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Green space becomes county's
Deals closed on Harrison, Wallace Tatum properties
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Forsyth County News

Forsyth County has made official its first two purchases of green space.

The deadline passed for the county to terminate sales agreements on its first use of money from the $100 million bond for parks voters approved in February.

Wednesday was the final day for the county to get out of either purchasing agreement for any reason. If commissioners terminated the agreement for either property, they would have forfeited the county's $5,000 in earnest money.

The contract for a third piece of green space, the Buice site, is scheduled to close on Feb. 2. A public hearing on the 43-acre property in southwestern Forsyth has not been set, though County Attorney Ken Jarrard said it will be sometime this month.

Residents attended a public hearing Tuesday night for the Wallace Tatum tract, which includes 186 acres in northwestern Forsyth, and the Harrison property, 63 acres in south Forsyth.

Chairman Charles Laughinghouse made a motion to terminate the Wallace Tatum contract based on public input at the meeting, but the majority of the board did not back him.

"Based upon comments tonight, we owe it to the people of this county to be fiscally responsible when spending their money," Laughinghouse said. "And it is their money. It isn't ours."

Some residents took issue with the $8.9 million price tag on the Wallace Tatum tract, as well as the $8.5 million for the Harrison property.

Forsyth County resident and real estate appraiser Terry Smith told the board he was "opposed to the process by which you went about purchasing [the properties]."

Smith said the county's appraisal of the Wallace Tatum property, conducted in April, is outdated.

"An appraisal is only valid for six months," Smith said. "It expired in October. I don't think there's a person here today that will not say things are worse today than they were in April ... there should be another appraisal."

Laughinghouse agreed with Smith.

"This may not be the best price we can get for this property," he said.

Laughinghouse's motion to terminate the agreement was backed only by Commissioner Jim Harrell.

"At the 11th hour, there are some legitimate concerns about the price," Harrell said. "... We should postpone this purchase and the other other one until pricing concerns can be fully addressed."

Outgoing Commissioner David Richard agreed that the price was high, but disagreed with further postponing the matter.

"Is this piece of property more expensive than what I'd like to pay? Yeah. But I'm unwilling to lose a valuable piece of property," he said.

Agreeing with Richard was Commissioner Linda Ledbetter, whose term also expired Wednesday.

"Maybe it's a little overpriced," she said, "but it's a beautiful piece of property, which can house green space, recreation and maybe a library in the future.

"To put it off might mean we won't get it."

Richard's post is now held by Patrick Bell, while Ledbetter has been succeeded by Jim Boff.

Since contracts for both pieces of property had already been approved by the commission, no votes to approve or terminate the contracts were necessary, according to Jarrard.

Commissioners took no vote to terminate the Harrison property purchasing contract. Linked with the Harrison property was a county-initiated rezoning of adjacent properties.

The board voted 3-2 to rezone sections of the 155-acre Arlene Harrison Estate, none of which were included in the 63 acres the county bought. Laughinghouse and Harrell opposed the measure.

About 14 acres to the west of the county's green space was rezoned from agricultural to residential and property lying to the west was rezoned commercial business district.

Attorney Emory Lipscomb represented estate executors Lee Dailey and Thomas Smith. He said the commercially rezoned sections of the entire 155-acre site "conform to the development trend of the property along Hwy. 141."