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Health alliance taking over property as eminent domain claims Kannapolis building; homes could be next

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS ó A paint store, a career center and four homes, all across the street from the N.C. Research Campus, must move to make way for a new public health department.
The Cabarrus Health Alliance will use its power of eminent domain to condemn a building shared by Sherwin-Williams and the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College career center.
So far, the health alliance has not condemned any of the homes also located on the block of prime real estate, attractive because of its proximity to the new biotechnology complex.
But it’s a possibility.
This type of condemnation is different from declaring a property unfit for human habitation.
The health alliance has the power to seize private property for public use, much like the removal of a home to construct a highway. The process is called condemnation.
Health alliance director Dr. William F. Pilkington said he hopes to avoid serving notice of eminent domain. “I’d just rather not use it,” Pilkington said. “It’s almost always successful, but it leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.”
One of the four homeowners already has agreed to sell, Pilkington said. Negotiations continue with the others through a third-party real estate agent, he said.
The homes, most of which are used as rental property, are at 600 W. B St., 340 Mooresville Highway, 330 Mooresville Highway and 313 Juniper St.
Eminent domain was a last resort for the health alliance, which must leave its current location to make way for a social services expansion and gave up trying to buy space on the Research Campus itself due to high cost. No other property met its needs, said Pilkington, who has never used eminent domain before.
The health alliance will receive $15 million from publicly financed bonds, but only if it builds on or adjacent to the Research Campus.
The health alliance must pay fair market value for condemned properties. That price is determined by the appraised tax value, Pilkington said, which is between $80,000 and $120,000 for each home and about $2.3 million for the Sherwin-Williams building.
The paint store and an abandoned bank will be torn down in about six months, but the homes could stand for more than a year because those lots will become parking, he said.
“We will work with the landlords,” he said.
Renters contacted Wednesday at two of the houses said they don’t want to be forced from their homes.
“I think it’s a little ridiculous,” said Lynn Smith, who has rented the home at 340 Mooresville Highway for seven years. “I didn’t know they were taking my house.”
Smith said she was planning to move this summer anyway.
Janice Martin has rented 600 W. B St. for three years. She lives there with her two daughters and one grandchild.
“It upsets me,” said Martin, who is unemployed. “That’s like putting us out on the street.”
Both tenants said they believe their landlords are not aware of the situation. The homeowners could not be reached for comment.
The condemned building shared by Sherwin-Williams and the R3 Career Center is owned by David H. Murdock, founder of the N.C. Research Campus.
“We don’t plan on fighting,” Lynne Scott Safrit, president of campus developer Castle & Cooke North Carolina, wrote in an e-mail to the Post.
Safrit said she is working on finding another temporary location for the career center, which pays no rent to Murdock’s real estate company. Eventually, the career center will have a permanent home in the future Rowan-Cabarrus Community College building on the Research Campus.
“We would be happy to work with (Sherwin-Williams) on a new location if they are interested in doing so,” Safrit wrote.
A woman who answered the phone at Sherwin-Williams headquarters said she was instructed not to comment.
The health alliance’s new 70,000-square-foot building will occupy a prime spot, overlooking the 350-acre biotech campus from a naturally elevated area.
Plus, the formal entrance to the $1.5 billion complex will be from Mooresville Road, where the new health department will stand. The campus should open this summer.
Castle & Cooke tried to find another spot for the health alliance, but the properties were all 1 or 2 miles from campus, Pilkington said.
The properties would have qualified for the bond money, he said, “but we might as well have been in Concord.
“We want researchers to walk to our building, and we want to walk to theirs.”
At least eight universities will have a presence on the campus, as well as many private companies researching health and nutrition.
Pilkington said he hopes to break ground this fall and move into the new building in the summer of 2011.
Joanie Morris contributed to this story.

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