SP Primary: Decision near on land trust offer | New



The Moore County Board of Education has spent the past 18 months debating the real value of the old West Southern Pines primary school campus and has commissioned two separate assessments in the process.

This debate is expected to continue at Monday’s regular board meeting at Union Pines, but a slim majority of the board appear ready to sell the property to Southern Pines Land and Housing Trust at its most recent estimated value. of $ 685,000.

“Obviously the land trust wants the property in its entirety. Therefore, they stepped up and submitted a fair market value offer, ”Vice President Pam Thompson said at the board working session this week.

“We have $ 685,000 on the land trust table and I suggest we have this time on our agenda at our next meeting and decide whether or not we want the land trust to get the property.”

But board member David Hensley, who has long criticized the Trust’s offer and plans, said selling to the land trust would amount to wasting “millions upon millions of dollars” that could be spent on repairs to buildings elsewhere in the school district. . The board’s recent discussions took place against the backdrop of a competing $ 900,000 bid from local builder Ron Jackson, Drain the Swamp, LLC.

In a letter to the seven board members on Wednesday, local lawyer Thomas Van Camp refuted Hensley’s false projection of the school’s worth. Van Camp and his family have been involved in recent land deals on Morganton Road as sellers.

In his Monday statements, Hensley speculated that the 17-acre elementary school campus could be worth as much as $ 8 million – but that was based on a dramatically inflated portrayal of recent real estate sales directly on Morganton Road.

Hensley argued that the land trust‘s plans to establish an African-American cultural center, early childhood education and after-school programs, as well as affordable housing for teachers, require commercial rezoning that would increase the property value.

“The Town of Southern Pines is turning those 12 acres into commercial, it’s worth at least $ 500,000 an acre,” Hensley said. “Land just up the street, half a mile uphill from Carlisle Street, the land at Morganton Park, because it’s commercial zoning, sells for $ 1 million an acre. “

The Van Camp family is the historic owner of the properties now known as Morganton Park. Van Camp’s parents previously owned the land where Moore County Schools built the new Southern Pines Elementary School, part of which they donated to the district. The family still owns approximately 100 acres on Morganton Road and in West Southern Pines.

Van Camp’s letter was accompanied by a table of real estate sales between 2013 and 2019 totaling nearly 90 acres. This list includes the square footage of the Legends Apartments, Morganton Park North Lodge, Lowes Foods, Southern Pines Elementary, and the ongoing Sandhills Pediatrics and Pinehurst Surgical construction projects.

The highest sale per acre, for the Pavilion in 2015, doesn’t even approach $ 1 million. This 2.25 acre parcel sold for $ 976,000, or $ 434,000 per acre. It is also a significant outlier compared to the rest of the group.

The second highest land sale on record, not included in the Van Camp chart, was in March 2020. Pinehurst Medical Group purchased five acres with direct access to Morganton Road for $ 1.47 million, or 293 million. $ 400 per acre.

“Mr. Hensley, a self-proclaimed ‘transparency’ advocate with no factual basis, fabricated land sales that just don’t exist,” Van Camp said in his letter.

“Making land sales that just don’t exist to serve a personal agenda not only diminishes Mr. Hensley’s credibility, but the credibility of the board as a whole.”

Van Camp’s accompanying chart, supported by Moore County tax records, calculates an average selling price per acre of $ 167,311 for vacant land on Morganton Road.

The old Southern Pines Primary Campus is nearly a mile from Morganton, separated from new developments by several blocks of low-income single-family homes.

Even directly on Morganton Road, property values ​​vary widely. Hensley offered the tax value of the 25 acres of the town of Southern Pines just east of Morganton Park as support for values ​​over $ 500,000 an acre. This property includes the ball field on Henley Street and is valued at $ 13.2 million.

The town has an additional 10 acres next door, also with a wide frontage on Morganton Road. But Moore County tax records show a relatively low value of $ 2.4 million – less than half the value per acre of the larger plot.

“I sincerely hope that every member of this board of directors will have access to the real facts and that the board of directors and the public are not misled into believing that the decision to sell the property to the Land Trust for full value estimate is costing the community millions of dollars, “Van Camp said.” This is just not the case. “

Earlier this year, the council commissioned an updated assessment of the Southern Pines Primary Campus by Village Appraisers of Pinehurst. This report returned the estimated value of $ 685,000 –– and indicated that the land was not worth what it could be if, like the Morganton Park properties when they were sold, it was vacant.

