FAIRHOPE – A 12-acre parcel on the perimeter of the Walmart shopping center in Fairhope will become municipal property.
The council voted Monday, Aug. 23, to purchase the property from the Walmart corporation for $100. Council President Jack Burrell said the transaction is a donation of the property to the city.
Burrell said the acquisition will give the city control over stormwater retention and drainage at the location at the intersection of Alabama 181 and Baldwin County 48.
“It’s the property that wraps around the west side and goes around to the south side of Walmart and doesn’t quite come all the way back to 181,” Burrell said. “We carved out the outfall which I think we were concerned with liability, future liability from the outfall from their retention pond there. They have quite a large retention pond.”
Under the agreement, Fairhope will build a police precinct on the new city property. City officials have not mentioned plans for other potential uses for the land.
Burrell said the negotiations for the property have been going on for more than a year. One issue was that Walmart’s representatives first stipulated that construction of the police precinct start within 30 days.
“There were some requirements for a police precinct,” Burrell said. “We couldn’t just throw up a police precinct overnight. We told them we have to budget for that expansion. That was another reason that we needed to actually get some of that language changed. It gave us more time to do what we need to do out there.”
Under the terms of the agreement, other permitted uses of the property include other public buildings as well as offices, restaurants and retail shops.
Prohibited uses include grocery stores, discount shops and internet fulfillment centers.
Walmart representatives had also included a restriction against detention centers. City officials had to work out that restriction with the requirement for a police station, where prisoners might be held temporarily.
Under the terms of the agreement, the new precinct will not include holding cells, Mayor Sherry Sullivan said. The agreement also states that “any involuntary human detention or incarceration in connection with the property's operation as a police precinct or related use shall be permissible.”
Sullivan said that while the acquisition of 12 acres for $100 is a good deal for Fairhope, negotiations were complicated at times.
“There were a lot of particulars and because it was a corporate document,” she said. “Also, their attorneys kept changing it. That was another thing that slowed things down is every time we would get one revision to them, then they were using a different attorney, so it took quite a few times going back and forth to get this right.”
Burrell said the wording of the agreement also had to meet state requirements for a transfer of property to a municipality.
“With that big corporation, it takes a long time to make a revision to a lease and require them to have in the legal language that we require in the state of Alabama and so we have to wait for them to respond and they want certain things in there and it’s just taking a long time,” Burrell said.