The county has hit a roadblock in efforts to purchase a 52-acre parcel of land in Quincy.
The first public hearing on the matter was held on Tuesday, December 6.
The property is located at 2426 Pat Thomas Parkway.
In September the board initially voted to pay the seller a refundable deposit in the amount of $20,000, which became non-refundable last month when the board voted to extend its purchased option agreement with the seller.
The $20,000 will be deducted from the final purchase price of $750,000.00 if the board does vote to purchase property.
“The property today is worth about $865,000,” County Administrator Ed Dixon said during the December 16 board meeting.
The property was appraised by Cureton Johnson & Associates.
Dixon said the county has had discussions in the past two years on how the county can develop interest in economic development around the four Interstate 10 access points in the county.
He said county officials have also been discussing ways to improve affordable housing for average citizens.
“We know houses are going for $300,000 and $400,000 and that’s not the average Gadsden County family,” Dixon.
The administrator said the county has met with the Housing Finance Agency. Dixon said that’s a program that goes through developers, not through the county.
Dixon said another goal is to improve infrastructure to attract private commercial businesses.
“This opportunity on Pat Thomas Parkway, we believe is one of those opportunities,” Dixon said. “One, we hope, of many of taking emptiness just sitting there and creating a site opportunity for business – public and private – to come build in Gadsden County.”
Dixon said the difference between investing in a housing versus economic development is a house may bring in $4,000 to $7,000 a year in taxes, commercial properties can sometimes quadruple that.
Dixon said the property could serve as a conference center, large hotel and a single-family home subdivision.
The county administrator said the property would also be the home of a new sheriff’s office, emergency management and county governmental complex.
“Again, it is about providing opportunity for affordable housing but you’re also creating income to come back into the city, so this program is paying for itself,” Dixon explained.
He added that a lot in Magnolia Forest, just east of Quincy, sells for $40,000.
He said every time the county sells one of those lots, it will be a winning opportunity.
“What we hope to be able to do is to lower that overall cost for our citizens to find housing,” Dixon said.
Commissioner Eric Hinson asked Dixon if the county received appraisals from any other companies; he also asked how much the property appraiser appraised the property at.
Hinson asked Dixon if he discussed the property with the county’s property appraiser at all.
Dixon said he had not.
Commissioner Brenda Holt said the property appraiser’s value of the property is less than the actual value, for tax purposes.
Hinson then asked if the county has a process for selecting and purchasing property.
Dixon said the county follows stated and local ordinances when purchasing property.
“Two weeks ago, I asked, ‘the why’ and the ‘why’ was to move the county building here. Now today, ‘the why’ is to make it commercialized and use it for affordable housing and everything else,” Hinson said.
Commissioner Kimblin NeSmith explained that there is enough property on the lot for mixed-use.
Commissioner Alonzetta Simpkins said her only issue with the purchase is a body shop on the property that is valued at $350,000.
“We’re not going to do anything with this body shop that’s carrying a value of $350,000,” Simpkins said.
Simpkins said she does, however, love the idea of more affordable housing in Gadsden County, but she said she wants to make sure the board is making sound smart decisions when it comes to spending.
An issue with County Clerk Nicholas Thomas has also arisen regarding the property.
Thomas, who did not attend the meeting, sent an email to the board stating he would not authorize the purchase unless the county gets a second independent property appraisal.
The board voted to get a second independent appraisal and will hold a workshop on the matter on Tuesday, January 4.
The board will vote on whether the county will purchase the property during the first regularly scheduled board meeting of the new year, immediately following the workshop.
Erin Hill – Gadsden County News Service