Sunday, November 9, 2008

UPDATE: AGO says NO Galleria Parkway - Ashton Park Wall at taxpayer expense

Do you have a comment?

Nov 4, 2008: Attorney General comes to the aid of Madison County Tax Payers saying the County cannot build Ashton Park Wall.


I STRONGLY AGREE that the Ashton Park landscaped area/wall should be built immediately and paid for by the PID Board/developers. It is a travesty, and insult, to the residents of Ashton Park that it hasn't already been constructed!

Before construction of Galleria Parkway was started the PID Board and developers were supposed to have coordinated a plan for a landscaped 50' buffer area between the proposed parkway and Ashton Park. This area should have been developed as planned and agreed to as the parkway construction began.

Instead, the developers sold some of the right-of-way to install a Nissan water line, and the proceeds didn't go to the development of the promised landscaped area.

Now the taxpayers of Madison County are being fleeced with another un-programmed and un-budgeted, and possibly illegal/improper, expense that is estimated to run at least $400,000! Instead, this expense should be paid for by the Parkway Public Improvement (PID) Board.

This entire project should be carefully reviewed by the State Attorney General, the State Auditor and the State Ethics Commission.

Click here to see more in depth discussion of recommendation and White Paper.

WMGO 1370AM CANTON, MS - Jerry Lousteau Morning News , Wednesday, April 16, 2008

WMGO 1370 Canton, MS

Madison County Journal Editorial - Ashton Park Wall Excessive; April 17, 2008

Madison County Journal - Letter to the Editor - Use taxpayers' money wisely, reader says; April 17, 2008


Anonymous said...

I agree that Madison County taxpayers should not be burdened with this issue. What scares me about this is the precedent that would be being set in regard to similar circumstances in the future. Even if the position is taken that each instance "stands on its own" and would be addressed at that time is no answer. The issue is simple - those that made a commitment to create the barrier should be held accountable. Having not done as originally intended with the buffer and having sold a part as an easement does not eliminate the commitment to deliver, it only limits the options. My overall concern is that agreements of this nature have occurred in the past and are being made daily as we move forward and must be managed by Madison County to ensure compliance. Who has the responsibility of follow-up to ensure all parties to an agreement comply? Insuring compliance is key now and in the future. This is where I do take issue with the Board of Supervisors.

NW said...

You have stated clearly what should be convincing reasons why public funding of this private obligation should not take place. My only addition to your well-stated argument is that a fair amount of green buffer could still be achieved in the buffer area without disrupting any water lines. Did the purchase by Nissan shift partial assumption of responsibility for creating a green buffer to them? The developers have abdicated their responsibilities to the community. I hope our public officials do not do the same.

Thank you for your efforts,

Douglas said...

Thank you for standing up for what is right. The developers (PID) should pay as the agreement calls for. The developers sold the right of way (50’ buffer) for the water line to Nissan. They made enough money on the ROW to pay for the wall.

Mary said...

D. I.

As stated in the Extract of covenant on the property which runs with the property until 2053:

EXHIBIT “B” Book 1535; page 495:As stated in the The Parkway East Public Improvement District shall landscape and maintain a 50 foot “green space” buffer adjoining Ashton Park. The rear setback shall be 20 feet from the 50 foot buffer zone. No where does it mention a "$300,000 hardscape". Yes, every neighborhood in Madison County would love to have a $300,000 hardscape like that one just constructed on Highland Colony...but if this is approved and is constructed at the taxpayers expense they better be ready because they are setting a precedent... and who will continue to pay for this. I would consult with Forest Thigpen, President on Missisippi Center for Public Policy and I will promise you that this will not meet the "Ten Prinicipes to Guide Public Policy". Referring to Principle #5...of the handbook.."Government has nothing to give anyone except what it first takes from someone else". Also in the "Ten Priniciples...U. S. Supreme Court, John Marshall is quoted ..Taxes (bond) in themselves are not destructive; excessive taxation, however, breaks the entrepreneurial spirit, resulting in less economic activity and fewer jobs for the citizens". Every time you issue a bond it is like pulling out a credit card that will have to be paid off in a certain number of years. Madison County will be up to their eyeballs in debt that the taxpayers are on the hook for many years to come (our children and grandchildren will have to contend with this. The developers need to pay for this barrier, period.

