Highway 6 gate to the Robert Hall Ranch, Valley Mills
By Jim Parks and George Potter
Valley Mills – Taxpaying voters are near ‘insurrection,’ according to sources up in arms over a vague plan by an unknown committee of the city’s administration to acquire 259 acres of the Robert Hall Ranch on Highway 6, just east southeast of the High School.
Typical comments are, “They won’t tell me a thing,” according to former City Administrator Rodney Nichols.
His observation is typical of people who are unable to pry the slightest bit of information out of Mayor Ray Bickerstaff, who says “negotiations” are in a very “sensitive” stage between himself, two “developers and builders” and two members of the City Council.
Said Bill Lancaster, council member and former City Administrator, “They move things around me pretty good.”
Councilman Scott Lane told sources he has ‘no clue’ how the funding for new streets, storm sewers, or water supplies will be developed, according to confidential sources.
The negotiations include extending the city limits to the property lines in order to offer police and fire protection and streets and water development, according to the Mayor.
Lane agreed with Mayor Bickerstaff that no committee has been chosen as yet, following a negative vote to form one at a recent stated meeting. A called meeting for Monday evening was suddenly cancelled because, Bickerstaff said, “The developers don’t have all the information.”
Buffalo Estates subdivision property owners expressed extreme unhappiness with the amorphous plan to develop a water system to provide fire protection for the proposed subdivision.
“I nearly blew a fuse when I heard about the proposed land purchase,” said Jean Speegle, a Buffalo Estates homeowner. She recalled numerous attempts by Valley Mills to annex the subdivision, all of which were repelled by a simple majority of the homeowners’ association.
Ms. Speegle said there is much unhappiness with high water rates from a private water supply corporation.
Bickerstaff said a 9,000 foot water well would be a key part of the plan, but his remark drew severe criticism from Jane Patton, a native of the area whose family lived on the ranch at one time. She recalled problems with an existing well’s quality of brackish yield and low water table during drought conditions.
No one has been able to obtain any further information as to how the property would be acquired or developed, whether through a general obligation or revenue bond issue, as an economic development plan, a planned unit development or joint venture, limited partnership consortium.
“We are negotiating,” May Bickerstaff has said. “After we have reached our decision, the people will have plenty of opportunity to learn about this and tell us their opinions.”