Saturday, December 02, 2006

CRISIS!!! Your Presence Required Monday

Oh my goodness, but it is getting downright scary! Start by reading the story in today's Democrat. Two casino companies will be making public presentations on Monday, one at 4 pm and the other at 5:30 pm. (The article didn't say where, but I presume the City Council Chambers, across from City Hall in the second block of South Pearl Street.) There are several areas of major concern.

MOST IMPORTANT. If you want to save your city, you'd better get your bootie to those presentations.

SIZE: The article says:

"The Natchez Riverfront proposal would consist of 14 structures, including a river walk, floating casino, pavilion, hotel, amphitheatre and retail stores. According to the proposal, base construction costs for the facilities, covering an area of 1,013,151 square feet, would be $88,338,780."

Do you know how big this is? This thing is going to take up the whole blanking bluff! If you go to this page of the Natchez website, you will find the City's Riverfront Development document. In there, you will find that all of the Roth Hill area is only 5.3 acres or about 231,00 square feet. That's only one fourth of the million feet. Where is the rest of this project going? Are they maybe going to take the Pecan Factory? That's only about another 170,000 square feet. Is the hotel developer in cahoots with them? Are they including the Cock of the Walk? Still not enough land.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think they're about to give away your entire riverfront.


Yesterday there were two anonymous comments on this blog that tell us. What someone did was look up the Natchez Riverfront Development Group in the Secretary of State's business search. This Limited Liability Group (which probably means the taxpayers are liable if they screw up) was formed on November 14, which was just 2 days before the bids were due. At the same time, they formed the Natchez Gaming Development Group. There are two managers: Tony Gaylor and Willie J Mott. Interesting fellows.

According to that comment, Tony Gaylor, formerly of Natchez, was an attorney brought in to handle the Convention Center bond refinancing. That was where they presented the city with a giant mock check for $400,000 representing the money the city saved, the group invited the Mayor & Aldermen out to an elaborate dinner at Dunleith, and then, oops, discovered the savings wasn't quite that much. So sorry!

Also according to that comment, Willie J Mott was fired from the Jackson Development Authority, which was in charge of the Farish Street Historic Development Project. I was able to verify that he was the JDA Executive Director. It's widely accepted that the Farish Street Project has been a disaster, and he was in charge of it. Not a good sign. I could not verify if or when he was fired, but he doesn't seem to be at JDA anymore.

What about the other group? Here's what the Democrat said:

"The Lane Company proposal, includes a floating casino, landing, esplanade and botanical gardens at a cost of $48,106,169. The casino and park grand opening would be in January 2007."
Yikes, that's a month away. I guess they'll just pull up a casino, throw out some flowers and call it a garden, and have a grand opening. However, I don't think they're going to be awarded the project, and here's why.

Remember when Aldermen Gray and Mathis stormed out of a secret meeting? The story was that David Gardner presented a casino proposal in that meeting. (By the way, he is the contact on the Riverfront Development Plan on the City's website, which is why he was presenting it,) The proposal was about to be accepted by a vote of 3-2, because Alderman West was absent. I think that was the Lane Company proposal. The City then sent it out for bid. That bid was dated October 24 and said:

"REQUESTS FOR PROPOSAL. Notice is hereby given that the City of Natchez, Mississippi is Requesting Proposals for the Lease or Purchase and Development of the Roth Hill Road Site until 5 pm on November 16 2006."
Obviously, with only 3 weeks, there were not going to be any bids except by those in the know. You can't put together a decent proposal in that amount of time. So the black aldermen brought in their own proposal by their buddies. If everyone is there, they have the votes, and they'll win. The only issue yet to be resolved is whether the 3 white Aldermen will go along, so we can have another unanimous vote to screw the citizens.

SELLING THE RIVERFRONT? Please note that the RFP says "Lease or Purchase". So these so called leaders are probably going to sell our riverfront.

PS. There's supposed to be a Top of the Morning in the Democrat tomorrow about the possibilities offered by the Trust for Public Land. Read it and weep. We'll lose this wonderful opportunity when the casino takes over the bluffs.

UPDATE. There is a correction in the paper that is not available online.

"Information cited in a Saturday story about two proposed casino developments was copied as written in the proposals released by the city. Upon further review, some numbers - including the total square footage of the Natchez Riverfront Development Groups's proposal - do not add up. The proposal lists 1,013,151 square feet as the total for the for the project, with 81,000 square feet being offshore facilities. However, adding up the numbers on the four phases equals 932,151 square feet. In the Lane Company proposal, a timeline lists January 2007 as the casino's grand opening: however, it appears that date is a typographical error, since a timeline included in the proposal lists several construction phases after that date. The Democrat will continue researching the proposals and provide accurate information about the proposals."

Casinos that can't get their numbers right - how reassuring!


tootenrosie said...

1. There are 13 acres (+or-) reclaimed by the corps, plus the land already there UNDER THE HILL between the new landing and Roth's Hill Road all privately owned and I presume that's were the projects will be located.

2. All of your posting is bad enough but that's not the worst. We just got through PAYING $2,000,000 to put a Motel7 on Canal St. and now here comes somebody offering to build a hotel for FREE. The BOA is downright STUPID. (The only thing WORSE than corrupt.

tootenrosie said...

By the way:
Owned by City - 5 acres
Reclaimed by COE - 13 acres
There before reclaimation - 10 acres = 1,220,000 sq ft (more or less)

Anonymous said...

