Lost Rabbit may cost taxpayers
Wednesday, January 29, 2014 12:00 PM
An agreement appears to have been reached between Madison County and Allstate over Lost Rabbit's troubled $18 million Public Improvement District (PID), but officials aren't saying if the settlement involves taxpayer monies.
Construction at Lost Rabbit near the Ross Barnett Reservoir has been at a standstill since the recession. A recent settlement agreement may spur faster development.
An apartment development could be a result of the deal, the Journal has learned from several sources independently. Also, part of the restructuring could involve 500-square-foot carriage houses and 1,000-square-foot cottages.
A revenue generating bond that may involve taxpayer backing could be connected to the arrangement, the sources said.
Madison County Board of Supervisors President Karl Banks, who was one of two supervisors who went on a trip to Chicago last week to meet with Allstate, said the plan will be presented to the full board on Monday and then released to the public.
Banks went with Supervisor John Bell Crosby, Board Attorney Mike Espy, County Administrator Gerald Steen and Comptroller Shelton Vance to Chicago for a meeting that lasted approximately six hours.
Banks declined to go into detail on what the settlement agreement entails. It is based off a restructuring plan created by Steve Rogers of Rogers and Associates. He was hired for $25,000 by the county in September 2013 to develop a restructuring plan.
"Right now I really can't because we're trying to let all the stakeholders know at first," Banks said. "Then we'll announce exactly what all will transpire."
The stakeholder groups Banks referred to are Pearl River Valley Water Supply District and the Lost Rabbit Homeowners Association, just to name a few.
Asked if taxpayers were stakeholders, Banks said, "I agree and we will be giving that information. I don't want to, at this point, speak out of turn."
Banks would not specifically say if taxpayer monies will be a part of the settlement.
He said Espy was handling the meetings and wanted him to wrap up logistical matters before discussing "the whole matter."
As far as the settlement agreement, he said, "I think everything is very positive and we would like to go ahead, as soon as possible, relay everything to the public."
Espy, too, declined to comment on what agreement was reached, but said he hopes to have Rogers present a slideshow of the plan Monday afternoon following the scheduled board meeting.
He did say the report has public action that will require public noticing and a public hearing in the future.
County officials were to have spoken with a handful of homeowners on Wednesday afternoon. None of the homeowners could be reached for comment.
John Sigman, general manager of Pearl River Valley Water Supply District which oversees the land, said they had met with Espy and have some questions they still want answered.
"We have not seen the report," he said. "We got to view certain pages of it but we have not gotten a copy of the report yet. I'm sure there are many, many other questions and a lot of details to be worked out."
He said at this point, though, it's a matter between the county and Allstate because of the outstanding bonds.
Sigman does want to see resolution and get the development back on track.
"In general, we do support the continued development of Lost Rabbit and we want to see that happen," he said.
The 260-acre project east of the Madison city limits at the end of Hoy Road has been troubled for years.
Now, multiple lawsuits center around the Lost Rabbit PID that was set up to build infrastructure at the site.
In 2007, developers approached the county asked for the creation of a PID in the amount of $12 million, which was later upped to over $18 million when the sale of the bonds went through in 2008.
The money was to be used for infrastructure but also included a deluxe marina and brick parking lots.
Then, when the recession hit, lots went unsold and assessments that were to be used to pay back the PID piled on unpaid. After that, 143 homes were "carved out" of the PID because they were built prior to the PID's formation and thus not subject to the assessments.
When Lost Rabbit Development was unable to pay assessments, the lots were sold to Allstate in a tax sale. Lost Rabbit Development owned approximately 98 percent of the land.
The Secretary of State lists William C. Smith III, Richard Ridgeway and William C. Smith all of Jackson as officers of Lost Rabbit Development LLC.
The initial five board members of the PID when it was formed in 2007 were: Robert Wilbur, Walter Wofford, Harris Bell Williams, Laura Wofford and Bennett Chotard.