Monday, November 21, 2011

New Hanover County: Land Speculator

Apparently, New Hanover County owns nearly 4,000 acres of property, much of which is vacant.

Just from a brief look at this website, I'd say a conservative value to put most undeveloped property at in New Hanover County would be $50k/acre. I'd imagine developed land would go for even more.

Now, this is just a back of the napkin calculation, but I would not be surprised if the value of the government-owned land is over $200M. Now, of course, some land is probably being used for legitimate government functions, but I'd bet (wait, no, I know) a whole lot is not.


New Hanover County owns almost 4,000 acres of property containing cemeteries, museums, office buildings, parking lots and an array of other entities.

There’s also quite a bit of vacant land[...]

Shell cautioned Berger not to link the potential purchase of the bowling alley building to any other property the county owns, saying the deal “should stand in its own merits.”

“It’s very short-sighted to sell property that may have value in the future,” he told Berger.

Yes, folks, it's not that the land could be used for something; it's that it could be valued at something in the future. Don't you love when local government officials act like land speculators with your money?

[P]ointing to that list of property, Shell said each of the nearly 200 parcels has a use.

That includes property the county owns that has remained vacant for years.

There are lots purchased for parks and recreation space that
can’t be developed until the county seeks private donations or state grants, said Jim McDaniel, who heads the county’s Parks department.

Eighty-five acres are set aside to expand the new Smith Creek Park off Harris Road, for example. The land was purchased this year, but it will likely be years before anything is built there. Additional land sits for the expansion of Castle Hayne Park, too.

[...]The county also has majority interest in about 60 acres off Independence Boulevard, known as Bryan Farms, that sits in a trust with strict guidelines. McDaniel said the county can only use the area for farming or gardening functions, and he and other staff are exploring options for it.

“It just has great potential for this community,” he said.

Yes, folks, the local government may get involved in farming. Does anyone remember how this worked out for Russia or China? Of course, in this case, the government wouldn't be the only supplier of food, but do they not realize that if they enter into private business they crowd out private firms?

Vacant land also remains where a library on Northchase parkway is supposed to be built. The land, about 3 acres, was purchased in 1996.

Shell said many other parcels were purchased before they are ready for development to avoid paying more for them in later years.

“Spend a little money, save a lot more,” he said. “That’s what I’m all about.”

Does anyone fell like telling Bruce Shell that the real estate market is still going down? Thanks for all your prudent investment, Bruce. How about you take the losses next time?

The county also holds the deeds to several small tracts of land that were foreclosed because of unpaid property taxes.

All of those tracts are less than half an acre, and Shell said there aren’t many uses for them. He said the county will work with Wilmington officials to determine if any of the larger of
the parcels can be used for low income housing or economic development uses.

Yes, low income housing. More central planning. Nevermind that "affordable housing," which this seems to be, has proven to be a disaster wherever it goes. (Pruitt-Igoe anyone?) Shell doesn't even seem to realize that selling the parcels could allow the county to reduce its tax burden, which is the number one factor correlated with economic growth.
No, economic growth can only come as a result of the actions of our glorious central planners.

He’s [Catlin] also interested in opportunities for the county’s airport land, in an area called a foreign trade zone. “It could also be a launching pad for more international business,” Catlin said.

I had heard of this "foreign trade zone" before and thought it seemed like just another lofty idea. Then I happened to read a story about foreign trade zones just the other day and they seemed like a really great idea. They're a way around some more burdensome government restrictions on trade. Here's some info on them.

County commissioners will soon decide on the fate of another vacant property – a government building at 320 Chestnut St. that used to house the Public Defender’s Office and other departments.

The building has sat vacant for more than a year since a water leak and subsequent asbestos issues dislocated the

Shell said he’ll present a feasibility study for repairing and renovating the building to commissioners in January.

Jason Thompson has said that if this building were knocked down he would actually like to see the county build a totally new building in its place. This is some of the most valuable land in the county. It's right downtown, and we don't collect property taxes on it because it's publicly owned. Does this make sense to anyone?

So what, if anything, would the county manager choose to let go from the government’s inventory?

The first and practically only thing Shell mentioned
in an interview Friday was the Lucile Shuffler building at 2011 Carolina Beach Road.

[...]“I’m not anxious to sell anything,” Shell said.

Is anyone surprised? He has no incentive to sell anything. Every piece of land he owns, every dollar in the government budget elevates his status. You, however, have an incentive to get people with this mentality out of office.

1 comment:

  1. Some great piece of information about undeveloped property right there, I'll make sure to share this article!



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