Business owners near the flight path of the Hilton Head Island Airport have rejected Beaufort County's offers for their properties and have hired a lawyer and appraiser.
The owners of the eight companies in the Hilton Head Island Airport Office Park want an appraiser to reassess value of their offices. They hope to compare the new appraisals to those completed by the county earlier this year, according to Eric Esquivel, who owns La Isla Magazine and Language School in suite F of the building.
"Basically, it's either take (the county's) offer or go hire your own appraisers, so we just had to stroke a check for $15,000 to get our suites appraised," Esquivel said.
The county intends to buy and raze the building at 21 Dillon Road to clear the flight path at the southern end of the nearby airport runway. The purchases are part of a series of planned improvements at the airport, which will eventually extend the runway to 5,000 feet.
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The stalled negotiations could delay construction to realign the taxiway at the southern end of the runway, which is scheduled to begin early next year, county airports director Jon Rembold said.
Esquivel said the owners have hired Charleston attorney Trenholm Walker to help with the appraisals and negotiations.
The county has identified the buildings at 21 Dillon Road and 12, 14 and 16 Hunter Road for demolition to meet Federal Aviation Administration standards for obstacle-free zones around the runway's perimeter, Rembold said.
The county's initial offers to the owners at 21 Dillon Road are about $1,000 to $3,000 lower than the 2013 assessed tax value. The owners have posted the offers online, but Rembold has declined to discuss them.
In Esquivel's case, the county has offered $128,800. Although that is $5,500 more than the 2013 assessed tax value, he said it's still too low for the office he's been in for more than eight years. During that time he invested $30,000 in improvements to the space, which were all but erased when his property value dropped because of the reassessment last year.
Since receiving the county's initial offers, the owners each made counter-offers based on 2012 assessed tax values, which are $50,000 to $60,000 more than the 2013 values, according to the documents the owners posted online.
The county rejected those offers because the 2012 values are outdated, Rembold said.
The 2013 values followed the countywide reassessment, which in many cases recorded a drop in property values. Esquivel accuses the county of using the drop in values to "low-ball" the owners.
Rembold and county attorney Josh Gruber said they have not received notice from the owners that they are seeking an outside appraisal, but welcome another opinion to help close the deals.
The county and consultants are working with owners to find similar offices for relocation, Rembold and Gruber said. The FAA also requires the county to offer up to about $20,000 in relocation costs.
The county has identified three properties at the northern end of the airport on Beach City Road for demolition, Rembold said. County appraisals for those should start before the summer ends, he added. He declined to discuss the offers made on the Hunter Road properties on the runway's south end.
The county, which owns the airport, plans to extend the 4,300-foot runway by 700 feet. The runway extension and related improvement projects planned at the airport are estimated to cost $1.55 million. The FAA will pay 95 percent, with the county picking up about $87,000, the county has said.
Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.