Barbara said...

I agree with you completely. The developers are completely responsible! I will make others aware. Notify Jim Prince, the Owner of the Madison County Journal, he will grab right on to the full meaning of this entire situation. His staff may be aware, but Jim really “gets” the underlying factors. Thanks,

JS said...

Go get'm DI - thanks!

Jim said...


Outstanding decision. Madison County needs to enact legislature that will hold Developers feet to the fire when it involves following Covenants. Keep up the GREAT work.

Jeff said...

I totally agree. It's questionable whether this development was really necessary, and the rest of us in the county should not have to pay for private development and the effects on 1 subdivision.

Mark said...

D. I.,

I applaud your efforts to expose the improper dealings in Madison County. Now, if you could just get the citizens to become vocal maybe something will change. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Have you requested an investigation by the Auditor or the AG?

Mark said...

How much $ did PID receive from the sale of the right of way? Where does that money go?
What can be done now?

guy said...


Has the county agreed to build the sound barrier? Isn't the subdivision located within the City of Madison?

I agree the county should not be responsible for the cost. As a rule our local governments have let developers off load a significant infrastruture obligation.

In Texas the developers had an obligation to pay partial cost for surface roads, water and sewer for new developments.

The surface road issue is particulary acute in Madison County. Look a Hoy, Gluckstadt. Sowell or any number of other roads where development has exceeded road capacity. County advolorem taxes will never provide enough funds to upgrade these roads.

David said...


You may consider getting a memo from Eric Hamer stating that the action is legal. If he refuses, then you know he feels that it is illegal. The AG and State Auditor will not investigate unless a formal complaint is filed with them. The auditors office does investigate when complaints are filed, particularly by elected officials.

What a mess, and we have to pay for it. I appreciate your efforts.

Madison County Herald Article said...

November 6, 2008

County can't fund Ashton Park's wall

By Lucy Weber

Madison County cannot build a wall at Ashton Park subdivision with county money that officials promised earlier.

An attorney general's opinion, requested by the Board of Supervisors, says that the wall, intended as a safety precaution and as a noise abatement device, cannot be built on private property and the county cannot pay for surveying and engineering fees for the project.

"We find no authority for the county to construct the wall for the purposes stated in the board's minutes," the attorney general's opinion states.

The wall was expected to cost $300,000 or more. It was included in the county's plan for road work adopted in February.

County officials received the written opinion from Attorney General Jim Hood's office last week. At Monday's Board of Supervisors meeting, the letter was mentioned but not discussed.

"We acknowledge the attorney general says 'You can't build no wall,'" District 4 Supervisor Karl Banks said.

District 1 Supervisor John Bell Crosby, a supporter of building the wall, said he wasn't sure what happens now. "I venture to say there's not much we can do about it," he said.

In its request to Hood's office, county officials said the plan was to obtain title to the private property, likely by donation from the landowner, and then spend county funds to build the wall. The attorney general's opinion says that the county can't accept a donation if the result is spending public money for the primary purpose of improving private property.

District 3 Supervisor D.I. Smith opposed the board's decision to spend county money on the wall. In April, he wrote a "white paper" setting out reasons why the county should not pay for the wall.

In other county news, supervisors agreed that the doors on the historic Madison County Courthouse will get a facelift in time for the holidays.

Madge Noble, whose husband Billy was the county sheriff and at one time had an office in the courthouse, asked the supervisors Monday to refinish at least the four doors on the two levels of the building. Noble puts the Christmas wreaths on the courthouse doors each year.

"Those four doors on the south side of the building look terrible," she said. Supervisors agreed to sand the peeling finish currently on the doors and put a new coat on them.

"Mrs. Noble's right. We need to take care of it before the holidays," county administrator Donnie Caughman said.

