Forsyth County Board of Commissioners work session March 6, 2012 at 2:00 p.m.
JARRARD passes out sheet of paper to members of the board.
BOFF: Okay, the next discussion is about possible release of a communications tower option.
JARRARD: Mr. Chairman, members of the board, I handed out to you a small diagram that shows what I have historically called the “Boys Lodge Property” which is the property up the hill near the 400 interchange that houses the Forsyth County Boys Lodge directly adjacent to the juvenile court facility.
Back when that piece of property was acquired back in 2004, there was a 0.03-acre parcel of that property that was not conveyed to the county and it was in fact held in the name of the owner, LaRose P. Manton, but LaRose P. Manton did execute in favor of the county what I am calling a unilateral option agreement.
On that 0.03 plot – and you can see it highlighted in yellow on the little site plan that I provided you – there is a communications tower. That communications tower has equipment pursuant to a long-term lease with SprintCom. It is a communications tower; it’s going to have probably cell phone or mobile phone data communications equipment on it.
[TAM walks over to wall to look at map. Mary Helen McGruder looks up and smiles at TAM.]
JARRARD: The lease with SprintCom has an initial term till 2007 and then SprintCom has five renewal terms that could, if every one of them is triggered, would result in the lease not ending until November 10th of 2022.
[McGruder speaks to TAM.]
JARRARD: Everybody with me? So, 0.03 piece of property, tower on it. County doesn’t own it, but we have a unilateral and irrevocable option to acquire it.
We have two bases by which we can acquire this piece of property: 1) we can wait till the lease with SprintCom —
[McGruder looks at map and speaks again to TAM and TAM replies.]
JARRARD: —naturally terminates and at that point when it naturally terminates, the owner has to put the county on notice of the termination of the lease —
[McGruder reaches out to TAM.]
JARRARD: — and then they have to give us an option to buy it.
[TAM hands over paper to McGruder.]
JARRARD: The purchase is a little convoluted, it makes sense. First of all, we go secure an appraisal. We tender it to the owner of the property.
[McGruder returns paper to TAM.]
JARRARD: If they don’t like it, they go get an appraisal and tender it to us.
[TAM walks back to conference table.]
JARRARD: If we don’t like it, then both the county and the owner agree on a third MAI* appraiser and we’re stuck with that figure if we want to buy it.
[TAM takes seat at conference table.]
JARRARD: Alright, that’s, that’s one option. The other option is during the tenancy of the option, at any time, we can put the property owner on notice that we want to purchase the property. Ostensibly, if it’s during the term of the lease, we would buy it, subject to the lease.
Well, we could do that, as well, the same sort of appraisal math would still apply. We get an appraisal, they get an appraisal if we don’t agree, we get a third. That would be the brunt.
So, that’s our option we have for this .03-acre piece of property. The property owner has now come to us, the county, and said they would like to buy us out of our option right. Okay, they would like to buy us out of the option and they are proposing $25,000 to do that.
That would, ostensibly, have us doing a release of the option and at which point that .03-piece of property would be wholly unencumbered and would therefore not have an option and therefore the underlying fee property owner could do with it as they will obviously subject to the lease. Which I suppose the fee is much more valuable without our option attached to it. Makes sense, right?
So get rid of our sort of encumbrance, if you will, on their alienability rights. But that’s it. There’s nothing more to it. That’s what we have. We’ve received a proposal to buy us out of what we have for $25,000. I’ve brought it to the board.
BOFF: Do we know for a fact that the lease has not expired or terminated or some other —
JARRARD: I do not know the answer to that question.
BELL: Can we talk to IT, what do we call it?
JARRARD: I will, Commissioner Boff, Chairman Boff, to your question though, if the lease had expired, there would have been an obligation by the owner to put us on notice of that triggered the option. So, forgive me. Based upon the lack of that notice, I am very much am assuming the lease has not expired, Commissioner Bell.
AMOS: Could we actually use this tower as one of our —
BOFF: put a tornado warnings —
AMOS: tornado warning on it?
BOFF: I don’t know if it’s
JARRARD: I don’t know what the structural integrity of it is, if it would handle it.
BOFF: I don’t know the reason why this was done in the first place, the plan behind it or whatnot, I, you know, my first impression is: why do it? Why not just see how much it’s worth in 2022 and if it’s worth a lot especially with a lease on it, buy it then and have the revenue coming to the county.
AMOS: But we have to get it appraised. It could cost about as much as the lease is. If you look at it that way, we’d have to go through operation or have three different appraisals.
BOFF: Well, I mean, this is less than an acre of land, I would imagine for a thousand bucks you could get an appraisal on it.
AMOS: Yeah, but —
JARRARD: The value of this piece of property is the income stream. That’s all there is to it.
AMOS: We’re not buying a piece of property in 20 years, what if it goes up, we’re buying an income stream, so we’re not going to make money off of it.
