Land Conservation News-Cashiers NC

Good deals for public
by Jon Ostendorff,
published December 9, 2007 12:15 am

The government last week got a good deal on the development rights it bought with the public’s money.

In Buncombe County, the development rights for the farmland will cost an average of $1,877 an acre, well below what the land could fetch if sold. The landowners are giving up $3.7 million in value but will get a tax break.

In Jackson County this past week, Sylva town leaders placed 1,000 acres in the Fisher Creek watershed in a conservation easement. The state bought the land for $3.5 million, or an average of $3,500 an acre. The land, also known as Pinnacle Park, will be open for hiking.

In southern Jackson County, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy announced a deal that will protect 600 acres near Cashiers that would have been a prime spot for an upscale development. The Cedar Creek deal includes creeks and streams that feed Lake Glenville and the Tuckasegee River. It also provides a buffer for the Nantahala National Forest and Panthertown Valley and a neighboring tract of 850 acres already in a conservation easement.

The price tag for the public was even better than the deals in Buncombe County. The government-funded Clean Water Management Trust Fund spent $2.4 million, or an average of $4,000 an acre. The land there appraised for $30,000 an acre. Private donors Fred and Alice Stanback, of Salisbury, gave $500,000 to complete the project.

Asheville businesswoman Laura Webb spent two years brokering the deal with the four branches of her family. They each owned 25 percent of a company that controlled the land. To make the deal work, she had to meet a minimum financial goal of some family members while keeping conservation on the table. In the end, everyone compromised to reach the agreement.

The family still controls 400 acres of the Cedar Creek tract and will sell some of that as part of its internal agreement. Deed restrictions on the land will limit housing density to protect the area. “I want other families to know that your choice is not just to sell,” she said. “There might be some other type of intermediate or compromise or creative solution to get to where you want to be.”

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