By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer
City and county officials finalized a land deal Monday they hope will open the door to the development of properties located at the U.S. 69 and Shawnee Bypass intersection.
Closing the deal proved a bit bumpy after last-minute questions were raised about the size of the parcel conveyed by the county to the city. Muskogee County commissioners and other officers scrambled for more than an hour trying to confirm the accuracy of information provided by an appraisal completed in January and land records.
Commissioners struck a deal in March with the Muskogee Redevelopment Authority to sell a 6-acre tract on the southeast corner of the intersection at 80 percent of its appraised value. Court-appointed appraisers set the value of that property at $4 a square foot, or just more than $1.03 million, and the city bought it for $826,596.
Interim City Manager Roy Tucker said two different surveys — one completed by the city and the second by QuikTrip, which has a contract to buy the land from the city — confirmed the court-appointed appraisers’ calculations.
A third calculation made Monday during the commissioners’ meeting showed the land conveyed may have been 0.15 acres larger than earlier figures showed. If the latter calculation is correct, the county may have left almost $20,000 on the table. While there was some discussion about delaying the conveyance, commissioners ultimately decided against that option.
“We have some obligation for economic development just as the city does,” District 3 Commissioner Dexter Payne said. “In my opinion, $20,000 is not that big of a deal” when considering the new jobs and tax revenue that would be generated once the land is developed for commercial use.
Commissioners Stephen Wright, District 2, and Gene Wallace, District 1, echoed Payne’s sentiment. Wallace said delaying the sale to re-negotiate and approve a higher purchase price could derail the city’s proposed sale to QuikTrip, which has announced plans to build a 5,700-square-foot travel center at the northwest Muskogee location.
QuikTrip, a privately held company based in Tulsa, executed a contract in April to acquire the tract from the city at cost plus transactional expenses up to $15,000. Company officials requested in July an additional 180 days for inspection to assess whether property is suitable for development and avoid a contractual breach.
Wright said while appraisers set the value of the land at $4 a square foot, the land deal struck with city officials was based upon a lump-sum figure. He said the conveyance was made by a quit claim deed, which conveys only the interests the county held in the property and grants no specific warranties.
The property was acquired by the county during the mid-1950s by eminent domain and has remained idle and exempt from taxation since then. State transportation officials planned at one time to use the land for a cloverleaf intersection, but those plans never materialized.
Tucker said he is pleased with Monday’s developments, describing the closing as the completion of “the first leg of our journey.” With the conveyance of title to the city completed, Tucker said work will continue to address issues identified by QuikTrip’s title examiners.
One issue that will be addressed during the next 50 days include a request by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for highway rights of way. Other issues include the closing and vacating of streets and alleys that had been platted within the parcel.
“Without the county’s involvement and assistance, the ultimate economic development of the parcel would not materialize,” Tucker said. “The closing today has been a huge step forward in getting a QuikTrip store in Muskogee, and we are very excited.”
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or email@example.com.