the city with Boss Wings on 10/26/18. He made an odd remark that “Jesus did not perform miracles at home.” He continued saying that Archives & History sent a letter in December authorizing the floor plan. Construction drawings were submitted in late January to A&H. Health department approval came in March. Project went to bid after that and an Alabama based contractor (who does other work for Wing Stop) was selected. Brown reiterated that Wing Stop is “100% private money” and the “process is not managed by me.” Also noted that he has an MBA and the real estate commission has given his license back to him.
• Following public meeting Michael Banks and others talked with Dwan for another hour. Banks asked about Piggly Wiggly timetable, Dwan was uncomfortable committing to dates but expects groundbreaking by late July and opening in February (similar to what was announced 60-days ago at city board meeting).
• Brown wasasked why Piggly Wiggly was placed on outskirts and not downtown. He cited Hacks Cross area of east Memphis as an example of growth being attracted to where new businesses locate. He said Quitman, Tallahatchie and parts of Coahoma County have been designated by the USDA as “food deserts” and the new store will serve more than just Clarksdale. He cited a study done by Piggly Wiggly since Kroger closed that found 40% of Clarksdale residents leave the county to buy groceries.
• Brown was asked how closely tied the grocery store and sports complex projects are. Dwan said “one could happen without the other” although based on scope the store would be completed first, followed by major infrastructure (roads, water, etc.). 50 residential lots would also be ready before the sports complex. That point of the conversation digressed into a short talk about tying irrigation to the well water system on the land.
• Brown confirmed no progress has been made on urban renewal bonds, but that a “new”proposal is being considered whereby incremental tax revenue would reimburse himself and other developers instead. He said that project attorneys are exploring legality and no decision has been made yet.
(From ClarksdaleNews: this means that no funding vehicle is currently in place to finance the project, and that none has actually been in place since progect get-go. Were there a complete documentable funding package, one suspects we would have seen it immediately. Why, because that’s what we need to help raise money for the project. The many of us who want to see anything good happen to Clarksdale, including this project remain hopeful, if not wanting.)
• Brown was asked about the feasibility study and it was suggested to him that if there is community pushback on the project, wouldn’t it be a good idea to release the study publicly to drum up support? Brown said many citizens would not understand it. He was asked if the report is too complicated to understand, perhaps he might release a summary version. He answered that had already been done, that the Press-Register ran a story on it. Brown continued that “every city commissioner and Q of L board member saw the study” and suggested perhaps they “didn’t know or understand what they were looking at”.
(From ClarksdaleNews: at least three of the four City commissioners have said that they do not have, nor have seen the feasibility study, and upon reporting the contents here in, two of the City commissioners said they “have never seen a report that they didn’t know about or understand.”)
• There was a short discussion about permit fees being waived for the project. Brown said if they were billed he would include that figure (plus interest) in his future bill to the city. He justified his position by saying the city will realize far more in return than the $100,000 in permit fees. He continued that the project is more refined and defined than it was a year ago, although the schedule may fluctuate. When asked by Michael Banks, Brown said he is “too far in to walk away now”.