Alabama Supreme Court goes against Gulf hotel foes

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 18, 2010

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Supreme Court ruled Friday against a private beach resort that wants to scuttle a new state law providing for a state-financed hotel and convention center on the Alabama coast.

The justices said in a 5-0 decision that the Perdido Beach Resort took the wrong legal route to challenge the new law’s constitutionality.

The resort, filing suit as Gulf Beach Hotel Inc., was among several opponents that won in court when Gov. Bob Riley sought to build an upscale beach hotel at Gulf State Park. A Montgomery circuit judge struck down the Riley plan in 2008 and the Alabama Supreme Court in March 2009 affirmed a key part of that ruling.

Later in 2009 the Legislature passed a new law to build a state hotel on the beach, and the private resort cited the initial case in seeking to shelve the new law with an amended complaint.

The Supreme Court said Friday the resort should have filed an entirely new lawsuit challenging the legislation. An attorney for the resort did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.

Riley’s initial plan called for a private firm to construct and operate an upscale state-financed hotel under a lease that was not put out for bids and would last at least 70 years. That plan was challenged on several grounds by the Perdido Beach Resort and others, including former state Conservation Commissioner Charley Grimsley, the state teachers’ organization and the state employees association.

The Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling in March 2009 held that state law puts a 12-year limit on contracts for private companies to operate concessions for state parks. The new state law passed later in 2009 allowed for such contracts to last 70 years, which advocates said would be needed to attract private sector interest.

While the Perdido Beach Resort sought to shelve the new law, other critics of the first Riley plan did not join the action. Grimsley said Friday he was not against the new plan because it would be put out for bids and the hotel would be affordable to average Alabamians.

In its order Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court said the Montgomery circuit judge properly dismissed the beach resort’s amended complaint in August 2009.