Sell or use it?

Published 6:31 pm Sunday, February 17, 2013

AHOSKIE – Plans of how to dispose of or use a parcel of land purchased by Ahoskie officials warrants further study.

At their Tuesday morning meeting, members of the Ahoskie Town Council voted to table an issue of what to do with town-owned property on Pembroke Avenue, the site of a former pool owned and operated by a private group. The pool, complete with a bathhouse, has been closed for decades and that property was sold last year to the town.

“This was brought up at the last Council meeting; you wanted some information on what we can do with the old pool property,” said Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond.

To gain the necessary information, Hammond said he spoke with Frayda Bluestein, a professor of Public Law at the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“She advised of a state statute that cites what we can and cannot do in regards of a local government entity disposing of real property,” Hammond said.

Selling that town-owned property can be legally handled in one of three ways – advertising for sealed bids, negotiated offer through the advertisement of upset bids, or by public auction.

The town cannot dispose of the property by using a private negotiation and sale or by exchanging it for another parcel.

Hammond said the sealed bid process must be advertised for 30 days, then open the bids and either sell to the highest bidder or reject the bid and repeat the process.

The upset bid process is a bit lengthier. There, the town receives an offer to purchase the property and the amount of that bid is advertised in the newspaper where any interested party can choose to “upset” the first bid by making a higher offer. That process is repeated until there is no other upset bid over a pre-determined length of time. However, the Town Council still reserves the right to accept or reject the highest bidder.

A sale by public auction requires the Town Council to adopt a resolution and publish a notice no less than 30 days prior to the date of the auction. Like the first two options, Council members have the right to accept or reject the highest bid received at the auction.

The property, according to assessed tax value, is worth $93,298. The town purchased it for $11,002 and has invested $15,600 to fill in the pool, pack and grade the dirt.

“You can decide to set aside this property and either utilize it recreational purposes, an outdoor basketball court or a dog park, or leave it vacant, fenced in, for future use,” Hammond said. “You also have the option to sell the property, which would return it to the tax base.”

Councilwoman Elaine Myers noted that the property was not large enough for use as land on which to build a town library – an ongoing issue of discussion among the Council.

“If there was room for parking, it may be just big enough to build the library,” Hammond noted. “There is an option to use part of the old high school football field as parking for the library, if it was to be built there.”

“I don’t know just how much land we would need to build the library, but I agree, even if it’s built there, there’s not enough room for a parking lot for the library,” Myers said. “Are there other properties in mind for the library?”

Hammond said there was one parcel that could be considered on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive near Sunset Street, in the general area of the new Ahoskie Fire Station now under construction. There has also been discussion about building the library on an empty lot adjacent to Southern Bank on Main Street. That lot is not owned by the town.

“The piece of property on MLK is a little bit larger than this one (at the old pool),” Hammond said. “There’s enough room there for a parking lot.”

The discussion turned to what size building was needed for the proposed new library. That information would allow Council members to decide where it needed to be constructed.

“I think we need more information on that building size before we decide to dispose of a piece of property that could be used to construct the library,” said Councilwoman Linda Blackburn.

“I say let’s sit on this until we have such information,” said Councilman Maurice Vann, who then motioned to table the issue.

Blackburn seconded the motion, which was approved without objection.

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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