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Cooper Land project detailed

By By Fredie Carmichael/staff writer
Jan. 13, 2002
An Arkansas development company apparently would pay $2.5 million less than city officials announced for land that will house a planned retirement community, according to documents obtained by The Meridian Star.
A letter of intent signed Dec. 18 by Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith offers details of the deal that were not disclosed when the official announcement was made. Neither Smith nor Cooper representatives could be contacted Saturday for further explanation of their announced plan to build up to 3,000 new homes on 1,314 acres along Long Creek reservoir, the current site of Lakeview Golf Course, and a new public golf course at Bonita Lakes.
The letter of intent, described by local legal experts as a document to guide development of the project, detailed many aspects of the proposal, including the price of city-owned land to be deeded to Cooper for construction of a new public golf course to replace city-owned Lakeview.
Cooper said it would pay the city $4.2 million over 25 years as part of a lease-purchase arrangement for the land. Company representatives also said they would build a $2.5 million municipal golf course at Bonita Lakes property to replace Lakeview.
The four-page letter of intent, reported to be months in the making, apparently allows Cooper to deduct the cost of a new Bonita Lakes golf course from the appraised value of the current Long Creek/Lakeview land. That would mean Cooper will actually pay much less than announced or about $1,755,000 for the 1,314 acres in its development.
The letter of intent also outlines other responsibilities between the city and Cooper, such as the following:
The city would deed 800 acres to Cooper for the residential community;
The city would lease to Cooper 500 additional acres as common properties for its project, such as land for its golf course, club house, lake, recreational facilities and green space. The eventual cost of this acreage after a 25-year lease purchase arrangement would be the difference between the appraised value of the land minus all monies spent by Cooper on the replacement golf course.
The city would deed Cooper a 200-acre tract of land located west of Highway 45 for the new municipal golf course at Bonita Lakes. Upon completion of the new golf course, Cooper would deed the property back to the city.
The city would extend water and sewer services to the project at no cost to Cooper.
The city will be responsible for new roads allowing access to the site from Highway 45. The city would also pursue construction of a new interchange off Highway 45 within three years.
Current access along roads to the site would be closed to accommodate the gated community, although the city would reserve the right to permit existing residents to get to their homes.
The letter of intent does not appear to directly address the question of whether the city or Cooper would receive revenues generated by any potential timber sales related to construction either at the Cooper community or the new city golf course.
Other highlights of the letter:
Greens fees During construction of the Cooper community, the city will allow Cooper to use up to 10,000 free rounds of golf annually on both new courses. Residents of the Cooper community would get to play the new municipal course for half-price, but all other golfers would pay full rates.
Cooper would select an alternate course in Lauderdale County and pay for active members of Lakeview to play while the new course is under construction. Current Lakeview members will also be able to play Cooper's private course at half-price.
Land Cooper will deed the golf course and the land on the Bonita Lakes property back to the city once the new municipal course is completed and timber is cleared.