Court finds, Bell Ventures LLC free to demolish Hayneville Plaza

Published 10:04 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2016

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By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
Bell Ventures LLC prevailed in a civil action against the town of Hayneville on Tuesday and is now free to demolish the Hayneville Plaza.
The company, of which Joe Bell Jr. is an owner, purchased the Plaza from the Lowndes County Commission for $125,000.
The commission floated a $3.5 million bond issue to purchase the building from Karl Bell for $3.2 million for use by the South Central Alabama Broadband Commission (SCABC) in connection with a federal grant and privately funded broadband project. The grant for that project was later terminated.
Bell Ventures claimed, “The Plaza building was not built to code and it has been determined by numerous experts to be ‘…very dangerous to occupy and should remain closed in its current condition.”
The building was recently appraised at a value of $123,000.
According to court documents, at issue was whether a zoning ordinance adopted by the town of Hayneville required the issuance of a building permit for the demolition of the Plaza.
In a hearing held on Tuesday, Lowndes County Circuit Court Judge Terri Bozeman Lovell denied a motion to stay or continue to the case. And she issued an order Tuesday afternoon, which states, “The court finds that the zoning ordinance at issue does not expressly include the terms “demolition” or “demolish” within the acts requiring the issuance of a building permit.” Also, according to the order, the ordinance “does not cover demolition and no building permit is required for the demolition of the subject building.”
Bell Ventures claimed, “The Plaza must be demolished because it cannot be safely occupied in its current condition and it will cost at least 2.5 million dollars to attempt to fix its dangerous deficiencies and building code violations.”
The company also claimed that the town interpreted its zoning ordinance to prohibit Bell Ventures LLC “from tearing down a dangerous and uninhabitable building.”
And it claimed the town refused to allow them to fill out the building permit and that “The mayor and police chief have told people not to go to the Plaza and to stay away from this property or face being placed in jail.”
Michael G. Strickland, one of the attorneys representing the town of Hayneville, asked the matter to be dismissed citing there was no evidence of people being arrested or threatened to be arrested and no evidence that Bell Ventures applied for a building permit.
In her order, Lovell stated, “The plaintiff (Bell Ventures LLC) was and is entitled to the free and unimpeded use of its property, free from the town’s unlawful interference, including the right to tear the subject building down without obtaining a building permit from the town.” Also, “The plaintiff was and is free to remove such parts, fixtures, doors, air conditioners, light fixtures and like, without any interference from the town, its agents, servants, employees, officers and other persons acting on the town’s behalf.”
According to Lovell’s order, however, other requests for relief will be set for a hearing at a later date.
When contacted following Lovell’s order, Joe Bell Jr. said of the Hayneville Plaza site, “We’re planning to expand convenience hardware in Lowndes County by bringing in a nationally recognized, nationally known hardware store.”
At a November 2015 commission meeting, he said, “Our specific goal is to bring in an Ace Hardware Store.” He said following the court’s order, “That is still true today.”

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