LAWRENCEVILLE -- The site of an old sewage plant could soon be converted to Lilburn officials' dream economic development venture, after commissioners agreed on the sale Tuesday.
"We should be playing ball next summer," Lilburn Mayor Johnny Crist said of the timeline to build a Big League Dreams replica ballpark, expected to bring tournaments and thousands of tourists to the city. "We have a lot of hurdles to get through, but this (decision) is huge."
While an appraisal set the value of the 37 acres, located at the corner of Indian Trail Road and U.S. Highway 29, at $2 million, needed environmental clean-up work totals $690,000, so the city's downtown development authority submitted a proposal to buy the land at its "as is" price of $1.31 million.
Councilman Thomas Wight questioned the value of the land and the project, although Crist said the cost of the land and development will be borne by private developer NDI, which is in negotiations to move forward.
"If you've got a good idea, bring it, pay for it, build it," Wight said. "Don't try to let the taxpayers take all the risk and walk away with all the profits."
The property, which is near the city's center and considered a key location for Lilburn's future, will remain in the hands of the development authority if the Big League Dreams project falls through, Crist said.
"We're pretty excited," Crist said, adding that he was warming up his arm to throw the first pitch. "It's an economic engine that sits at a very prime location in our city. ... It means a lot to us."
Commissioner Lynette Howard pointed out that the land is owned by the Gwinnett Water and Sewerage Authority, which approved the measure Monday, and was not purchased with tax dollars. The money from the sale will go back to the water system, which is self-funded by water and sewer customers.
"There is no use we have for this piece of property," Howard said, pointing out that other departments were surveyed to see if it could be used for a police station or park. "To get it out of the hands of the Water and Sewerage Authority and to get it back on the tax roles is a very important thing."