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Lease deal buys time for eviction
Two families must leave land bought for green space project
Harrison property 2 es
The 63-acre Harrison property in southern Forsyth County was purchased by the county in December as green space. - photo by File photo
Before Forsyth County makes use of the 63-acre site in south Forsyth it bought with green space bond money, it may sign a lease agreement with the co-executors of the estate.

Caught in the middle are two families renting property there, who must leave their homes of several decades as a result of the deal.

The purpose of the lease, according to County Attorney Ken Jarrard, is to give the co-executors time to “get the individuals on the property ... off the property.”

The county took possession of what is known as the Harrison tract on Dec. 31. The board of commissioners voted 3-2 to buy the land off Hwy. 141 for $8.5 million on Dec. 9. Commissioners Charles Laughinghouse and Jim Harrell opposed the measure.

The board voted 4-1 on Tuesday to approve the lease. It moved the item to the next available commission meeting, which could be sometime next month.

Jarrard said the contract gives the co-executors one year to move residents off the property. The lease is $1,000 a month.

“This contract provides that if those individuals are not lawfully off the property within a year of execution, the money gets paid back to the county and the property goes back to the estate,” Jarrard said.

“They’ve got to be lawfully gone.”

He added that it was “the intent of the county that we had no interest in being involved in that [eviction] and, in fact, did not want to be involved in that. That was not our obligation.”

Commissioner Jim Boff was the lone vote against the arrangement Tuesday. He said the matter of people living on the property “should have been clearer and more up front in the beginning.”

Boff said he felt the single vote against the measure “would not affect the overall vote, but it was essentially to send a message that ... I didn’t think it was the right thing to come out at the last second with an issue like that.”

“Especially since it was obvious to me that no matter how you stated it, the county would get a black eye that somehow or another, the county was throwing people off the property,” Boff said. “I didn’t like that, because that wasn’t the case.”

The McPherson and Christopher families own their mobile homes, but have rented land off Caney Road from the Harrison family for several decades.

Lee Dailey, co-executor of the Harrison estate, said earlier this month he would soon issue 60-day notices to vacate, which he said is in line with the families’ “tenancy at-will” status.

According to Jarrard, the lease provides Harrison estate co-executors Dailey and Thomas J. Smith “the necessary tools they’re going to need to be able to perfect their right to act in that dispossessory capacity.”

It does not, however, require the co-executors to remove the residents’ mobile homes, which may be too old to move because of county regulations.

“The mobile homes are there and it would be the county’s responsibility to remove them,” Jarrard said.

The lease, which could be made official next month, would be for a maximum of a year.

“[But] if the tenants are moved off the property tomorrow, the lease ends tomorrow,” Jarrard said.

The Harrison property is one of three parcels the county has bought as part of a $100 million parks and recreation bond voters approved last year. About $36 million of that can be used to acquire green space.

E-mail Frank Reddy at