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Land sale to trigger new hotel construction (Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo)

By Errol Castens, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, TupeloMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

June 07--OXFORD --The Board of Aldermen voted Tuesday to declare surplus a long-unused portion of 4th Street, to accept two appraisals on the sliver of land and to sell the land to a developer for $39,200.

Once the transaction is final, work is expected to commence quickly on a new hotel on the site on the north side of Jackson Avenue, next to the bike path that follows the old railroad right-of-way.

Tupelo hotelier Bruce Patel had previously received approval for his plans to build a 121-room Marriott Courtyard, contingent on acquiring the 4th Street land. The hotel, when completed, is expected to provide about 50 jobs.

Alderman-at-Large John Morgan voted against the direct sale to Patel, arguing instead for a sealed bid process.

"I have a little bit of a problem selling something at such a low price when they bought the other land at such a high price, and that was at a bank sale," he said.

Ward 3 Alderman Janice Antonow argued that a sealed bid would risk putting the hotel project --first planned by another developer years ago --on hold again.

"If you're looking at the benefit to the city and you've got a project sitting in front of you, that's what we're supposed to do," she said.

City Attorney Pope Mallette said the state law that allows such a non-competitive, appraisal-based sale, assumes a lower price for a higher public good.

"Usually when property comes up for sale by the city, it's usually because someone else asked to buy it" for a specific project, he said.

Antonow sought reconfirmation that the hotel project is virtually shovel-ready. She asked Matthew Moore, Patel's attorney, "Matt, you're ready to move forward on this?"

"Yes, ma'am," he assured. "We are."

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