County tentatively approves offer on vacant West Innes building

Published 12:05 am Thursday, September 8, 2016

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — Rowan County Commissioners hope to avoid a potentially expensive demolition process by selling a large, vacant building on West Innes Street for $20,000.

Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved the start of a bidding process for a building at 1236 W. Innes St. and two adjacent parcels of land.  The building formerly housed a number of county departments including Social Services.

Efforts have intensified recently to sell the building, but interest has been nearly nonexistent. The latest offer comes from a company owned by NASCAR driver Mike Wallace, who has offered $20,000. If the sale goes through, Wallace will receive a rectangular-shaped piece of property bordered by Willow Street, Old West Innes Street and West Innes Street. He’ll also receive land that currently contains a large parking lot.

Tuesday’s vote serves as a tentative approval for Wallace’s offer. With the start of an upset bid process, commissioners have tentatively accepted the Wallace offer. However, other interested parties will have a chance to beat the $20,000 amount. After the upset bid process ends, commissioners will need to give final approval to Wallace’s offer.

Commenting before he voted for the sale, Commissioner Craig Pierce said it’s important to recognize the potential cost to demolish the building. In July, commissioners voted to seek bids on demolishing the building. Because it received the Wallace offer, Rowan County never solicited bids for the project, which would require asbestos removal. County commissioners have estimated the cost would be a few hundred thousand dollars or more.

“Well, I think we would be remiss if we didn’t calculate into the price of the sale what it would cost for the county to take the building down, have it hauled off, the land graded, and then we still have to sell it,” Pierce said. “In my past history, I bought a church one time and I had to have it taken down, thanks to the city the day I bought it, and it was quite expensive and it wasn’t anywhere near the size of (1236 W. Innes St.), and that was 10 years ago.”

He guessed the complete demolition of the building would be more than $250,000.

“If we actually figure that in with the $20,000, I don’t know that this is such a bad deal for the county if we really look at what the real cost would be if we turned the offer down,” he said.

Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said the $20,000 offer “makes my head hurt,” but agreed with Pierce’s statement. If commissioners decided to tear down the building and the cost of doing so was $250,000, Edds questioned whether the land would then be worth $250,000.

The last time commissioners received an offer for the West Innes building, it was $300,000 from a local church. That offer, however, never went through. The Wallace offer is significantly lower than the tax value and the only other offer commissioners have received. It may, however, be what the market values the land at.

In his offer, Wallace asked that the county value the land at the cost of the purchase price. Currently, the three parcels of land Wallace wants to purchase have a tax value of roughly $1.53 million. During Tuesday’s meeting, county attorney Jay Dees said the property value would need to be appealed through the county tax assessor’s office.

In other news from Wednesday’s meeting:

• Commissioners gave the Rowan County Animal Shelter the ability to reduce the adoption rate by up to 80 percent for a limited number of special events.

The animal shelter would be able to lower adoption fees 12 days per budget year. However, Animal Services Director Bob Pendergrass told commissioners on Tuesday that the shelter may decide to conduct multiple adoption events in the same month and no events in other months. Events would be more frequent in some months because of an increased intake.

The cost reduction aims to make it more enticing to adopt shelter animals.

At one point, Pendergrass was asked what the reduced price would mean for the county’s spay or neuter vouchers that come with an adopted shelter animal. Pendergrass said it means Rowan County would lose money on adoptions during special events.

Addressing a recent failed state inspection, Pierce then rhetorically asked whether the special adoption events would “enhance our ability to keep the shelter clean and keep the euthanization rate low.”

• Commissioners approved a rental agreement at West End Plaza that give the Rowan-Salisbury School System the ability to use the facility for free without prior approval, raises rental rates and imposes additional restrictions on events that serve alcohol

The only contentious part of the new agreement during Tuesday’s meeting was the provision giving RSS the ability to use West End Plaza four times per year for free without prior approval. Pierce said the new central office building may contain enough space for some events. As a result, he wanted to be able to review events before RSS could hold them for free.

Commissioner Mike Caskey said he was worried that four times might not be enough for the school system.

After discussion, Pierce offered his own motion to approve the new West End Plaza rental policy without automatically giving RSS the ability to use the former JC Penney’s building for free. It failed by a 4-1 vote, with only Pierce voting in favor.

Edds offered a motion to approve the policy as presented and it passed by a 4-1 count.

• Commissioners approved a number of zoning matters.

At 3320 Deal Road, commissioners approved a request from Mark Butler, who asked that a 3.3-acre tract of land be rezoned from rural agricultural to neighborhood business.

On the 900 block of North Enochville Avenue, commissioners approved a request from Jerry Murph, who asked that a small tract of land be rezoned from rural agricultural to neighborhood business.

On Auction Drive, a service road adjacent to I-85 near Webb Road, commissioners approved a request from David Wood, who asked that 3 acres of land be rezoned from rural agricultural to the county’s commercial, business and industrial classification.

Commissioners also approved various changes to align county ordinances with state laws.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.