75 Grand

Published 10:50 am Friday, November 12, 2010

GATESVILLE – How much is the Sunbury School property worth?

That question prompted a discussion here last week during the regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Gates County Board of Commissioners. In the end, the board agreed to have the property placed on the market at $75,000.

What to do with the property has been the subject of numerous debates over the years. Two months ago, the commissioners listened to a presentation from Claudia Deviney, Director of the Northeast Regional Office for Preservation North Carolina. She made a pitch on behalf of her organization to find a buyer for the school.

“The Sunbury School is endangered property. We will market the property, find a buyer, negotiate a contract and make a rehabilitation agreement with the buyer. We receive the property from you, either through a donation or a purchase, and convey it to the buyer,” Deviney said at the board’s Sept. 20 meeting.

In October, the commissioners agreed to have Preservation North Carolina market the property. The only question left unanswered at that time was the price tag.

“When we left off on this issue last month, the board wanted Pitt (Godwin, a Gatesville attorney who serves as legal council to the Gates County Commissioners) and I to talk to Claudia to get a feeling about where we needed to go to set a price,” said Gates County Manager Toby Chappell at last week’s meeting. “Claudia’s opinion is that we need to set a price and not leave it open-ended to be negotiated. That gives Preservation North Carolina something to market from.

“The fear is that if we leave it to be negotiated and we have in our mind a $50,000 to $100,000 number some could perceive that we could be asking for $500,000 or a million, they just won’t know,” Chappell continued. “It leaves the potential that we may lose someone (an investor) because they think our number is significantly higher than it really is.”

Godwin made a comparison when offering his opinion on the asking price.

“If you want to sell your house you put it on the market for a little bit more than you would take for it; you know that in the beginning,” he noted. “That’s her (Deviney) thinking and I agree with that. I think this is the way to go. This way, those that are interested in the property will come forward. If you leave it negotiable, it may leave a bad taste in the mouth of a possible investor. Everybody needs to be on the same playing field…knowing what the beginning price is and work from there.”

Godwin reminded the board that whomever purchases the property will face a significant investment to make repairs (following Preservation North Carolina guidelines).

“That needs to be taken into consideration,” Godwin said of the repairs needed at the school.

Commission Chair Graham Twine asked what was the suggested asking price.

“Her (Deviney) number is in the $50,000 to $100,000 range, closer to the $50,000 end,” Chappell replied.

Commissioner Henry Jordan produced a copy of a Preservation North Carolina booklet, one advertising properties for sale.

“As I’ve gone through this book, I’ve seen a number of dilapidated and run-down schools offered for sale,” Jordan noted. “I saw some listed for up to $175,000.”

Jordan then noted the property tax assessment for the old Sunbury School, saying the land alone was valued at $50,000 (for the 6.74 acres the school is located on); $37,000 for the old parsonage property and $21,000 for the old Women’s Club property….all a part of the school and part of the marketing package.

“We’re talking about $100,000 for the land alone,” Jordan stated. “I don’t think we need to go below $75,000 (asking price).

Commissioner Carlton Nickens asked if the wastewater treatment plant at the school was part of the deal. He said if it was part of the package, would that affect Gates County’s future plans for the development of a wastewater system.

Chappell said the wastewater treatment system on the property was part of the selling package, adding that it was only a 6,000 gallon operating plant.

Jordan suggested the county could offer a covenant for the wastewater system with a potential buyer, saying that the county could have lifetime rights to the treatment plant in case it was needed in the future.

“Yes, that could be part of the deal once a potential buyer reaches the stage of wanting to work out a contract on the property,” Chappell said.

“Henry has made a good point about the raw value of the land,” Godwin said.

“I don’t think $75,000 is a bad number,” Chappell observed. “It’s right in the range of what she (Deviney) said.”

“If we did nothing, did not seek a buyer, think of how much it would cost us just to tear it down,” Commissioner Wade Askew said. “I think $75,000 is a fair asking price.”

Twine was of the same opinion, saying that he thought $75,000 was fair.

Jordan put that in the form of a motion, setting a starting price at $75,000 for Preservation North Carolina to market the property. It passed by a 5-0 vote.

Chappell added that a covenant between the county and the buyer in regards to potential future use of the school’s wastewater treatment plant could be worked out prior to a contract being signed.

It was also noted that the school gym, currently owned by the county for use as a public recreational facility, is not being offered for sale.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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