Friday, November 10, 2006

Sembler's Dekalb deal

Originally posted by Wes Fager in Creative Loafing-Atlanta on 11.10.06 @ 05:31 PM

In October Sembler Company was trying to make a secret deal with DeKalb County Georgia officials to build a $600 million shopping center complex when DeKalb housing authority director Bettye Davis was suddenly fired just days after she had granted an open-records request by the Atlanta Constitution and Journal for records on the deal. This led state Rep. Mike Jacobs, D-Atlanta, to state, "It makes me wonder why the wheels are so greased for this one developer in particular. Something about this seems fishy." On Tuesday Jeff Rader, an urban planner, was elected commissioner from the district where the proposed shopping center is planned. About the proposal he says, "It may be a great thing for DeKalb if it's developed in the right way, but nobody's doing anything to determine that. . . Right now, it's being handled like a private real estate transaction, which is not good public policy." Gale Walldorff, the outgoing commissioner who was replaced by Rader, also has concerns about the proposed center. She says the project is "sizable enough to warrant special scrutiny before it advances to the point of a rezoning hearing." But other commissioners are more drawn to Sembler's proposal. For example when Creative Loafing reporter Scott Henry called county CEO Vernon Jones for an opinion on the proposal, Jones criticized Walldorff and suggested Henry call her to ask, "what she has against Sembler." Well Jones himself shouldn't have to go too far to see what's wrong with Sembler--it's all over the web. Rep. Jacobs says the Dekalb deal is "fishy." Others, at different places and different times, have used phrases like "rotten", "foul odor" and "doesn't smell good." You've heard of selling swamp land in Florida. In 1987 Sembler paid $1 million for a mangrove swamp called Cooper's Point in Florida and almost sold it overnight to Clearwater for $ 3 million with the aid of an insider working for the city. The story is at: http://tinyurl.com/yafovv That Sembler scam prompted the St. Petersburg Times to write an editorial titled "Cooper's Point deal is rotten" at: http://tinyurl.com/y9jusp

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