Plans are to purchase property at new Wal-mart.
Town of Franklin Board of Aldermen met in a special called meeting on May 21 to discuss contract negotiations to purchase a building in the new Wal-Mart Supercenter location in order to relocate the town's ABC store.
Mayor Joe Collins and Alderman Bob Scott voiced concerns on whether the town should move forward and buy the new store at a cost of $1.25 million. Currently, town attorney John Henning Jr. is working out contract negotiations with the Tennessee-based company, Meyers Franklin Associates, LP in order to outline a preliminary offer to purchase the property.
Scott's opposition to the new building was centered around the idea that there are other properties that would be better suited to house the store and that can stand alone instead of relying on the shopping plaza traffic. “We’re going to have an abandoned shopping center when Wal-Mart leaves where they are now and this town is beginning to die from the inside out. Why are we supporting something that’s going to kill more businesses? I cannot be convinced we need a new ABC store. I’m sorry, folks,” said Scott.
Collins also raised some questions and concerns regarding the practicality for a town becoming involved in purchasing an ABC store and questioned the benefit of the property at the Wal-Mart site from a business standpoint. Collins explained that if the town agrees to purchase the ABC store and then the state votes to privatize ABC sales in the state, Franklin taxpayers would be left to foot the bill.
“I feel that we need to all engage in a frank, open discussion about the purchase of the ABC store,” said Collins. The mayor then asked each alderman and Town Manager, Sam Greenwood why they wanted to move forward with the purchase.
“I think we’ve gone far enough and I think the [Wal-Mart] location has a higher traffic pattern and much more appeal ability,” said Alderman Joyce Handley. “It is going to be a jam packed location and will be in a visible area.”
Scott argued with Handley and stated that he couldn't “buy into that at all.”
“People who drink will know where it is, and if they don't they will find it,” said Scott.
Collins asked the board if the only reason for relocating the store was to sell more alcohol, and Alderman Sissy Pattillo responded that there were other benefits to moving the store in addition to the visibility and convenience of the proposed location.
After Alderman Verlin Curtis addressed the board and stated that when the store originally planned to move it was because it was a good business decision, Collins countered with the argument that originally, the store was going to move because the owners of the property where the store is currently located proposed a 10 percent rent increase. Since then, Centro Properties Group (the firm responsible for managing the plaza) informed the town that they were willing to keep the rent the same and sign a three-year lease at the current price. “We started out with the rationale that they were going to raise the rent, and now they are not,” said Collins. “Now, I am not arguing that it would not be better to own rather than lease, but with no threat of a rent increase, why are we in such a hurry to do this. What would it hurt to wait?”
As part of the proposed contract, the town would sign the loan for the new store, but would lease it to the ABC Board, and the entire purchase of the property is contingent on a lease agreement being reached between the two entities.
The vote to authorize the town attorney to move forward with contract negotiations passed on a 4-1 vote with Scott opposing.
According to Henning, negotiations for the contract are taking a little longer than expected because the company the town is working with to purchase the property is not accustomed to selling the property to local governments. “The company is not particularly used to sale agreements and I am not sure if they have ever dealt with a local government,” said Henning. “There are procedures that a town has to do that are required by law that they are not used to.”
Henning also stated that Meyers Franklin Associates, LP originally proposed a substantial amount of earnest money from the Town of Franklin in order to move forward with the contract. According to Henning, the town was not willing to put up the proposed amount and have since submitted a different offer to the seller and are awaiting a response.