Beaufort County's pending purchase of the Garvey Hall tract near the New River is a good addition to the county's land holdings, but the road to that purchase has some perplexing twists and turns.
On Dec. 10, County Council voted to buy the 87-acre tract for $785,000 from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which had purchased the property in September after foreclosing on it.
That was quite a deal for Beaufort County, given the foreclosure sale price of nearly $1.7 million.
But later that month, the FDIC told the county it was reopening the bidding and accepted an offer from Wooddall Holdings of Atlanta. That sale -- for $825,000 -- closed Jan. 24.
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This week, County Council voted 10-1 to pay $1.1 million for 82 of the 87 acres. Five acres stay with Wooddall Holdings.
County officials say they had been negotiating a similar price in September with the company. At the time, county attorney Josh Gruber said, Wooddall Holdings thought it owned the property.
Why were they negotiating with Wooddall Holdings in September and into October when the property was sold at an Aug. 6 foreclosure auction and the sale to the FDIC recorded Sept. 12?
The foreclosure sale was a result of a federal court order issued in June, according to county online records. Beaufort County Master in Equity Marvin Dukes was appointed to sell the property.
Why did Wooddall think it owned the property? The FDIC contacted the county about a sale in November, county officials say. Maybe the FDIC can shed some light.
And maybe the county can justify paying 40 percent more per acre than Wooddall Holdings did just last month.
Garrett Budds of the Beaufort County Open Land Trust, which oversees the county's land-preservation purchases, said, "The $1.1 million purchase price is 25 percent of the value of the note the FDIC originally foreclosed on, and approximately 60 percent of the parcel's appraised value. By any measure this represents a bargain-sale acquisition and a wonderful addition to the county's protected land base."
Prices paid in 2006 should not be the standard by which we measure good deals today, and measured against the price Wooddall Holdings paid to the FDIC, it doesn't fare so well.
Buying the property, which lies in Bluffton's New Riverside area, is a good idea. It's in an environmentally sensitive area and was approved for up to 63 homes. Two nearby properties also are protected, raising the possibility of a linear park there. But the public is owed a better explanation for the price the county is paying and why this deal took the turns it did.