MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 5, 2013

County OKs land sale

Commissioners approve modified offer from officials

— County commissioners approved a modified offer from city officials to buy a nearly six-acre tract of land eyed for commercial development.

In a letter dated Feb. 22, City Manager Greg Buckley offered to pay $826,596 for a tract located at the southwest corner of the U.S. 69 and Shawnee Bypass intersection. The appraised value of the parcel was set at more than $1.03 million.

District 1 Commissioner Gene Wallace recommended accepting Buckley’s offer with the condition that any net profits from a subsequent sale would be divided evenly between the city and the county. Net profits would be the amount exceeding the costs of the land and any improvements made before the tract is sold to a developer.

“We have had no interest in this property for 55 years,” Wallace said, noting the land was acquired by the county through its power of eminent domain. “I think it’s historic that the city has put in place the means to acquire this property and get it ready for development.”

While the sale price is less than the appraised value, Wallace said the idea that development could take place in the near future bodes well for commercial activities at the other three corners of the intersection. With a daily traffic count of more than 45,000 vehicles, state transportation officials estimate U.S. 69 and Shawnee Bypass is the second busiest intersection in Muskogee.

Wallace said the transaction approved Monday sets a precedent, which prompted the counter-offer to split any net profits that might be realized with the city. The county owns other tracts of land that could be subject to similar transaction on each of the three remaining corners.

Mayor Bob Coburn said he “couldn’t be more pleased” with commissioners’ counter-offer and decision. He said the decision to split any net profits that might be realized protects both the county and the city.

Commission Chairman Stephen Wright said a week ago he would need an explanation to justify a decision to sell the land below fair market value. He said the counter-offer to share net profits from a subsequent sale tipped the scales toward approval.

“Honestly this will help get that land back into production and back on the tax rolls,” Wright said. “Maybe they will do something that will benefit both the city and the county.”

Commercial development at the corner would boost revenue from sales and property taxes, both of which would cushion county coffers. The city would benefit primarily from increased sales tax revenue plus the prospect of selling additional land it owns at the same intersection, officials said.

Buckley said he has no idea about how much money might be spent preparing the parcel for development or when a subsequent sale might occur. He did say an abstract may take time to complete because the tract consists of several parcels taken more than five decades ago through eminent domain.

Other comments made by Buckley and Coburn, however, left an impression that the turnaround time may be quick for a second sale: Buckley said the deal could be “closed by Friday,” and Coburn said city officials “would like to move quickly.” Wright said those comments led him to believe city officials “may have a buyer on the hook.”

Coburn confirmed the city has “an interested party” and development “should happen very quickly.” The mayor declined to provide specifics, but he predicted it would “be a win-win” situation for both the city and the county.

“People love to see progress,” Coburn said. “I think this will be a very positive start, and I expect to see development to continue toward the east down Shawnee” once this project begins.

As part of the deal approved Monday, City Attorney Roy Tucker will draft a contract and a deed to seal the transaction. County officials who are required to sign the documents were given prior approval subject to prior review by Muskogee County District Attorney Larry Moore.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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