Huntsville Mayor: Developer tried to bully city into changing road plan

Tommy Battle accused developer Louis Breland of trying to bully the city into changing road plans. (Source: WAFF)
Tommy Battle accused developer Louis Breland of trying to bully the city into changing road plans. (Source: WAFF)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle accused developer Louis Breland of trying to bully the city into changing road plans in connection with a development planned for Zierdt Road and Interstate 565 in Madison.

The Mayor held a news conference Wednesday afternoon, in which he said the situation was about "a developer who didn't get what he wanted."

Battle said he and the administration have made collaboration a priority and have built strong partnerships across the region and state. He added that they have been open and transparent about any work on the city's behalf.

He said they deal with developers all the time and have a record of great results due to honesty, and he expects a solid return on the taxpayer investment.

"Mr. Breland is developing his land off of Zierdt Road to build a shopping center," said Battle. "That is fine and well, and we wish him luck. He has been courting major retailers – apparently Cabela's was one – all fine too. Mr. Breland is also building a road from Zierdt through his property to connect with Wall-Triana Boulevard."

Battle said the route agreed upon by Governor Robert Bentley, Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield, Highway Director John Cooper, local elected officials, and the Metropolitan Planning Organization takes into account jobs and transportation, and this is not the route Breland wants.

Battle said the city administration remains supportive of the approved route and they are grateful to the governor and his administration for taking the lead on this project and to all others that have resulted in jobs and roads for Huntsville.

He said Breland held meetings with the city Aug. 5 in an effort to convince the city to change the roads. Battle said Breland threatened him when the city refused to comply. Battle told reporters he notified the City Attorney, Madison County District Attorney and the Ethics Commission about the meeting with Breland.

He also said this in reaction to a lawsuit filed by Breland Company's accusing Huntsville City School Board member Mike Culbreath of corporate spying was filed in retaliation of the City's decision concerning the road.

After explaining the merits of the approved road plan numerous times, and upon realizing that I would not do what he wanted, Mr. Breland responded with the following implied threats: "This thing is going to get so dark and so ugly, and we don't need to all go there...I'm telling you."

Breland followed up by hiring his henchmen to take this "to his dark place" and filed a lawsuit over losing Cabela's.

Battle said he was extremely proud of the effort the city put forth in landing Cabela's in Huntsville.

"We were competing for the first store in Alabama, an honor that often goes to larger cities," said Battle. "Major retailers typically evaluate lots of sites, and just because they look at your property doesn't mean you land a contract. In fact, Cabela's looked at more than one dozen sites in Huntsville alone. We are honored Cabela's chose to locate in our city."

Battle said he will leave the legality of Breland's actions in the hands of law enforcement.

"We do not, and will not, succumb to bullying," Battle said.

The press conference ended by Battle assuring the citizens of Huntsville he will continue to work for a great community.

"We value all people, whether you are worth $5 or $500 million. We will treat you with dignity and respect whatever your station in life," said Battle. "Our administration will continue to work to provide for jobs, strong education, and a high quality of life. For our business partners, if you seek to operate with integrity, we are open for business."

Breland offered a printed response hours after the mayor's announcement:

"On Aug. 5, I met with the Mayor and John Hamilton, at the Mayor's office and at his request. During that meeting, I discussed with him information that I had obtained as part of my research into the activities of my former employee, Mike Culbreath. Since that meeting, I have filed a civil action against Mr. Culbreath and other individuals and entities he is associated with, for actions Mr. Culbreath took while working for me. Neither the City of Huntsville nor any City employee is a defendant in that lawsuit. It is confusing to me that the Mayor views my lawsuit against my former employee as retaliation against the City, when neither the City nor any City official is a party to that lawsuit. I look forward to prosecuting my lawsuit against Mr. Culbreath and the other defendants and I welcome and invite any law enforcement officials to examine every aspect of this situation."

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