Community group forming to buy NC 194 land
by Kellen Short
Before Watauga County commissioners voted last week to decline a purchase of 212 acres on N.C. 194 for a business park, more than a dozen spoke out against the proposal.
Citing the loss of working farmland, cultural resources and natural mountain beauty, more than 460 signed an online petition opposing the development of the property three miles from New Market Centre.
Now, Meat Camp resident Ingrid Kraus is encouraging community members to band together to make an offer on the property, preserving the land for agriculture and recreation.
A public meeting has been set for 7 p.m. Sept. 3 at Green Valley School cafeteria to discuss interest and see whether there might be enough participation in fundraising and pledges to make an offer on the land.
Kraus said she intends "to find out whether the interest extends to peoples' pocketbook and also to their time commitment."
She said she is looking for residents with general interest or with expertise in the areas of fundraising, real estate, development, planning, farming and other fields.
Kraus said she would like to see the community decide how the land would be used, if purchased collectively, and added that the loss of farmland across the state is worrisome.
The state lost 4,600 farms in the last 10 years, and farmlands have decreased by 600,000 acres, according to the N.C. Agricultural Development & Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. That makes North Carolina the nation's leader in farm loss.
Kraus acknowledged that the plan for a community offer was a "huge, huge undertaking." But she pointed to the success of the Green Valley Community Park, a 12-acre site on Big Hill Road purchased in 2000 by a nonprofit formed by community members.
Time is of the essence if a group plans to present a competitive offer. Kraus said she believes the property is currently listed for $1.99 million.
The property owner, Deborah Earp Greene, directed questions Tuesday to her real estate agent, Jerry Redden, who could not be reached by presstime Tuesday.
Chairman Nathan Miller said during the commissioners'
meeting Aug. 20 that the realtor had mentioned another person interested in buying
the property for student housing.
Kraus said she also had heard of other interest on the tract.
"If in fact they do have these offers, we would like to compete quickly," Kraus said.
Anyone interested in contacting Kraus may call (828) 773-9951 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.