We needn't be concerned about the principals in a gambling proposal the State Gaming (Gambling) Board checks them out in the licencing process along with the FINANCIAL viability of the project and the proposers.

Anonymous said...

The "rest of the project" (additional square footage)is going UP. Remember, they are proposing multiple buildings and multiple stories. I don't believe the development includes any property other than the city owned acreage at the foot of Roth Hill. This proposal seems very unrealistic and would certainly create a "monstrocity" down there! The Lane Company proposal seems VERY interesting and would likely be a great asset to the community. This company has an EXCELLENT track record and the ability to make something great happen with no strings attached. Let's welcome the Lane Company to Natchez!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what's happening with the proposed casino project below the bridge and the Ramada Inn? If that project becomes a reality wouldn't the Roth Hill developers be concerned about the impact they would have on their ability to succeed?

Anonymous said...

Depsite all the uproar, a poll taken by The Democrat reported today that 68% of citizens are in favor of another casino in Natchez.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that pole said people wanted another casino here. But the eariler poll asked "how do you wish to see Roth Hill developed?" Overwhelmingly, the majority voted for "public park". Big difference here. We may not mind having another casino in Natchez...and we will with the one at foot of bridge below Ramada...but I don't think people want to see a casino sqauarely at the end of Main Street, part of our downtown historic district.

Anonymous said...

Wow. If this City and its citizens do not WELCOME The Lane Company with open arms then something is TERRIBLY wrong.

Anonymous said...

If the Aldermen decide to give away our riverfront to that crazy group from Jackson - the one with 14 buildings, twin towers, floating barges, condos, hotels, retail, amphitheater - all at the foot of Roth Hill - that will be a disaster. Oh yes and the "Treasure in Our Backyard" - the Casino itself!

Surely the City Council Members are wise enough not to fall for that bull.

That group had ZERO real business vision.

Anonymous said...

Didn't the Atlanta group have a park aspect? Seems that they are attempting to consider the best interests of the people and the town.

But that's something our city leaders just DON'T GIVE A FLIP ABOUT.

That's why I think they are going to vote to turn over Roth Hill to the Riverfront Development Group (Jackson) who has a DISASTER PLAN outlined for us. A glittering Casino Theme Park. They are just SHYSTERS! SURELY OUR CITY COUNCIL SEES THROUGH THEM!

Oh ... I forgot ... the city council just doesn't care! All they see is DOLLAR SIGNS!

Even Joyce Arceneaux who represents many downtown dwellers. All she does is whine about how complex her ward is. It's about time she RETIRED from city leadership. Let's send her a message in the next election. What a disappointment she is. What a disappointment they all are!

Anonymous said...

My impression of the Lane Group was excellent. They seemed to be sensitive to the character and needs of our city. Their previous projects reflected that sensitivity as well. The Lane Group has no previous Casino experience or association with casinos which doesn't imply inability or efficiency in bringing something good to our community. However, I do so wish we could find a way for the Lane Group to participate without the necessity of a casino. And, as they all put it, the "economic engine" is the casino; I just wish they could bring another "economic engine" which would truly benefit us as well as them. One must never forget that the huge profits casino developers make comes from our pockets. Our city leaders want a casino and have closed their minds to alternatives regardless of the social costs and economic drain on a casino community.

Chesney Doyle said...

Re: Economic Engines:

I was hanging out in Savannah today. The city is THRIVING. People everywhere. Some seemed to be tourists (they had maps). Most folks seemed to live there. Lots of young twenty-somethings. All the retail stores were decorated for the holidays. Only a few downtown spaces were still for sale or lease. Most were in business and making money. As we left the city, I noticed more condo complexes in progress. Some new construction, but mostly renovation of existing buildings. Also, new commercial spaces going up on the outskirts of the city.

This is in great part thanks to SCAD - the Savannah College of Art and Design.

What a model for Natchez!

Anonymous said...

I keep telling you all. Something great is going to happen in 2008. It's City election year!!!! Don't wait until 2008 to show your support for a new Natchez. Let this administration know that it is absolutely the worst thing to ever happen to this city.

The sad part is that they really think that they are doing a good job. Ha....

tootenrosie said...

The Savannah Visitors Center is 200 yards from an exit of I95 - The Most Traveled Interstate in the Country

Anonymous said...

2008 is election year but who are you proposing to elect then? From the names in circulation as potential candidates I 'm not sure it would be much better.......

Anonymous said...

The Lane Company is partnering with Matt Walker and Fernando Cuquet who are supposed to be pioneers of MS gaming. According to the presentation the other night, they started the first casino in Tunica and the first casino in Greenville; both of which were very successful. The Lane Company seems to have a strong gaming partner and the ability to get it done.
The Lane presentation was clearly better than the Jackson group. They are offering to put a public park and botanical gardens on over half of the Roth Hill site. According to the recent polls, a public park was the most desired development along the bluff. If the park is tied into the Trails project currently being funded, we could have a really nice riverfront pedestrian park area.
Lane also seems to have a ton to offer our community as a whole. We can't let this opportunity pass us by.

Anonymous said...

The City Council voted today - 12-18-06 to award the Roth Hill Casino contract to the Lane Company out of Atlanta.

Supposedly, it's a 40 year lease and not an outright sale.

Supposedly, it's a boat and a botanical garden. Compatible with the Trails project, etc.