IUKA – Lawsuits and countersuits involving Yellow Creek property owners who oppose development of TVA-owned property at the northern tip of Tishomingo County will keep the property undeveloped for the foreseeable future.
The Tennessee Valley Authority, in a 13-page answer to a federal suit filed in late 2007 by John Lichterman and others, said TVA has terminated the agreement with Tishomingo County Development Foundation that allowed the organization to lease the property for economic development.
In the same document, filed with the U.S. District Court in Aberdeen on April 13, TVA further said that “full ownership and control of the site has reverted to TVA, and TVA has no current plans to develop the site for commercial recreation.”
The decision is disappointing for foundation officials who hoped to turn the lease from TVA into a moneymaker for the county.
“A successful outcome for us would have been private investment and the creation of new jobs,” said TCDF Executive Director Gary Matthews. “That is our only goal.”
Some of the more than 200 homeowners along Yellow Creek who have resisted development of the property since a lease agreement was announced in late 2005 are glad to see development halted.
“There is some peace about that,” said Dave Davis, whose family has had property on Yellow Creek for about half a century. “The problem, however, is that the piece of property has been virtually destroyed. The positive thing is there won’t be 228 boat slips and that much more boat traffic in the area.”
The property at issue is about 31 acres owned by TVA located on the Yellow Creek tributary of the Tennessee River at the northern tip of Tishomingo County at mile marker 448.4 of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
In 2000, the development foundation acquired a 40-year recreational easement, a type of agreement TVA has often made with local communities to use its properties for economic development. Developer David McMeans was awarded the development project in late 2005.
The project McMeans proposed to build included a 228-slip marina, restaurant, ships store and fuel dock, dry stack storage building, rental villas, offices and parking.
Property owners who shared the embayment where the project would be developed raised immediate objections and concerns.
Davis was among them.
With two existing marinas nearby – Aqua Yacht Harbor and Grand Harbor – Davis and other members of the Yellow Creek Property Owners Association said another marina on the lake would create enormous congestion and safety issues. They also spoke of concerns about the development’s effect on lakefront property values.
The group financed their own study of water traffic in the area and presented those findings to TVA, along with other safety and environmental concerns.
“Our position from the start was that TVA violated their own rules,” Davis said. He charged that despite the stringent rules that are supposed to assure careful scrutiny of this type of project, TVA’s staff did not take all relevant factors into consideration before giving the project a favorable environmental assessment.
The homeowners submitted written comments and participated in several meetings with TVA officials through 2007 to air their concerns, but the project was approved to begin construction.
On Nov. 1, 2007, Yellow Creek property owners John Lichterman and Vince and Marsha Marascuilo filed a lawsuit against Pickwick Pines Marina, the Tishomingo County Development Foundation and the Tennessee Valley Authority, saying they violated the federal National Environmental Policy Act by permitting the developer to remove mature trees from a required buffer zone.
U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock granted the plaintiffs an injunction that halted work on a portion of the property after there had been extensive tree-cutting at the site.
The project has been on hold since that time, with adverse rulings pursued by the plaintiffs through the U.S. Court of Appeals, and now further counterclaims filed by Pickwick Pines Marina and other parties.
In their recent court filing, TVA contends that the basis for the Lichterman et al lawsuit became moot once the agency took back full ownership and control of the site.
“With the current economic cycle there won’t be any development of the property for the next year or two,” Davis said. “However TVA is still responsible to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality for erosion control, and there has been no seeding to halt the process. We want to be real clear about how TVA is going to go forward, and we’ll continue to monitor the situation as it involves development of a resort.”
Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal