Charleston Council Delays Move on Angel Oak Land

April 11, 2011

Investigative Reports

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The NerveMarc Knapp
Citizen Reporter

Charleston City Council voted March 22 to defer a decision on the proposed application for greenbelt funds to buy 6.5 acres abutting Angel Oak, a decision in line with that of the city’s Real Estate Committee.

Apparently, the Real Estate Committee deferred a decision in order to further study the issue and obtain another valuation.

The city is planning to seek $500,000 from greenbelt funds generated by the half-cent sales tax. Presumably the application would be made through the Urban Grants Review Committee and, if successful, Charleston would be allocated the amount from the unused balance available.

We don’t pretend to fully understand all that has transpired at Angel Oak. There have been a number of changes and challenges to the development plans, which now involves some 630 units on 42 acres, we believe. But the comments made by two citizens during the meeting may have merit.

According to the Coastal Conservation League, no development is allowed in this area. So why is the city paying so much for the land? The original cost to the owner of the whole parcel was $83,000 an acre, the citizens say.

The developer will sell the 6.5 acres for $80,000 an acre and is claiming that represents only 20 percent of the market value.

A valuation obtained by the Coastal Conservation League in 2009 for 14.3 acres of the development property amounted to $138,000 an acre.

The appraisal assumes all the land is highland and includes no wetlands. It makes no mention of “conservation” areas which would normally depress a valuation. But, we concede, the valuation does not make the $80,000 per acre figure unrealistic, though the developer’s alleged claim of an 80 percent discount seems very much so.

Given the nature of the times and the depressed market for real estate, and very depressed market for land compared to values a few years ago, the citizens may have a point.

The city council seems to think similarly. Charleston may have a reasonable explanation for paying what it plans to pay, but council would like to hear it.

Marc Knapp is a contractor specializing in heavy underground utilities and the owner of Charleston Site Utilities.