County receives interest letter on old WHS
by Kellen Short
Watauga County has received an interest letter from a developer offering $12 million for the former Watauga High School property, but Board of Commissioners Chairman Nathan Miller says the figure is too low for consideration.
The June 12 letter from Atlanta-based Fuqua Acquisitions is not an official offer but spells out terms for a potential purchase of the 74-acre property.
Miller said he and County Manager Deron Geouque met with representatives from the company June 20 to talk about the property.
Fuqua Acquisitions was interested in building a shopping area with multi-family housing, Miller said. He said they talked extensively about Boone's new ordinance changes related to multi-family housing projects and that Fuqua was interested in building everything in a single phase.
While Miller said he was agreeable to most of the terms discussed, the purchase price was a sticking point.
"The price is too low," Miller said. "We, of course, appreciate the interest."
Miller said the original letter was emailed to other commissioners when it was received.
"Nobody expressed a great interest in taking it at $12 (million) that I'm aware of," he said. "I don't know what everybody's bottom dollar is."
The letter requested a 7 percent commission for broker Robert Armstrong of KW Commercial to be split by the county and the purchaser at closing. Armstrong previously brought an offer on the property in fall 2012 on behalf of Sanctuary Management, which eventually offered $16.8 million for the property.
"While it is necessary to protect our legal interests by expressly disclaiming any obligation to continue negotiations with you, we do hope that any continued negotiation will come to fruition for our mutual benefit," wrote managing member Jeff Fuqua in the letter.
The property was relisted for sale in May at an asking price of $20 million after Templeton Properties withdrew its $18.9 million offer.
Phil Templeton said the town's ordinance changes regarding multi-family housing were the primary reason for his decision.
Miller said he also met with another potential developer in April or May who wanted to purchase about four acres of the property, but he said he wasn't interested yet in parceling off the land. He said he had not heard anything more from that developer.
Miller said the new offer was evidence that the Town Council's actions had diminished the value of the land.
"I think it's pretty interesting to see that we had an almost $19 million dollar offer, signed offer, and now offers are coming in at $12 (million)," he said.