Friday, February 3, 2023

Brunswick Forest’s developer put the brakes on SAD process, no plans to move forward

An idea initiated by Funston Land and Timber has stalled, after multiple public meetings last year. The developer has now decided not to move forward with the proposed Special Assessment District, but could pick things back up at any time.

Nearly $16 million in infrastructure improvements in undeveloped portions of Brunswick Forest, west of the rail line, would have been covered by the Town of Leland and paid back by future property owners. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Town of Leland)
Nearly $16 million in infrastructure improvements in undeveloped portions of Brunswick Forest, west of the rail line, would have been covered by the Town of Leland and paid back by future property owners. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Town of Leland)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — Brunswick Forest’s developer, Funston Land and Timber, LLC, is not moving forward with the Special Assessment District process it initiated in Leland.

At $16 million, the proposed Special Assessment District (SAD) would have been the state’s costliest. Although it has been halted, Leland’s town manager, David Hollis, said Funston Land and Timber could come back at any time and continue the process.

Related: Here’s how Leland’s Special Assessment District, the largest and costliest in the state, will work

SAD

Funston Land and Timber first approached Leland with the concept of pursuing a SAD. The proposed SAD includes undeveloped acreage west of the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point (MOTSU) rail ine.

Preliminary plans covered at a public hearing in July 2018 show Funston Land and Timber was seeking nearly $16 million to fund certain infrastructure improvements in that area. Improvements, typically funded by a developer, would be paid for by future property owners over a 25-year period in the SAD.

Payments could have been part of an escrow, included in a mortgage, paid to the Town of Leland. Initial assessment costs estimated by the developer range between $500 and $1,000 per parceled out property. Over time, the annual assessments would be subject to fluctuate.

One option: Leland could have issued a revenue bond to cover the debt. Fees would have been paid back to the town through annual assessments. Only future property owners in the SAD subject area would have been responsible for the assessment.

The latest

Leland’s Town Council has not publicly discussed the SAD since its special meeting about the process on Sept. 16. At that meeting, Gary Vidmar, Leland’s economic and community development director, said the SAD posed no financial risk to the town.

“The security is the assessments themselves,” Vidmar said.

Several steps still remain before any assessments could be placed. Council would first have to approve a final assessment resolution, then host a public hearing after receiving a preliminary assessment role from the developer, and finally vote to confirm assessments before liens are placed on subject properties.

On Tuesday, Hollis confirmed Funston Land and Timber isn’t moving forward with the SAD.

“The ball is essentially in their court,” he wrote in an email. “They have not decided to move forward with the process, as they were re-evaluating the scope of the project they were pursuing and the time frame in which the special assessments would be in effect.”

While the SAD was being worked out, Funston Land and Timber offered Leland $50,000 to cover the town’s expenses incurred while working on the project. To date, Hollis said the town has been reimbursed for $27,078.71. If the SAD is process is continued in the future, Leland has $22,921.29 remaining from Funston Land and Timber.

One factor weighed in considering the SAD was that it would accelerate the developer’s construction schedule. Asked whether Hollis was aware if Funston Land and Timber’s development time frame had changed, he said he was not aware of plans to slow down.

“We have not received any indication from the developer that they intend to delay development in the area,” he said.

Multiple attempts to reach Brunswick Forest’s representative were unsuccessful.


Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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