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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Council Should Take Bids On Town Funded Properties

Editorial: Council Should Take Bids On Town Funded Properties

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

The non-profit entity CBP3 was created by the Town years ago in order to buy land for a future state owned Aquarium Pier on Carolina Beach Avenue North. The properties were purchased for around $4.3 million dollars out of a bankrupt high-rise development.
Instead of following the typical state-mandated process to buy property, the Town elected to create the non-profit corporation CBP3, Inc. to act as the owners. The premise was, the Town couldn't get vital State grant funding if they owned the properties. Many grant agencies will not reimburse for property you already own.
Grant funding was key to the success of paying for the properties only to later develop a park, parking areas and give land to the state for a large fishing pier with a long list of amenities.
CBP3, Inc was purely a scheme to get grant funding that would not have otherwise been awarded to the Town. They would essentially say they needed the grant funds to buy land when in fact they already bought the land using a disguised shell corporation.
The State is not going to fund a pier. Now that grant funding is no longer needed. What's the purpose of CBP3 when selling those properties? The answer is: none. And CBP3 doesn't have to follow state law when selling property.
The properties should be acquired by the Town from CBP3 to free up the cost of paying property taxes on commercial property. The Council voted to put the properties on the market back in October 9, 2012, but now its January 16, and to date they have not been advertised to the public. Why the wait?
This opens the door for speculation that deals are abound behind closed doors out of sight and out of the minds of the public.
This Council didn't create this problem. Another Council created CBP3 and secured the properties. They had high hopes for the Pier that never materialized. This Council campaigned on open and transparent government, so it's time our elected officials give us an update on what's going on with the Town's properties.
CBP3 can negotiate in private. Behind closed doors. Remember, the Town created them, but they are in fact not a government agency.
If the Town owned the properties and CBP3 was non-existent, the Town would have to follow a specific process to sell Town-owned property. That includes taking an offer and advertising publicly for upset bids and holding public hearings.
But remember, right now CBP3 owns the majority of the properties and the Town, while paying all of the bills, is listed on a note with options to buy at a later date. They do not technically "own" the majority of the properties. I say majority because there were two purchases. A smaller land area purchased by the Town and the remainder purchased under CBP3.
This whole process should be treated exactly the same way as if the Town was selling a park or any other Town owned property. Above board and out in the open.
If any deals are made outside of that public process, then voters should take note of a violation of their trust and willingness of current elected leaders to follow an open process when selling property to the highest bidder. That helps to eliminate any speculation about a guy who knows a friend of a friend that wants to work something out.
That's not to say that is currently what's happening between the Town and any other party wishing to buy the properties, but unless it's done using the before mentioned "public" transparent process, then it's setting the stage for those elected leaders to endure negative public perception next election season. The Council should not adhere to the CBP3 non-profit legal corporate scheme. They should promote quality leadership.
Surely they'll reinforce our faith and prove by their outstanding moral compasses they are the ones who will do the right thing for the taxpayers by following a tested public process.
Here's the law that covers upset bids for the sale of real property.
§ 160A‑269.  Negotiated offer, advertisement, and upset bids.
A city may receive, solicit, or negotiate an offer to purchase property and advertise it for upset bids. When an offer is made and the council proposes to accept it, the council shall require the offeror to deposit five percent (5%) of his bid with the city clerk, and shall publish a notice of the offer. The notice shall contain a general description of the property, the amount and terms of the offer, and a notice that within 10 days any person may raise the bid by not less than ten percent (10%) of the first one thousand dollars ($1,000) and five percent (5%) of the remainder. When a bid is raised, the bidder shall deposit with the city clerk five percent (5%) of the increased bid, and the clerk shall readvertise the offer at the increased bid. This procedure shall be repeated until no further qualifying upset bids are received, at which time the council may accept the offer and sell the property to the highest bidder. The council may at any time reject any and all offers.
That's a very open process because it ensures that Town Council's have to entertain all interested parties and those parties have to front some money to prove they are serious.
It ensures the taxpayers they are getting the best deal possible. No one can claim a Council decided to give anyone a deal because one offer can be raised by subsequent offers.
Perhaps the Council already plans to follow this process. If so, great job!