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Kannapolis might reopen bid process for Second Creek land

KANNAPOLIS — The Kannapolis City Council will decide Monday whether to accept an uncontested offer to buy the last remaining parcel of Second Creek land, or reopen bidding to see if a higher offer comes in.
In December, longtime tenant Chris Hoffner, owner of Hoffner Organic Farms in Mt. Ulla, and investor Wendy Biggs-Ratcliffe with New Spirit Farmland Partnerships offered $602,000 for the 191-acre parcel off White Road.
The required upset bidding period — extended due to the Christmas holidays — ended Dec. 31. No other offers were made.
But city staff members noted, in a report to City Council members presented along with Monday’s meeting agenda, that some would like a second chance to bid.
“It appears that there are possibly two potential bidders that may consider bids should the process be restarted,” the report states.
Monday, council members may vote to accept the current bid. In place of the year-to-year lease with the city, Biggs-Ratcliffe would reportedly lease to the Hoffners for up to 15 years.
They would also have first refusal if the land was ever put up for sale.
Or, the council could vote to reject the bid on the grounds that “extenuating circumstances, including but not limited to the holiday season, prevented a competitive bidding process,” according to a draft rejection resolution prepared by city staff and included with the report.
The city may also choose not to sell the land at all.
In a December 20 interview, Chris Hoffner told the Post his family leases the land for grazing their dairy and beef cattle, and for crops.
He said losing the ability to lease the land may mean selling off the herd. The offer, Hoffner said, was meant to provide long-term certainty.
Reached by phone Saturday evening, Hoffner said he was strongly opposed to re-opening bidding, saying that other bidders had had their chance.
Doing so, he said, would be unfair to the New Spirit investors who “have a lot of time and money invested in this.”
As for extenuating circumstances, Hoffner compared the upset bidding process to a traditional land auction.
“If you have an auction and it’s raining that day, the guy selling the land would be upset,” Hoffner said.
“But the people that are looking at really buying it, they’re going to be there,” he said.

Phone calls to council members brought a mix of responses.
Mayor Pro Tem Gene McCombs said he would wait for Monday’s discussion before deciding how to vote.
“I want to see what information is out there, and see who shows up,” McCombs said.
McCombs will preside at Monday’s meeting. Mayor Bob Misenheimer is at home recovering from heart surgery.
Similarly, Councilman Darrell Hinnant said, “I’ve not formed a preconceived opinion,” adding that he wants to make sure water quality is protected above all else.
Kannapolis draws water from Second Creek. The land in question was originally purchased for a reservoir that was never built.
Councilman Roger Haas said, “I haven’t really formed an opinion, but I tend to lean toward selling it to the folks who’ve already made the bid.”
He said the Hoffners had been good tenants, sharing an interest in protecting the land that’s part of the Second Creek watershed.
But Councilman Randy Cauthen favored considering other possible offers.
“If there’s other interest in (the land), I’d like to see the city benefit as much as possible,” Cauthen said.
Councilman Ryan Dayvault said he needed to review the matter before making a decision, but spoke favorably of the Hoffners as tenants.
“If we do vote to accept it, I think it’s great that it will maintain its traditional character as farmland,” Dayvault said.
Regardless of who buys the land, protective covenants preventing development and uses other than farming will remain in place.
For his part, Hoffner said he, wife Tara and others will be at the meeting to voice their opinion.
And Robert Karp, who heads Wisconsin-based New Spirit, wrote a letter to council members asking them to accept the bid.
In the letter, distributed with the report, Karp writes that the offer of $602,000 was made “on the basis of an objective, third party appraisal,” and the sale meets both “the long term goals of the City and of the local farming community.”
The Kannapolis City Council meets Monday at 6 p.m. at the Kannapolis Train Station, 201 S. Main St.

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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