The supervisors also agreed to install two speed tables and look into placing eight stop signs in the Hartfield neighborhood at the request of the homeowners' association.

Drivers speed carelessly within the neighborhood, Dennis Recker, association president, said in a letter to the board. "This issues causes a serious safety for the children and walkers of Hartfield," he said.

Before the county can install stop signs, the county engineer, sheriff and county administrator have to sign off on the need.

"I'll sign off on it today," engineer Rudy Warnock said.

In other county news, emergency responders on Saturday will act as if a tornado has hit the Nissan manufacturing plant.

The drill intends to test the preparedness of Canton, Ridgeland, Madison and Gluckstadt firefighters should a disaster hit the plant. Starting at 9 a.m., emergency response teams will come to the plant to handle the type of problems that can crop up with a disaster, emergency operations director Butch Hammack said.

"This will be a significant event," Hammack said. "We're using resources we know would respond to Nissan."

Nissan requested the drill and is providing access, both inside and outside the plant, to emergency responders.

Hammack said a variety of different scenarios, each raising a specific problem to be solved, will be lying in wait for the fire departments: There will be fires outside to extinguish; people will be trapped and injured in the building; vehicles, which that have flaws that keep them from being sold, will be overturned in the parking lot so firefighters can cut them open to "rescue" those trapped inside; and firefighters will also rescue someone trapped on the roof of the building.

"This gives up a good report card on where we are and where we need to be," he said.

Area students have volunteered to act as victims. The morning drill will not affect traffic on Nissan Drive, Hammack said.

D.I. Smith said...

I'm as frustrated as anyone that the "wall" or landscaped area hasn't been completed as promised in the PID agreements. It is truly a travesty that the PID hasn't been required to perform as they promised.

I hope the Ashton Park Property Owners will stay engaged and formally petition via written board of directors resolution that the City of Madison issue no building permits, nor accept Galleria Parkway as a public street until the promises are delivered on! The Board of Supervisors voted against Doug Jones over the last 3 years when he tried to apply leverage to get the wall built!

No one has answered the question "what happened to the money from the sale of the Nissan water line easement through the buffer zone area?" These funds should have been used for the wall/landscaped area.

In the Spring of 2008 I voted against Madison County funding the wall with "road and bridge" funds which is obviously illegal and funds expended would have to be repaid by supervisors who voted for the motion. I was the only one who voted against this illegal use of taxpayer money. I certainly didn't want to personally pay for the "wall."

The State Attorney General has now issued an opinion stating that it would be illegal to pay County taxpayer funds under any circumstances for this wall on private property and along a private road where written agreements/promises were been made by the PID in order to obtain approval for the road.

I will work with the Ashton Park Property Owners, Mayor Hawkins-Butler and the City of Madison to encourage/force the PID to deliver as promised.

Anonymous said...

If you truly believe a wall should be built, then why did the county supervisors and county engineer agree to pass the inspections on the parkway and allow the road to opened without requiring the developers to construct the wall?

That was your opportunity to put pressure on the devlopers.

Why was the wall not included as part of the parkway road project?

The opportunity to put pressure on the developers to build the wall was lost during the inspection phase.

The residents of Ashton park have been lied to long enough.

The wall was promised to the residents of Ashton Park. There should not be any grading or building permits issued along the parkway without the completion of the wall.

JD said...

I believe the Ashton Park Homeowners will become very active in this process and demand accountability. In order to gain approval for the Parkway in the first place, the APHOA agreed to not litigate or fight the road based on clearly defined commitments (buffer zone and wall) by the Developer, the City of Madison AND our County Supervisor. As typical with Madison County politics, the buck has been passed and claims of no responsibility replace known commitments. You, the current Board of Supervisors and the officials with the City of Madison know full well the promises and commitments made to the residents of Ashton Park. The recent decision to fund the wall is a clear example of this well known commitment. Shame on all leaders involved in how this is being handled and a willingness to make this become a legal battle. It's not surprising we have ended up here... it’s another method of passing the buck to someone else. I am convinced this broken promise will not go away and it will continue to be a source of bitterness until resolved.