Saturday, December 24, 2005

Eminent Domain In Brunswick County

Brunswick Co. Commissioners vote to condemn land for public school, park
Dec 22, 2005, 03:55 PM EST

BRUNSWICK COUNTY -- After several years of searching for a site for a county park and also facing a surge in student enrollment, Brunswick County Commissioners voted Monday night to proceed with condemning land in order to build a public school and park.

The new school would be for students pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, said County Attorney Huey Marshall.

The 159.7 acres is located between Stone Chimney and Stanley roads and north of Cedar Grove Road SW, not far from the Holden Beach area.

The county has offered the property owner, Jerry Hailey, of Cary, $1.597 million for the property, or $10,000 an acre.

Jeff Stokley, of Pamlico Creek Partners, LLC and representing the property owner, told commissioners before Monday night's vote, "We are not here to be adversarial. We are here tonight to ask you to hold off on the condemnation of the property."

Commissioners Chairman David Sandifer said, "I, for one, am not interested in stopping the condemnation procedure."

Commissioners voted unanimously to proceed with it.

Sandifer did tell Stokley, "We'd like to sit down and talk with you."

Stokley had suggested that the county would need 30 to 40 acres for a school and 60 to 70 acres for a park.

But Marshall had sent a letter on Nov. 18 stating that the nearly 160 acres would be condemned by the county 30 days from the date of the letter, or last Sunday, Dec. 18.

"After those 30 days pass, the county can file, and possession shifts to the condemner," Marshall explained after the meeting. Then the previous property owner "gets divested of title, and all they argue about then is price."

A jury could decide the final price, he said.

Stokley, whose other two development partners were with him at Monday night's regular board meeting, said Pamlico Partners LLC, of Wilmington, wants to work with the county to develop that and surrounding properties. Pamlico Partners has been working with Hailey for seven months on a plan to develop the property, Stokley said.

"Our partnership is under contract with Hailey to develop houses," he said in a phone interview Tuesday.

"We're going to negotiate with the county and make sure what part of the land they are actually going to use for the park and the school, and then we'll have to plan around it, assuming that we come to a fair and equitable price.

"If we don't come to a fair and equitable price, we would go to court. At this point, I'm hopefully optimistic that they will not push it to that. All we want is a fair price."

Marshall said the county has met once with the developers and will meet again in negotiations.

The county has the power of eminent domain to take private property for a public use.

Marshall said that when the county files, he has to give the clerk of court a check for the amount offered $1.597 million.

During the public hearing Monday night, Varnamtown Alderman Ennis Swain said that he is not totally against the proposed school-park site, but cautioned county commissioners that a full-fledged landfill was on that site and that one of his constituents voiced concern that "a known drug location is not too far away" from the property where the school and park would be built.

After the meeting, Marshall said county officials are well aware of the former landfill.

"We can't use the landfill," he said. "We're going to take it over."

He said it was once a county landfill and probably contains a lot of "dead washing machines and old furniture." The landfill was closed prior to 1974, he said.

"There is a road into the old landfill and the old gravel pit," Marshall said. As for the proposed school and park, "There is access to Stanley Road."

Swain said he farmed the land in 1963 or '64.

"If you're going to put a school in that location, a school and a park is a good choice," Swain said. "It may be the best you can do. This has been ongoing for about four years. Property is running out."

The Varnamtown Board of Aldermen is already drafting a letter to send to county commissioners in support of the school and park in that area, said Mayor Judy Galloway.

"I'm looking forward to it," Galloway said Tuesday. "I want my grandchildren to go there."

I don't like eminent domain but in this case it is following the law as it was written and not as the Supreme Court says it was intended. The good thing about this case is that a school and park are the reason for eminent domain and not a subdivision or office building. Another good thing is that no one is being forced to move out of their home.

posted by David at 5:55 PM :: Permalink ::

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