MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

September 14, 2013

City poised for land deal

Councilors to consider purchase of 29 acres from county at key spot

City administrators have taken steps toward the proposed purchase of county-owned land located at the intersection of U.S. 69 and Shawnee Bypass.

Interim City Manager Roy Tucker said a survey of three of the four corners at the intersection revealed the county owns 29.3 acres. County commissioners earlier this month expressed a willingness to strike a deal with the city similar to a conveyance approved in March that will close Monday.

Commissioners sold a six-acre tract on the southwest corner of the busy intersection to the Muskogee Redevelopment Authority for 80 percent of its appraised value. Court-appointed appraisers set the value of that property at $4 per square foot, or more than $1.03 million, and the city bought it for $826,596.

With the 20 percent discount allowed for the March transaction, acquiring the county’s remaining 29.3 acres on the northwest, northeast and southeast corners would put almost $4.09 million into county coffers. Tucker said he will ask city councilors on Tuesday to authorize him to proceed with the proposed transaction.

“Once the county commissioners decided they were interested in selling it, we requested the survey to be done,” Tucker said. “There have been some preliminary discussions with the (City of Muskogee) foundation’s economic development committee members, and they appear to be supportive of deal similar to the one we did earlier.”

The foundation issued a $1.1 million five-year note to the Muskogee Redevelopment Authority to finance the purchase of the tract on the southwest corner. That corner is under contract to be sold to QuikTrip, but officials with the Tulsa-based company have requested additional time to work through some issues before closing the deal.

City and county officials have expressed optimism that once QuikTrip develops the southwest corner, development at the other three corners will follow quickly. The city’s proposed purchase of all the county-owned property at the intersection is considered a part of the process that could make that happen.

District 1 Commissioner Gene Wallace said he was surprised about how much land the county owned on those three corners. Because that land was acquired by eminent domain more than five decades ago, there are no deeds to document the conveyances or the size of the parcels.

“What we have are judgments issued by the court as a result of eminent domain,” Wallace said. “And the state (transportation department) owns some of that land in there.”

Tucker said city officials also have been working with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to acquire that land if city councilors green light the plan. He said one option being eyed is granting an additional easement along U.S. 69 and Shawnee Bypass to ODOT in exchange for the property it owns to accommodate the anticipated growth at the intersection.

Wallace said he and his colleagues see the city’s proposal to acquire and facilitate development at the intersection as a positive move. Putting that land into production, Wallace said, would prove beneficial to public education, the library system and other entities that rely on ad valorem taxes to help fund operations.

“Sitting on idle land is not a good function of government,” Wallace said about property exempt from ad valorem tax collections. “Putting that idle land into production, generating tax revenue, providing jobs and stimulating the economy is a healthy function of government.”

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

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