Lenoir won't sell Zacks Fork Road property for now

Jul. 17, 2013 @ 05:20 PM

The City of Lenoir will not sell, for now, the 598-acre “watershed property” off Zacks Fork Road that houses a firing range used by the Lenoir Police Department and a number of other law enforcement agencies in the region, the city council decided Tuesday night.

Developer Southern Land NC made an unsolicited offer to buy the property in June for about $852,000, part of a larger attempt by the company to buy 1,915 acres there.

City council members sought an updated appraisal, which came in at $807,300, considerably less than a 2006 appraisal that valued the land at almost $2.8 million.

Council members said there were too many unknowns for them to consider selling the property now, including the actual size of the property — in previous discussions, officials thought it was 568 acres, not the 598 cited by the new appraisal. But officials also are wary about what the city police department would have to do to replace its firing range on the property, which features a two-story range house, a house used for building-entry training and a K-9 obstacle course.

If the land were developed for residential use, the firing range could eventually create sound and other problems for residents, as is common at firing ranges operated elsewhere.

The range is currently in use by Lenoir, Hudson, Granite Falls, and Blowing Rock police departments, as well as N.C. Highway Patrol and local colleges.

Lenoir Police Chief Scott Brown had estimated the cost of creating a new firing range at $500,000, while City Manager Lane Bailey said it might cost only $250,000, but council members said Monday that no one had studied the issue enough for them to know for sure what the cost might be.

Council member Ron Stilwell said council members were “putting the cart before the horse” and couldn’t make an informed decision without knowing the cost or having proper recourse to replace the firing range.

Brown said maintaining the firing range currently costs about $1,500 per year, and the other agencies that use the range currently do not pay for its use.

“If we’re putting cost into that range, we need to be recouping that cost from these other agencies,” Council Member Todd Purdue said.

In other business, the council also deferred until Aug. 6 a decision on providing a tax incentive grant for Exela Pharma Sciences for renovating the former Broyhill Furniture Industries headquarters on U.S. 321. Exela recently has begun renovations estimated to cost $6 million to $8 million as part of an expansion that is expected to add 40 new jobs with a median salary of nearly $42,000.

The proposed incentive would amount to half the property taxes that otherwise would be due on improvements made to the property.