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Barbour vetoes school-sale bill

Ted Duckworth, who wants to build the District at Eastover, a $150-million, 64,000-square-foot mixed-use development on the site, says there’s a possibility he will pull out of the project if one of two pieces of legislation still alive at the Capitol is signed into law.

Ted Duckworth wants to build the District at Eastover, a $150-million, 640,000-square-foot mixed-use development on the site.

JACKSON — Gov. Haley Barbour has vetoed House Bill 637, legislation that would have allowed the state to sell the Old School for the Blind in Jackson.

According to Barbour, the bill failed to include the option to lease the land and because of the current lackluster market for prime commercial real estate, among other reasons.

Without the authority to lease the property, the bill would have essentially required the sale of the property at a time when commercial property prices are at historic lows, Barbour added.

Barbour wrote: “To get the highest and best use of this property, the state should retain the option to sell or lease the property. Eliminating the authority to lease the property diminishes the options available for the development of this property and thus shortchanges the people of the City of Jackson and the taxpayers of this state.”

Barbour also said the bill set conditions that would have made a sale difficult. It would have allowed the state to repurchase the property within 10 years of the sale if the land was not used for the “intended purpose stated at the time of sale” or abandoned by the purchaser, but the bill did not specify the purchase price.

“It is not clear to me whether the repurchase price would account for any improvements made to the property, which would certainly deter potential buyers and lenders alike from investing and developing this property,” Barbour said.

Barbour said he would include similar legislation in a special session, if necessary, when the Legislature returns later this month, if the Department of Finance and Administration has the option to sell or lease the property, assuring Mississippi taxpayers they are getting a good deal when the property is developed.

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