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Wednesday, 11 July 2007 00:00

Haywood wades into bidding wars for two properties

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By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer

Haywood County commissioners are currently ensnarled in bidding wars for two separate properties that will cost them more than $1.2 million.

Commissioners have been trying to obtain a 22-acre tract of land near Jonathan Creek for a recreation park. The decision to make that purchase, announced more than a month ago, proved to be more time-consuming than the county had hoped.

The commissioners first bid on the land in early June for $693,000. By their next meeting on June 18, however, the county had been trumped by a higher bid. Commissioners decided to counter with a higher bid on the tract.

This week, commissioners announced that the second bid they placed had been trumped as well, this time by Scott Campbell, a representative of an investment firm known as the Hemlock Group. The decision was made to place yet another bid on the property in the amount of $835,830 — roughly $140,000 more than the county’s original bid.

However, by the time the commissioners meeting ended and the county went to place the bid, someone else had beat them to the punch. This time it was Clyde-based group DFD Capital Development, according to County Public Information Coordinator David Teague. Now, the county has until July 16 to place a higher bid, which would have to be at least $888,121.

 

The Pancake House

The second piece of property the county is trying to buy — just announced at their July 9 meeting — is the former Pancake House on the corner of Depot and Montgomery streets in downtown Waynesville.

Commission Chairman Larry Ammons said the county did not know what it would use the property for. However, its price and location prompted commissioners to go ahead and make a bid for the building.

The motion did not carry, though, without lengthy discussion. County Manager David Cotton seemed worried about the county’s ability to afford both the Jonathan Creek and Pancake House properties. He explained that since no funds are appropriated for this year and the county can’t borrow until Jan. 1, the money would come from the county’s fund balance.

“As you know, we’ve appropriated a good amount of fund balance ... I would respectfully request the board consider all those factors, including the debt service thereafter,” Cotton said.

Commissioner Skeeter Curtis also expressed concern about the county’s ability to afford the properties.

“If somebody can convince me that we can afford both of these pieces of property and still take care of our schools, then you got my vote,” said Curtis.

Curtis also questioned how the purchases could affect the county’s commitment to help Haywood Community College with its building needs.

“In the budget, our main concern was schools, seniors and county employees — it doesn’t look like we’re going to get any of these things the way we wanted,” Curtis said. “I’d like to have both these pieces of property, but I want to make sure our college is taken care of.”

Ammons agreed.

“That’s been a priority for all of us — the community college in particular. They’ve been in line waiting and we’re trying to catch them up a little bit,” Ammons said. But Ammons didn’t want the opportunity to get the rec park land and the downtown building slip by.

There is a chance county coffers could get a boost depending on pending legislation in Raleigh. The county is holding out hope the state will take over the county’s share of Medicare, freeing up more than $1 million of the county’s budget. The county is also lobbying for permission to enact a special half-cent sales tax to fund community college projects.

“When Raleigh decides what they’re going to do, both of these properties are going to be gone,” said Ammons.

Despite concerns about the budget and possible negative consequences for schools, the county decided to bid on the property.

Once again, though, the county was beat to the punch. They found out following their meeting that the original bid on the Pancake House — placed by local real estate developer Richard Miller — had already been upset by Florida-based Ron Investments. Instead of placing a bid of $301,356, the county would now have to top the bid placed by Ron Investments. This means the county must bid $333,716, which is $30,000 more than it had planned.

Ironically, the county had the chance to purchase the Pancake House from Waynesville a year ago. The town gave the county the first option at the appraised price of $324,005. The county declined, saying it was too much at the time.

County officials could not say whether the surprise upset bids placed after the commissioners’ meeting will affect the decision to bid for the properties. The commissioners are having a special meeting July 12 where they will likely discuss what to do. However, Teague did say that the county has resolved to bid up to $1 million for the Lucius Jones land.

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