The assessment treats the campus as several individual plots, separating the historic Rosenwald School site and its restrictive acts from the rest. He estimates that the remaining 5.6 acres between West New York and West Indiana Avenues, which includes four classroom buildings, the Cafeteria and Blanchie Carter Discovery Park, would be worth $ 540,000 – or just over $ 100,000 an acre. – as a potential residential development with 54 lots.

But demolishing existing buildings and adding infrastructure would likely cost over $ 1 million, rendering the site worthless for new development. For future educational use using existing buildings, the appraisal values ​​this parcel at $ 325,000.

Hensley argues that the board should only consider selling the five acres on the corner of Carlisle and West New York, the former 1924 Rosenwald School site that gives the campus historic value, to the land trust. This site includes the auditorium which was part of the separate high school at West Southern Pines.

He suggested that as part of a planned unit development, the campus could be redeveloped in a way that honors the history of West Southern Pines and ensures maximum sale value for most of the property.

“This would put protections in place to protect residents of West Southern Pines from displacement due to rising property values,” he said. property and people don’t make excuses to try to make things that aren’t historic.

For the rest of the campus, he suggested that the school board make a commercial zoning change in an attempt to obtain a higher price through an open tendering process.

“Then if the City of Southern Pines denies it and then passes that zoning over to the Southern Pines Land Trust, I think we would have an opportunity to recover damages from the City of Southern Pines,” Hensley said.

“If they grant it, that’s great. Then we’ll get $ 7, maybe $ 8 million that we can use to renovate our schools…. 8 million dollars of people is not a small amount.

To sell to a for-profit entity like Jackson’s, the school board would first need to solicit bids from the general public. An offer must be valid for 10 days without a higher offer before the board can consider accepting it.

Board member Ed Dennison expressed suspicion over Hensley’s estimates of the property’s value on Monday. Dennison cited the currently ongoing sale of Aberdeen Primary for about $ 160,000 less than its original valuation. The Aberdeen and Southern Pines primary campuses initially valued approximately $ 630,000. Aberdeen’s assessment was based on this school’s potential as housing for low-income people, but the campus is too far from shops and other basic amenities to qualify for federal grants for this purpose.

Dennison also expressed a vote of confidence in the land trust’s plans for preschool and after-school enrichment programs to help students stay on track academically.

“We have a lot of responsibilities as a school board, but doing what is best to help educate our children, especially those who are economically disadvantaged and at risk, is more important than potentially getting more money for them. sell a property, ”Dennison said.

“Note that I said potentially, because with the experience we’ve had with Aberdeen Primary I’m not sure the numbers you’ve heard are correct.”

Other board members have shown little interest in pursuing a zoning change or continuing to discuss how the property might be subdivided.

“I think we have to make a decision on this,” said Stacey Caldwell. “Either we reverse the offers or we give the land trust what they asked for. “

Board member Robert Levy is supportive of the property remaining a potential site for a future college or preschool program. He and Hensley both raised issues with the Southern Pines Land and Housing Trust‘s stated goal of providing housing for minority teachers as potentially discriminatory.

Board chair Libby Carter was also not convinced the school could be worth $ 8 million and expressed a preference for working with the land trust.

“The numbers Mr. Hensley can quote are most impressive. Maybe it could be dezoned and become a commercial zone, ”she said.

“As the Town of Southern Pines has now supported the land trust and will participate in the purchase of the property at appraised value, I don’t think they are as likely to want to pursue the rezoning for us to do. then put back on the market.

The Moore County Board of Education is scheduled to begin its public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the auditorium at Union Pines High.

On Monday, Carter said she intended to resume application of the board’s ongoing public consultation policy, which limits this period to 30 minutes before board action and an additional 30 minutes at the time of the board’s action. end of the meeting. However, this period could be extended by a majority vote when the board adopts its agenda.

Anyone wishing to comment in person can register from 5:45 p.m. Those wishing to comment remotely can register to do so between 5:45 p.m. and 6:25 p.m. on Mondays via a form on the Moore County Schools website or by calling (910) 944-3171. Full instructions are available in the meeting agenda at ncmcs.org.


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