Special meeting of Board of County Commissioners discuss William Burgess extension project

By Cindy Jackson
December 6, 2019

A special meeting of the Board of County Commissioners was called for December 4th, 2019 at 4PM.

Commissioner Danny Leeper

“He’s taking advantage of county residents” was the first comment made by Commissioner Danny Leeper after listening intently to an explanation of the condemnation procedures the County will need to pursue if it does not successfully negotiate for the purchase of a 9.64 acre piece of property that is needed to complete the long promised William Burgess Extension.
“Greed has set in,” Leeper continued.

The William Burgess Extension Project has been a vision for many, many years – in fact, long before more modern planning practices were embraced. The property was initially appraised at $561,000. A more recent appraisal, performed by Colliers International, reflects a market value of $1,278,000.

SEDA Construction owns the property and it has potential for the development of 82 single-family homes. To sell the 9.64 acre parcel would see a loss of 32 potential lots. SEDA proposed a selling price of $2.3 million in November of this year. That amount includes $1.8 million for the outright purchase of the property and $360,000 in attorney fees. The amount of attorney fees is set by State law. Anything over $1 million requires that 20% be paid to the attorney(s).

In the event that the two parties cannot reach an agreement – the matter goes to court. An “order of taking” is issued and from that point forward it is all determined by the court – with a jury ultimately determining the value. Despite an almost uncontested value of being in the “public interest,” – the first step in condemnation – that isn’t necessarily enough. If contested, the process proceeds – into the judicial system.

Once in the court system, there are also expensive expert witness fees, legal fees . . . and of course, more delays. And as Nassau County grows and grows – the value of that land can only increase.

Theoretically, until the value is determined by a jury, a base amount, is placed into “escrow” – in this case, it would be the County offer of $1.3 million. But from there, as the case progresses, interest is paid (currently at about 6%) and the value can go up. Said Mullin, “it is what it is in the condemnation world.”

There were three other properties needed to complete the acquisition portion of the project. Taco Pope, Assistant County Manager, noted that those were well underway. However, this particular parcel could put the project a half million dollars over budget.

Commissioner Edwards stated, “I would rather keep it in this room and not in the courthouse.”

At the end of the discussion, the BOCC voted to make an offer of $1.8 million with $360,000 for attorney fees with a deadline for the seller of Monday, December 9th.

Editor’s Note: Born in Hagerstown, Maryland, Cindy received her BA in Political Science from Dickinson College. Upon graduation, Cindy began her career on Capitol Hill working as a legislative aide and director. She later became a part of the public relations and lobbying team of the American Iron and Steel Institute and served as director of the office of state legislative affairs for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). Cindy was involved in economic development with the state of Maryland, and served as executive director of Leadership Washington County. As a community volunteer, Cindy participates in numerous volunteer activities serving as a member of Sunrise Rotary, and as board member of Cummer Amelia Board of Directors.

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