Condition placed on optioned property

Published 2:02 am Thursday, January 11, 2007

By Staff
Portion of Belhaven waterfront will be given back to town
BELHAVEN — The sale of town-owned waterfront property tied up in legal maneuvering for the past year and the subject of a sudden surge in public interest was OK’d by the Town Council on Monday.
Council approval of the sale of the coveted lot came with one condition. In three years, a portion of the property sold must be given back to the town as agreed upon in recent months leading up to Monday’s unanimous decision.
The property will be sold to a developer at the price agreed to when the land was part of an incentives package to develop the town’s waterfront. Dixon &Hoyle, LLC, responsible for condominiums lining Belhaven’s water’s edge, is in the final stages of completing that project. It announced in February its intention to exercise the option on the Day Beacon 9 development contract: to purchase another piece of waterfront property for development at $160,000.
The option was for the former Belhaven Fish &Oyster property. Prior to the Day Beacon 9 condo project, the property sat idle on the market for five years.
When Dixon-Hoyle elected to exercise the option, many town residents protested the sale for the purpose of development and for the price agreed to in 2004.
To quell residents’ concerns, Skip Dixon presented a plan at a July town meeting that deeds back to the town about 8,000 square feet of land to be used as the town sees fit. The plan included five other concessions the developers would make in accordance with the council-approved downtown master plan and development strategy drafted by Allison Platt.
Platt’s plan — in concept — was approved in 2005. The state statute cited in the option to purchase the Belhaven Fish &Oyster property calls for the transferred property to be used in accordance with a community development plan if such a plan exists.
The Town Council unanimously endorsed Dixon’s development plan for the property in July, and the council since has been unanimous in its efforts to keep Dixon’s proposal for the property on the table and intact.
On Monday, the council agreed to give Dixon &Hoyle the deed to the entire property — including the land promised for public use — provided that 8,000 square feet in question be deeded back to the town within the next three years.
In discussions with the developer, the council learned the land gift couldn’t be turned over to the town upon the sale of the property as the council had intended. For stormwater management, run-off and retention purposes, the developer is required by state and federal agencies to own the piece the town wanted for public use during development.
On Monday, Town Attorney Keith Mason said the town could hold an easement on the 65-foot-by-80-foot parcel and that easement would allow the town to maintain control of that piece of property, though the developer would own it and pay taxes on it.
Under this scenario, Mason said, nothing would obligate Dixon &Hoyle to turn the property over to the town.
Councilman Steve Carawan argued the recent turn in events had caused the agreement to be “dissolved beyond the original intent.
Mason noted that the council could keep the covenant in place by “stipulating final approval of sale contingent upon the developer conveying the property back to the town.”
Councilman Charles Boyette made a motion to that effect, calling for the conveyance to occur within a period of no more than three years.
Carawan asked why three years was chosen as a timeframe.
Town Manager Tim Johnson, describing the timeframe as a “moot point,” said the developer would want to pay taxes on property not being developed for the least amount of time possible and that three years would give ample time to comply with the state requirements concerning stormwater runoff.
The motion passed unanimously.
Dixon &Hoyle has designed an L-shaped building that would consist of 10 units on three floors to sit on the Fish &Oyster property. The units would be developed for mixed uses, making way for the possibility of art studios and galleries or for residential purposes. The use of each unit would be determined by the buyer, according to the developer’s plan.