Council discusses Sand Bar lease during meeting

Published 11:23 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A lease between the city of Selma and The Sand Bar Restaurant owner David Pearce is close to being finalized.

City attorney Jimmy Nunn briefed the council on the new lease during Tuesday night’s council meeting.

The lease will be for an initial 10-year term. Pearce will also have two optional 10-year renewals for a total of 30 years.

Pearce’s rent will be forgiven up to the cost of building a new bar and restaurant. Pearce estimates he will spend between $300,000 and $400,000 to replace the restaurant, which flooded the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The restaurant is located at the city-owned marina, which includes a boat ramp, docks and restrooms.

Pearce wanted the lease approved during Tuesday night’s meeting, but several council members felt like more time was needed before a vote.

“We just got this today and in the past we have said we need to bring it back to the next meeting,” said Councilman Sam Randolph said.

Randolph suggested the city build and operate the restaurant instead of leasing the property to Pearce.

“I would like to see the city build The Sand Bar itself. I think it would be a great investment for the city of Selma,” Randolph said.

Councilman Cecil Williamson said he wouldn’t invest any money in the property until a lease is finalized.

“I wouldn’t spend a penny out there until this council approved it. Every time someone comes up here they are harassed by members of this council,” Williamson said. “If I was David, I wouldn’t spend a penny out there.”

Pearce attended Tuesday night’s meeting and spoke up several times. Councilwoman Angela Benjamin told him he was out of line and the council couldn’t take comments from audience members during the meeting. Pearce left after it became apparent council members weren’t ready to approve a lease.

Mayor George Evans said Pearce should be able to go ahead and do some work on surveys and the foundation before a lease was approved.

“This doesn’t hold anything up. The council has time to read that and we will keep moving along,” Evans said.

Nunn said the city had already taken steps in January to enter into a lease with Pearce and gave him permission to demolish the old structure.

Nunn said he thinks the council would have to enter some kind of lease with Pearce at this point given their previous actions.

“I do appreciate and understand your desire to want to read over it. We need to read this 11-page document. It’s a contract,” Nunn said

“It’s coming to a head, all of the planning and development stage.”

The city has agreed to run utilities to within five feet of the restaurant. There was some debate over a septic tank that will be needed.

The 1,000 gallon tank will cost around $5,000, according to Nunn. Pearce has asked the city council to install the tank as another utility.

The restaurant flooded as the Alabama River rose to almost 50 feet the last week of December.

Pearce plans to rebuild in the marina’s parking lot, which is on higher ground. The old Sand Bar sat close to the docks.

Dunn said it was important for the city to scrutinize the lease since it could be in effect for three decades.

“What we are trying to do is prepare something that other people on the council in the future will know and have something that can be passed down to them,” Nunn said.

Pearce wants to have the restaurant reopened as soon as possible.

Back in January, he said he wanted to have The Sand Bar back in business by summer and peak season.