Kannapolis to seek bids for land

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 25, 2011

By Hugh Fisher
KANNAPOLIS – The preservation of the final 708 acres of Kannapolis’ Second Creek property may not happen as originally planned.
At Monday’s meeting, the Kannapolis City Council voted unanimously to begin an upset bidding process following an offer by Waxhaw resident Ronald Lee Horton to purchase the land for $1.4 million.
In 2006, the city began selling a total of 2,849 acres along Second Creek in Rowan County.
The goal was to protect the land from development.
Two tracts were sold to the state of North Carolina via the Land Trust for Central North Carolina, with easements in place to prevent most any commercial or residential use.
But with the economic downturn, City Manager Mike Legg said, the Land Trust’s ability to make those sales to the state disappeared.
And the city’s contract with the Land Trust to sell the land has lapsed.
“They just couldn’t make it to the finish line,” Legg told council members.
But the Land Trust now has funds available to complete the purchase itself, without state involvement.
They had planned to buy the land at the original price of just over $1 million.
Horton, who left before the council meeting concluded and could not be reached for comment, told members that he’d heard of the parcel of land and wanted to purchase it for hunting and agricultural purposes
Legg said Horton’s offer to buy the land included an undisclosed sum as a deposit and an agreement to abide by the conservation terms of previous sales of Second Creek land to private owners.
Two of the five tracts have been the object of those sales since the recession began.
In 2008, a 368-acre tract was sold to Smith Moore LLC for $1 million.
And a sale to resident Alan Hoffner of a 191-acre tract for $1 million is pending.
Both of those agreements place strict limitations on the uses of the land.
Limited agricultural use is permitted, as well as a limited number of home sites.
Those must be situated at a safe distance from the creek and outside of the floodplain.
Horton has requested that up to seven home sites be permitted on the 708-acre tract, and that farming be permitted as well.
“I have no immediate plans for any homes … I believe you are farming the land now and I plan to continue that,” Horton told the council.
Horton said that the allowance for seven homesites was there “for the future,” without elaborating.
He requested the city start an upset bid process for this tract, which can be done since the original agreement with the Land Trust has expired.
Following the vote to do so, Legg will return to the City Council in February to carry out that formal procedure.
“Obviously, the state or the Land Trust, or any other individual, can submit a bid if you choose to go through the upset bid process,” Legg said.
Legg told the council that selling the land with the limitations Horton has agreed to would still accomplish the goal of preserving most of the land.
And it would help the city’s finances. Under current policy, revenue from selling Second Creek land will not be used to fund the budget.
Instead, it will go into the city’s fund balance – the equivalent of Kannapolis’ savings account – to ensure financial stability in the future.
Legg spoke positively of the potential sale to Horton.
“I think that in the end, the win-win is the city gets a larger dollar amount for this (land),” Legg said. “I think the objective of the original agreement is met.”
Reached via e-mail after the meeting, Jason Walser, executive director of the Land Trust, said he was “quite disappointed” that the city didn’t decide to sell to his group outright.
But, Walser wrote, “we are still encouraged that Kannapolis has held true to trying to protect the natural and cultural resources of the area through restrictive covenants.”
“The primary objective is, and always has been, to ensure protection of the natural resources in that beautiful and culturally rich section of western Rowan County,” Walser wrote.
Walser said he looks forward to working with the eventual purchaser to achieve that preservation goal.

In other business
The Kannapolis City Council:
• Council members approved a municipal agreement with the N.C. Dept. of Transportation for construction of a grade-separated railroad crossing at Rogers Lake Road.
The construction has been anticipated for over a decade.
Kannapolis Public Works Director Wilmer Melton said a $1.1 million federal earmark, combined with funds from the state’s highway trust fund, will allow work to go forward.
He said the project would go up for bids in April or May, with construction beginning this summer.
• A unanimous vote awarded Hall Contracting Corp. of Charlotte the contract for improvements to the dam at Kannapolis Lake.
Repairs include rehabilitating a concrete spillway and replacing and repairing pipes and a valve at the dam.
Hall’s bid of $619,995 was the second-lowest. The low bidder, Greensboro-based Paul Howard Construction, withdrew after finding errors in their cost estimate.
The total cost of the project, including design, construction and administrative costs, is $959,366.
• On the request of Councilman Ken Geathers, Mayor Bob Misenheimer asked for the formation of a committee to identify ways to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In recent years, several residents have requested that the city rename a street in honor of King.
Misenheimer said the five-person committee should consider all possible ways to honor the slain civil rights leader.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.