BOFF: Oh, I see. What you’re saying is somebody will say, you know, they’re making say $10,000 a month for the next five years; therefore, it’s worth —
AMOS: Fifty-five hundred thousand dollars. [$5,500,000 (?)]
BOFF: And —
(?) That’s our argument.
AMOS: If we have it appraised, if we have to go.
BOFF: Okay, I see that point. Then the question is: why is $25,000.00 now the right number?
AMOS: that piece of property
BELL: the competition. We talked about that before, the county putting cell towers on county property. We shied away from that because a lot of our citizens use that
BOFF: And I would normally agree with you, except this was part of a bigger deal and there had to be thinking because this was, well it’s not here in our book, because this is associated with the selling of the property of the Boys Lodge. I think, it’s on —
AMOS: I think the cell tower was there before the Boys Lodge.
BOFF: But what I’m saying is this is all associated with that and it’s very hard to establish —
JARRARD: I think there was a time, Mr. Chairman, the board may have, in fact, wanted this. I don’t know exactly why. Perhaps, we thought there would be a public safety complex up on that hill that was at one point, long ago – one of the thoughts behind that piece of property. Perhaps, there might be some public safety communication facility. There was an interest by the board to at least have a go at this time.
BOFF: Why don’t we, why don’t we make this a percentage of the lease, the ongoing lease as opposed to just $25K?
BELL: I’m not, I understand where you’re going. I struggle with the, that, you know, we extracting dollars from, because we can or because there’s true value to the taxpayers. I don’t think there’s value to the taxpayers we have, uh —
BOFF: Well, if they pay it, the taxpayer won’t pay it. Right? The more you get for it, the less some taxpayer is going to have to pay.
BELL: Well, if we buy it —
BOFF: I’m not saying buy it, I’m saying make, possibly agree to this, but find out what the lease is bringing in and make it a percentage of that lease.
AMOS: Aren’t these leases in the five-year options now? They can dish out after —
JARRARD: The original term is over. Yes, sir.
JARRARD: So, they’re in the five-year renewal terms right now.
AMOS: That would be, we could look at it, but you’d have to look at it if the term, you know. If they don’t renew, I mean, $25,000 may be a great deal if they don’t renew.
BOFF: Yeah, but we don’t know.
BELL: I would, I think that our thought for having an option was for having public safety, not for profits.
BOFF: Okay, and I don’t know that —
JARRARD: Okay, I’m a little speculating, but it makes sense given what I thought was going to go there.
BOFF: So, why would we need it for public safety?
BELL: Build a public safety complex at the time, I suppose.
BOFF: Well, I just wish I had a justification for whatever the amount is, $25K. I don’t know whether that’s a good deal, a bad deal, or even deal or anything else. It’s just a deal.
JARRARD: I was looking to the board, if you want to give me some direction. If you want to decline the proposal, if you want to table the proposal, if you want to give me further direction or if you want to accept the proposal — I don’t mean to limit your options, but those are ones that come to mind.
BOFF: I make a motion that we table it.
BOFF: And I think my motion is failing, due to a lack of a second.
AMOS: I’d like to see it postponed. I make a motion to postpone it to our next work session on March 27th.
TAM: I second that.
AMOS: Any more information we need by then we can find out
BOFF: We have a motion to postpone this to March 27th?
AMOS: Yes, sir.
BOFF: And a second. If there’s no further discussion, please vote on the motion. All those in favor signify by saying aye.
BOFF, BELL, AMOS and TAM: Aye.
BOFF: All those opposed, like sign. That passes 4-0 with Commissioner Levent being absent and we are on the next —
JARRARD: Mr. Chairman, may I ask a question just very quickly, if I may? Mr. Amos this is toward you, what additional information could I bring back? I just don’t want to get —
AMOS: Yeah, I mean, I don’t, I guess, if we could find the terms of the lease. I think Mr. Boff’s —the Chairman’s — notion is what is the lease worth? I mean,
JARRARD: That would be, that would be more of an appraisal
AMOS: But I don’t want to do an appraisal on it.
BELL: Do we have a right to ask what a private citizen what private lease terms are?
JARRARD: In other words, maybe go and ask what the income stream is off the —
BELL: I don’t want to know and I say that because I don’t think it’s government’s business to pry.
AMOS: I mean, I —
BOFF: But they made a deal with government. It would be one thing if it’s just a piece of land sitting there that we walked up and said: “What’s your lease?”, but that’s not the case here.
JARRARD: Well, they’re coming to us. We could certainly in good faith go and say can you tell us what the lease is worth over the next twenty years so at least we have a little more information than we have now. That’s not unreasonable.
AMOS: Yeah, if we want to ask them. If they don’t want to give it to us, I'll —
JARRARD: I will report that back.
AMOS: Yes, sir.
BOFF: How about five minutes?
[Board takes five-minute recess.]
McGruder to AMOS: We’re the land owners.
[TAM speaks privately to McGruder during a public meeting, but contributes nothing to the discussion with fellow commissioners.]
* MAI Member, Appraisal Institute