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Finally, Haywood gets an offer on a troublesome parcel

The parcel is a large, open area on the west side of Jonathan Creek Road. The parcel is a large, open area on the west side of Jonathan Creek Road. Haywood County GIS

Haywood County may have found a buyer for a county-owned 22-acre plot off Jonathan Creek, as long as everything goes smoothly during the lengthy due diligence period.

If the sale goes through, it would return the property to the tax rolls after a 15-year absence, provide badly-needed housing and earn the county a small profit on its investment. 

“This is meeting a big need in the county, and the taxpayers are getting their money back on the property, with some,” said Kevin Ensley, chairman of the Haywood County Board of Commissioners. “So that’s great.”

Quiet Creek Properties LLC, a Fletcher-based development firm, tendered an all-cash $1.8 million offer on the parcel, with the due diligence period extending through Nov. 21. 

The offer will be subject to the upset bid process outlined in North Carolina General Statutes, meaning the offer will be advertised beginning on June 8; prospective bidders would have 10 days to beat the offer by no less than 10% of the first $1,000 plus 5% of the remaining price. In this case, that would be about $90,500 for a total of $1.89 million. 

Since the 10-day period ends on a Saturday, it’ll actually be moved to 5 p.m. on the following Monday, June 20. If a new buyer makes a qualifying offer, the 10-day upset process must be repeated until no further bids are made. At that point, the county can choose to accept or reject the offer. 

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Community and Economic Development Director David Francis said that Quiet Creek wants to construct 44 townhomes in the $250,000-275,000 range, and 36 single-family homes below $350,000. 

That’s not exactly “affordable housing,” considering Haywood County’s median income. Housing is considered affordable when it costs 30% or less of household income. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2020 median income in Haywood County was $51,548 for households, and $27,711 for individuals. Those levels suggest households should pay no more than $1,288 per month, and individuals no more than $692 a month. 

However, a 30-year fixed mortgage for $275,000 at 5.39% interest would produce a monthly payment of $1,542 and a similar mortgage for $350,000 would cost $1,963 per month — both out of reach for households and individuals alike. 

Francis did say that he could only find 21 homes priced in the $250,000-$275,000 on the market today, and only 30 in the $350,000 range, so the development would create substantial inventory.  

The parcel has a long history of controversy, and just plain bad luck. 

When the parcel was offered at a special auction back in 2007, the county came away the winner after several upset bids left some feeling the county paid too much — more than $1.1 million. 

It was originally intended for recreational use, but the Great Recession set in shortly after the purchase, shelving development until it was determined that regional competition had made the recreational aspirations moot. 

Then, it was shopped around for economic use through the Haywood Chamber/Asheville Chamber economic development partnership. 

To make the project more attractive, the county then spent $463,000 to raise 8 acres out of the floodway, but the fill the county contracted for the project  proved unusable , leaving the county to dig up another source of dirt. 

Six of the parcel’s 22 acres remain in the floodway and cannot be developed, so 80 homes on 16 acres translates to a density of roughly five homes per acre. 

Two potential buyers subsequently balked on the parcel — one because there’s no natural gas service available. 

“Fortunately, we have it now in a time where housing is needed,” said Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick. “Sometimes you just have to change course and do with something that meets the highest need of the community, and right now that’s the highest need.”

Commissioner Tommy Long agreed with Kirkpatrick about housing being the best use for the parcel. Francis told commissioners that there were only 123 people unemployed in Haywood County in April, a number he called “staggering.”

“We had high hopes for job development, but boy, you know the dynamics changed in just a few short months,” Long said. “The workforce, people [are] having trouble getting a highly skilled workforce in place … things change.”

Commissioner Jennifer Best voiced concern over the unusually long due diligence period, because if it doesn’t work out in the end, the county will have taken the property off the market for more than five months and end up with nothing to show for it but the $5,000 non-refundable earnest money. 

Best said she’s still excited for the project to move forward, especially as it does bring a small profit to the county. 

Commissioner Brandon Rogers was more excited about getting the parcel back on the property tax rolls. Francis said it’s likely to bring in roughly $100,000 in taxes per year, in perpetuity. 

“Not only are we getting our money back which was a huge concern of mine for quite some time, we’re actually going to pocket a few coins, as Ms. Best said,” Rogers said. “But getting that $100,000 extra dollars as well, you’ve got to look at that too, because it’s going to be continuing on and probably grow as well.” 

Leave a comment

2 comments

  • Due diligence till November? Really!!

    posted by Stephen Adler

    Wednesday, 06/08/2022

  • It seems like the county is not interested in the views of the community or neighbors that has to put up with the development every day . Is the investment out fit going to live in what they have created or move on

    posted by Kim Sutton

    Tuesday, 06/07/2022

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