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COLUMBUS, GA-After 11 years of negotiations, delays and studies, an historic deal has been struck. Once the transaction is completed, Columbus, 120 miles southwest of Downtown Atlanta, will have title to 2,156 acres targeted for an industrial park, greenspace and other possible development. The park has long been a dream of city officials.

Through the agreement among the city, the Army and Native American tribes, Columbus will get title to the 2,156-acre tract, according to a published report. In exchange, the city will pay $3.8 million and deed 2,124 acres of land in Chattahoochee County to Fort Benning, a major Army base in the Columbus area that will use the land for training purposes.

The city gets 32 more acres, but is paying $3.8 million extra, essentially for the development potential of the land it will receive in the swap. The Chattahoochee acreage has limited infrastructure and utility support. The tract that will go to the city has access to all utilities and telecommunications.

By developing the land, Columbus expects to attract about $1 billion in capital investment and also anticipates a substantial boost to its tax revenues. Developers are likely to begin bidding for projects during the first quarter of 2001 after the Secretary of the Army approves the deal, according to the report.

The Native American tribes are involved because of tribal cultural sites known to be on the land. Ten such sites are already identified. Covenants in the land swap agreement protect the sites and also provide guidelines to handle human remains, sacred sites and cultural artifacts that may be found.

Among the tribes involved are the Muskogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. These and other tribes had lived and hunted in the Columbus area before ceding their lands in the 1800s and being moved to reservations.

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