Boy Scouts turn down Gates County offer

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 23, 2008

GATESVILLE – Despite being turned down by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), at least one Gates County official sees a bright future for development in the county.

On Thursday of last week, county leaders were informed that the BSA had removed Gates County from its list of sites the national organization was seeking to build a permanent home for their National Jamboree and other activities.

Gates County Planning and Development Director Randy Cahoon broke the bad news to the county commissioners, but yet found a silver lining despite the rejection.

“While we are disappointed to learn that the Boy Scouts are no longer considering Gates County for their project, we learned a lot about ourselves throughout this process, the biggest thing being that we are now ready, more than ever before, to attract developers,” Cahoon said in a telephone interview with the Gates County Index.

Cahoon said the BSA is seeking 5,000 acres with water access for a permanent home for its National Jamboree. The selected site is to become the home of a museum, visitor’s center and a high-adventure center. It will need access to horse trails, hiking trails and paddle trails.

As part of the proposal, three hotels will be built on site as well as a wastewater treatment plant and an urgent care facility. The site is so large that it will need its own police/security department.

While Gates County possessed a majority of what the BSA was looking for, Cahoon said there were several explanations that cover the county didn’t make the cut. They included:

On July 11, the deadline was supposed to occur for site submissions.

When the date came, the consulting firm had only received a handful of proposals, including Gates County, and several state developers had asked for an extension.

The date was reset for a week later. By the time that deadline rolled around, the BSA had received 75 offers.

“That really titled the playing field,” Cahoon said. “While we may have been a front-runner initially, the group of submissions they received after ours greatly reduced the appeal of ours.”

Gates County’s proposal did not show existing four-lane roads, existing hospitals in the county or existing sewer/wastewater treatment plants.

“What we presented were NC DOT’s plan to widen US 13 to four lanes by the time the project was completed, a list of hospitals in the region (none closer than 15 n 30 minutes away) and proof of a wastewater treatment plant feasibility study,” Cahoon said. “In short, we didn’t have the infrastructure they sought in place.”

The project required a minimum of 3,000 acres, but preferred 5,000 acres at a maximum. The land under consideration (in the Sand Banks area of the county) is owned by International Paper (IP) and Cahoon said they wanted to sell the entire tract, 9,500 acres.

“The consultant felt that 9,500 acres was too much land and didn’t want to assume the responsibility of disposing of the unwanted acreage,” Cahoon noted. “IP was asked to consider breaking up the set and selling off only half of their holdings.

The deal they offered was all or none.”

Despite the setback, Cahoon said he was encouraged that the county now has a game plan to use in dealing with future development.

“We had to start from scratch in putting this proposal together,” Cahoon said. “The good news is that we now have a book, a brag book so to speak, that can be used for future proposals. We can show what we have so offer. When a project comes through, we can inform a developer of what we can bring to the table.”

Cahoon said he felt confident that this experience of dealing with a developer of this magnitude (the Boy Scouts of America) has prepared him to understand how to “play the game.”

“Now we know how to play at this level…the next time we’re called up to bat I feel we can knock it out of the park,” Cahoon stressed.

He offered thanks to the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Northeast North Carolina Commission for their assistance in helping Gates County attract the BSA’s attention.

Now, the BSA is concentrating on a “short list” of 15 possible sites, none of which are in North Carolina. The project’s timetable is short n site selection by December of this year and the land purchased by January 2009. Construction would begin in the spring of 2009 with completion by January 2013.