The game of hot potato among local governments over ownership of a parcel of land along Brevard Road and the French Broad River appears to be coming to an end.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved selling an undeveloped, 137-acre tract off Ferry Road for $5 million during its Jan. 9 meeting.
Buncombe County bought the property in 2015 for $6.8 million, which included a $3.4 million payment from the city of Asheville. The county purchased the land in the hope of convincing Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery to build its East Coast expansion in the area, but Deschutes ultimately decided to open the new location in Roanoke, Va.
The buyer is listed as Deep River South Development II LLC, based in South Carolina. The county stands to make a total of about $1.6 million from the deal — unless another buyer swoops in during the upset bid process, a period of 10 days in which interested parties can make higher offers for the property. Upset bids must increase the last bid by no less than 10 percent of the first $1,000 and 5 percent of the balance.
“If any bidder’s going to come in and upset it, they’re going to have to come in with a bid of $5,261,550,” said County Attorney Michael Frue. “So that process could go on and on until it goes 10 days with no further upset bid, and then the high bidder wins.”
“OK, so if anybody’s interested out there, this is spectacular property,” commission Chair Brownie Newman joked to the audience. “You’ve got a frontage on I-26, you’ve got the French Broad River.”
“There’s a shoe store,” Commissioner Ellen Frost chimed in.
“I mean, it’s close to everything,” Newman said.
Frue said other developers have nibbled at the site. “We’ve had a number look at it before as a potential economic development site or an industrial site, and it just didn’t really work right,” he said. “It’s very steep on some sides.” He added that only about 88 of the 137 acres are usable.
In order to make the property more appealing for developers, the county has worked with the city of Asheville to rezone the property from industrial to residential multifamily high-density, which Asheville City Council approved in November.
In response to a question by Commissioner Mike Fryar, Nathan Pennington, the county’s interim planning director, said the county doesn’t know exactly what will be developed on the property. “The city of Asheville would fully review any type of development application, because it’s fully within their jurisdiction,” Pennington said. “They have their own thresholds in terms of traffic studies, impact studies, and Asheville’s made some changes to the effect that just about every development is reviewed by City Council.”
The property has switched hands a few times in the past 20 years: The city of Asheville annexed the land in 1999 before selling it to Henderson County in 2002. Henderson County then sold the parcel to Buncombe County in 2015.
Commissioner Joe Belcher said the sale is good for the county, creating the potential for income in the future and conversations about tax relief down the line. “Putting this back on the tax rolls is a big move,” he said. “That’s a bigger move than the additional money than we’ll make from the sale of this.”
Funding for school projects
The county commission also unanimously approved recommendations from the School Capital Fund Commission for about $2.34 million in new projects that will be offset by savings of about $1.1 million from a roofing project at Ira B. Jones Elementary School.
Of the $2.34 million, the county will spend $475,000 to replace a freezer at the Buncombe County Schools central office, $750,000 to regrade the track and field at T.C. Roberson High School and about $1.1 million on an HVAC system at Ira B. Jones Elementary.
For the love of pets
During the county manager’s report, commissioners heard about efforts by the Asheville Humane Society to improve outcomes for pets in Buncombe County.
Since 2007, overall shelter intake and euthanasia rates have decreased while what it calls “live outcomes” have increased. However, for the period of July to December, the organization saw an approximately 12 percent rise in intakes from 2016 compared to the same period in 2017 — jumping from 3,120 to 3,510. Tracy Elliott, the executive director of the Asheville Humane Society, believes that increase in intakes could continue through this fiscal year.
At the same time, owner surrenders are continuing to decrease, dropping 13 percent for the same period. “So we are still succeeding at, when people are bringing their animals in to surrender them, providing the help they need to keep their animals,” Elliott said.
In fiscal year 2017, Asheville Humane Society’s live release rates — the percentage of animals leaving the shelter alive — was 93.18 percent. “The better news within that number, though, is every single adoptable, rehabilitatable and treatable animal is saved,” Elliott said. “The only animals that ever do not make it out of the shelter are those with irredeemable medical conditions that cannot be saved or those that are dangerous for the public.”
A full recording of the meeting can be found here. The county commission’s next meeting will be Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 5 p.m.