An expanse of Limestone County farmland once referred to as “the TVA megasite” is no longer being sold as such.
Tom Hill, president of the Limestone County Economic Development Association,
confirmed Tuesday that the Tennessee Valley Authority no longer had an option on much of the land that was once the 2,010-acre site off U.S. 31 south of Tanner.
The former site is now only 687 acres being marketed as “the Sanderson Site” on the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama website at www.edpa.org and with a broker.
The site — located across 31 from the Rogers Group limestone rock quarry — was certified by TVA in 2007 as a piece of property ready to attract industries or manufacturing plants. The site already had electricity, water, sewer, natural gas, access to both the CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads, the Tennessee River and two airports.
TVA said the status change for this particular site in Limestone County has no affect on other megasite properties being marketed in the TVA region.
When the site was first established, the Sanderson and Pryor families owned the land. The Sanderson family property — including Ruth Burnett, Rowe Royer and Judy Page — had 687 acres. The Pryor family — including Betty Lamb Pryor — owned about 1,323 acres.
Limestone County still has an option on the Sanderson property but not the Pryor’s property.
“We do not have an option with the Pryors,” Hill said. “We hope to continue to work with them (the Pryors) and have that (agreement) sometime in the future.”
Economic development officials, along with city and county officials, decided to develop the site because, at the time, Kia and Volkswagen were scouring the South looking for sites for plants. As a result, the megasite was developed and certified by McCallum & Sweeney Consultants, who are under contract with TVA. (This was Alabama’s first megasite). However, Kia ended up choosing a site in West Point, Ga., Hill said. Volkswagen selected a site in Chattanooga, Tenn.
"Their consultant looked at the site before it became a certified megasite but decided it was too far north,” Hill said. “Hyundai was already in Montgomery and the suppliers were there so Kia wanted to stay closer. Others have looked at the property but, for whatever reason, it has not hit yet.”
Also, because it takes three to four years to develop a megasite, a prospective developer may look elsewhere for a site with infrastructure already installed.
Though officials continued to market the megasite property, there have been no takers. Many blame the quarry across the road; some of the land was priced too high at one time.
Hill dismissed the idea that the Rogers Group’s limestone rock quarry, which began operating across U.S. 31 from the former megasite in 2010, is deterring prospective buyers.
“I don’t think the quarry would discourage most companies from looking there,” Hill said. “You’ve got a quarry across from United Launch Alliance in Decatur.”
ULA, which is located next to Trinity rock quarry, makes missiles.
“It (the quarry) may prevent some kinds of industries from coming,” Hill acknowledged. “But we are open to anything that would create good, high paying jobs. We are happy to work with any company.”
He said the former megasite has a lot of advantages.
“There is a huge power supply on the property. A lot of companies need a lot of power and would (otherwise) have to run (lines) two or three miles, which is expensive,” he said. “The site has natural gas, water and sewer, it is close to U.S. 31, Interstate 65, Pryor Field Airport, Huntsville International Airport and it has the capability to have both the CSX and the Norfolk Southern serve it.”
The site is also only six to 10 miles from a dock on the Tennessee River, he said.
As for land price, Hill said, property owners “are free to ask whatever price they want per acre.” But he also said that in order to effectively market the land “it needs to be priced at market value — between $18,000 and $25,000 per acre — and that’s at the high end of the range.”
He declined to say what price the Pryors were seeking for their land and whether that price might change. He said the Pryor children — Luke, Lila, Patty, Schuyler and Richard — have had other issues on their minds right now, such as settling the estate of their mother — Betty Lamb Pryor —who died in April.
“I am hoping we will work together again with the Pryors and put back the 2,010-acre site,” Hill said.
The engineering and environmental study on the former TVA megasite cost $50,000, Hill said, and that was before any infrastructure was installed.
Hill said he did not know how much was invested in the infrastructure.
Some estimate the total cost of the project at approximately more than $3 million.
Besides the engineering expense, more than 13,000 liner feet of 8-inch water pipe and the same amount of sewer pipe was installed. (Although there was already a waterline across the property, Hill said it had to be increased in size.) A natural gas substation and more than a mile of natural gas pipeline were also installed.
No one has released the actual cost.
Hill said megasites typically fit a major project such as Toyota, Honda, Mercedes or Hyundai, which receive heavy federal, state and local incentives but hire a lot of people.