Option to purchase

Published 10:23 am Thursday, January 19, 2012

WINTON – The Hertford County Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed to enter an option agreement that may lead to the purchase of the Percy Bunch property near Murfreesboro for the purpose of building the county’s new courthouse.

That decision, which was reached after five separate motions, came following a closed session of the board at their regularly scheduled Tuesday night meeting.

The option agreement, as explained by Charles “Chuck” Revelle who serves as legal counsel to the board, does not obligate the county in the purchase of the Bunch property.

“This is not a contract to purchase the land,” Revelle told the R-C News-Herald during a Wednesday morning interview. “An option agreement binds the seller, not the buyer. As it states in the option agreement, the buyer may elect to purchase or not purchase the property for cause or no cause.”

The county will pay Bunch $100, money that basically prevents the landowner from renegotiating the previous terms agreed to (the purchase of approximately 25 acres for $7,500 per acre) or offering the same property to another prospective buyer. If the county decides to proceed with purchasing the property, the $100 will be applied to the purchase price. If there is a decision not to proceed with the purchase, Bunch keeps the $100.

Revelle said the option agreement gives the county 120 days in which to perform their “due diligence.” That includes title examination, utilities (to include mechanical and engineering studies) and environmental issues, to include soil testing.

“There’s no final designation of a site until all those things are done and you’re not going to exercise your option (to purchase) until all those things are done,” Revelle told the commissioners.

Following that period of time, the county may choose to exercise its option to purchase, after which county officials have a 60-day window to legally close the deal.

Tuesday’s decision didn’t come easily.

Upon reentering open session, Commissioner Howard Hunter III put a motion on the floor to enter into the option agreement for the Bunch property. Hunter supported the selection of that particular property when the board, at their Jan. 3 meeting, selected the Murfreesboro site from a list of two finalists. That motion died for the lack of a second.

Commissioner Ronald Gatling, who had supported the other finalist – the Pierce site (located at Frazier’s Crossroads west of Ahoskie) – at the Jan. 3 meeting, motioned to table the option agreement. Commissioner Johnnie Ray Farmer, who supported the Bunch property on Jan. 3, offered a second and that motion was approved by a 4-1 vote with Hunter in opposition.

Then came a series of back-to-back motions for the board to reconsider tabling the option agreement. Farmer made the initial motion, seconded by Commissioner Bill Mitchell, an original supporter of the Murfreesboro site. Gatling made the second motion for reconsideration; seconded by Hunter. Both motions passed without objection, leading to a motion by Hunter, seconded by Farmer, to enter the option agreement and payment of $100 to Bunch. That motion was also approved by a 5-0 vote.

Revelle told the News-Herald that he perhaps failed to properly explain the terms of the option agreement to the board, thus leading to the series of five motions.


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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