Mayor David O'Mary told a commercial real estate agent at a Jasper City Council work session that the city's highly sought topographic maps will not be released for private commercial use.
Commercial real estate agent Bill Warren told the council at the March 12 work session, who said he represents several landowners whose parcels have "tremendous economic opportunity for the city." He notes he continues in contact with city officials, whom he has described as extremely helpful to him over the years.
In the past six months, "commercial development has picked up tremendously," he said. "There is a whole lot more activity. The phone is ringing." He said he has a 50-acre site under contract at the Winfield U.S. Interstate 22 exit.
He mentioned particularly an opportunity in Walker County for 46 acres at Highway 269 and I-22, in the northwest corner.
He said he became aware that Jasper obtained some topographic maps a couple of years ago for internal use. Warren has access to 20-foot elevation maps, but the city has much better maps.
O'Mary said the city maps use 2-foot elevations, which has made them popular. "It certainly beats the 1968 models we were working with," City Planner Keith Pike said, noting the information on the maps is only a year old.
Warren said another county purchased similar maps and made them available to Warren as he was marketing several properties, showing them a potential purchaser. He noted he has had to purchase maps elsewhere for $1,200, which was out of his pocket as the deal didn't come through.
He said it would be helpful if he could provide a potential purchaser a copy of the best information he has, noting he has an engineer who could do renderings to market lots using access to the city maps.
Warren said Jefferson County uses maps at 3-foot and 5-foot elevations, and he can purchase a map from them for $33 for each parcel. Shelby County gives him maps for free.
O'Mary said the city spent "huge amounts of money" on the maps, probably over $40,000, and the council made the decision if the maps were released, "it would be converted to personal benefit, and that is the wrong thing to do with taxpayer's money." The maps have not been released to anyone as a result, despite a number of engineers asking for it.
Pike said after the maps were obtained, he approached the council, knowing many requests would come. He asked the council for their opinion, and was told the maps should not be released. He said if the council changes its mind, he can release the maps.
Councilman Gary Cowen asked what other cities do, and Pike said other cities can be contacted, as he is not sure. He felt it is probably on "a case to case basis" elsewhere. Councilwoman Jennifer Williams Smith said she would be interested in that information.
Pike said the city maps are beneficial to the city operations in many ways, such as how deep a creek is or other elevations in connection with projects such as the culvert work planned for Wright Street. It also includes aerial photography over Jasper.