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Wednesday, 25 July 2007 00:00

Haywood pulls out after bid for recreation land tops $1 million

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By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer

Haywood County commissioners last week put a halt to their bidding for a 22-acre tract of land in Jonathan Creek after opposing parties skyrocketed the price to more than $1 million.

The county has placed three bids on the property — which would have been used for a recreation park and ballfields — since early June. Their most recent bid of $888,211 was trumped by Hemlock Development with a bid of $1 million.

To keep bidding, the county would have had to offer at least $1.05 million for the land, some of which is located in a floodplain. That was too much for commissioners, who finally drew the line amidst heated debate at a special meeting Thursday (July 19).

In a split 3-2 vote, the commissioners decided to pull out of the bidding war. Mary Ann Enloe, Skeeter Curtis and Bill Upton all voted in favor of withdrawing from the bidding process, while Kirk Kirkpatrick and Chairman Larry Ammons dissented.

“I felt that was the perfect piece of property. The necessary services of sewer and water and good access to Jonathan Creek yielded it a perfect place for activities,” Ammons explained.

To other commissioners, however, shelling out more than $45,000 an acre for the tract was too excessive.

“When we began bidding on this, it was a bargain,” said Enloe, who vowed to support bidding as long as it remained under the $1 million mark. “The taxpayers can only pay so much.”

“Private enterprise is interested in the property, and there is nothing wrong with that. They have deep pockets. The county has no pockets except yours and mine. In my opinion, it was time to stop this,” Enloe said.

Enloe assured that despite her vote to halt bidding on the property, she still wants to see recreation facilities in the Maggie Valley and Jonathan Creek area.

Maggie Valley officials had passed a resolution of support for the county’s purchase of the property, and Mayor Roger McElroy came to the July 19 meeting to offer to extend the town’s sewer lines to the land should it be used for a recreation park. At a public forum on a proposed land-use plan last month, Maggie Valley citizens expressed the need for a recreation park with ballfields in the area so teams wouldn’t have to travel to other towns to compete in sports.

In contrast, the county’s decision to bid on the Jonathan Creek property left officials in Canton scratching their heads. Canton already has a recreation park — the International Spors Complex — which could strongly benefit from additional county funding.

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