DOBSON — The Surry County Board of Commissioners threw a wrench in the works of a private developer looking to bring condos to Elkin by refusing to sell the desired plot of land.
The town of Elkin informed the county that a company wants to buy 2.5 acres of land next to the Elkin Center on which to build “market-value apartments” for professionals.
Efincia Construction developed Boyles Street Villas in Pilot Mountain, which has among its customers Pilot Commissioner Kim Quinn.
Facilities Director Don Mitchell wasn’t at the meeting Monday night in Dobson, but left a note with County Manager Chris Knopf. He said the land in question is off Collins Road just north of the Elkin Center. The Tax Department gives the tax value of the land at $150,280, but the offer from Efincia was for $20,000.
Knopf said he believed that land was purchased in 2010 or 2011. There was a dilapidated medical center on site that was demolished, he noted.
Elkin Commissioner Jeff Eidson said the developer wants to build condos for rent, which is a need for his town. He considers it important that a project like this come to fruition. Other apartment projects have been low-income housing, and nothing for nicer housing.
A lack of professional housing is a hindrance to recruiting businesses to Elkin, said Leslie Schlender, economic development coordinator for the town. She also was in favor of the land sale moving forward.
Chairman Eddie Harris said that before he opened up the issue for discussion he wanted to say that he was leery about letting this property go.
There could be a need for this property for the county in the coming years, he warned. Dobson Square Park was established on land that the county owned. It could have been made into parking for the old courthouse, but at the time the county didn’t have renovation plans in place, he noted. Now that the board wants to fix up the old building, there is nowhere to park. The park has been good for the town of Dobson, but not so good for the county’s needs.
He added that there is a ravine behind the Elkin Center, and any expansion there would require a lot of fill dirt, and that could get expensive. The land under discussion could be a place that provides such dirt.
Commissioner Larry Johnson said that if the developer were willing to go ahead and move dirt right now to help that ravine, then he might be willing to vote in favor of the sale.
After chatting with his fellow commissioners before the meeting started, Harris said there also appears to be some feeling among the board that the offer (13.3 percent of the tax value) is too low.
“That’s a pretty lowball offer, so that doesn’t make me too happy,” agreed Commissioner Buck Golding. “I think we should hold onto it if that’s the best we can get for it.”
Tucker agreed that the offer was too low for his liking.
Not only was the initial land offer less than tax value, but an addendum to the purchase agreement stated that Efincia expects a decade of property tax waivers.
When Mount Airy and/or Surry County have negotiated with businesses about bringing new jobs into the area, a common incentive is to offer an 80-percent discount over the first five years of property taxes. This is mathematically equal to four full years of taxes. What Efincia is asking is 10 years of tax waivers.
In addition to that, the company expects a waiver of water and sewer tap fees, permit fees (building, plumbing, electrical, mechanical, etc.) and zoning fees.
County governments can’t really create new jobs, said Commissioner Larry Phillips. They can add more jobs to the county payroll, but that comes from tax dollars so it doesn’t really help the citizens.
But, he said, what a county government can do is foster an environment where job creation is possible. If the condo project went through, then the upscale housing could lead to jobs coming here, he believed. The return on investment of the development would be favorable then.
Phillips then made a motion to accept the bid, but no member of the board offered a second, so the motion died.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.