SOUTHPORT — A majority vote from the Southport’s Board of Aldermen could approve an offer Tuesday that would close the sale of land at the city’s old waste treatment plant.
The board split 4-3 earlier this month when it passed a resolution to consider the land offer; Southport Marina offered to pay $650,000 to obtain the city’s 2.5-acre parcel with frontage on Cottage Creek.
Related: Land deal could rescue Southport’s low fund balance, depleted after years of financial troubles
Southport Board of Aldermen will meet Tuesday at its Fire Department Emergency Operations Center for a special meeting to consider approving the sale of the property.
The city announced the meeting on Friday, a final upset period on the property passed Feb. 18.
The board has until March 20 to approve the final offer before closing the sale, the city’s public notice states.
The offer provides a 150-day due diligence period from the date of acceptance of the city — which could begin Tuesday if the board approves the sale — and will close 30 days after.
Two public easements are included in the offer, with the potential for the city to construct a water access point. Southport Marina will pay half the cost, up to $25,000, to construct the city’s future use of a 10-foot waterfront easement.
Environmental cleanup costs are estimated at over $350,000, according to an appraisal cited by the city’s manager, Southport Marina will pay for these costs itself.
A county tax evaluation shows the land dropped in value in 2015, from $1.2 million the year prior to $777,730. However, Bruce Oakley, the city’s manager, said the 2.5-acre site was commercially appraised at $450,000 in 2017.
That appraisal, according to Oakley, showed only 1.38 acres of the site are usable because of the property’s wetland designation. Because of the smaller amount of acreage, environmental cleanup cost, projected property tax increase, and commercial valuation, Oakley said the city is getting a deal with Southport Marina’s $650,000 offer.
The marina’s general manager, Thad Moore, said it has plans to duplicate its existing boat storage facility on the new lot.
Opposition, financial strain
Aldermen who voted against considering the project, including Karen Mosteller, Marc Spencer, and Rick Pukenas, have different reasons for opposing the project.
Mosteller, according to Oakley, opposes the project altogether and said the city is losing an asset at the annual retreat on Feb. 2.
Both Pukenas and Spencer voiced a need for more public input, Oakley said. Though the deal was discussed in the meeting prior, the item appeared on a public agenda for the first time at the annual retreat.
After Hurricane Florence, Southport is in a precarious financial position. Its fund balance is at about 12 percent of its total expenditures — significantly lower than the 30 percent the Local Government Commission recommends for coastal communities. With the fund balance at approximately $700,000, the closing of the proposed deal could nearly double the city’s balance.
The special meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, at the Fire Department Emergency Operations Center. The room is on the second floor of the city’s fire headquarters on Howe Street.
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