High Gap sale main topic at first town hall
The POA board is hosting three town hall meetings to discuss its intention to sell two parcels of land—14.9 acres at the Steve Tate roundabout and 332 acres on High Gap—that were part of a $9.4 million land purchase from Big Canoe Company in 2016. The board is taking this action, in part, based on a recommendation contained in its Land Use Task Force’s final plan of April 2018.
The future of the High Gap wilderness tract appears to be the most complicated, according to POA President Phil Anderson’s presentation at the first town hall meeting on Saturday, Nov. 3.
The POA board originally considered seeking a conservation easement—similar to the Potts Mountain tract—for High Gap that would generate funds for the POA and guarantee a perpetual conservancy for the land. Instead, the board is considering a five-step land transaction involving Five Rivers Conservation Group, Atlantic Coast Conservancy, the POA and a to-be-formed entity called High Gap Reserve, LLC. This transaction would result in the fee simple sale of High Gap to the Atlantic Coast Conservancy without restrictions—not a conservation easement.
The sticking point is Big Canoe covenants, which apply to part of the High Gap tract (175.5 acres) bordering Big Canoe. Without the protection of a conservation easement (the Potts Mountain deal) there would be nothing to prevent the future transfer and possible development of the High Gap property.
As a Big Canoe property owner, Dr. Robert Keller, CEO of ACC, will have the same rights as other owners to have his guests come into Big Canoe. The ACC, according to Keller, will give the POA proxy to the voting rights that would go with High Gap and relinquish rights to use Big Canoe’s amenities. In return, the ACC—as a 501 c3 non-profit—would not be required to pay POA assessments.
The POA would receive $1.05 million in exchange for a fee-simple title transfer (sale) of High Gap to Atlantic Coast Conservancy. As of the first town hall, the POA likely will determine how to use the proceeds after the master plan (now underway) is completed and if it determines there will be capital requirements for priority projects.
Roundabout proposal for RFPs
The POA board plans to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for a marketing plan and brokerage proposal for the 14.43 acres of land on the northwest corner of the roundabout at Steve Tate and Cove Road. This land isn’t subject to POA covenants but the Big Canoe Company has deed restrictions and its approval is required in the sale of this land. The POA board’s preferred future use of this land—currently zoned for highway business—is for progressive senior living and/or assisted living, as recommended by the Land Use Task Force. Anderson said the land was appraised in 2016 for $575,000.
Questions reflected High Gap concerns
“I feel like I missed something,” said Lisa Schnellinger, referring to the proposal for High Gap. “Why sell this property at all? This deal doesn’t guarantee the land [High Gap] will be protected. Why did you buy it then decide to sell it?”
“When we purchased the land, I thought anything over $1 million needed a vote,” asked one resident. “Why don’t we need a vote to sell an asset valued at over $1 million?”
“If the property were to be transferred out of ACC, what happens to the voting rights [attached to that property]? What’s the rush?” asked Jeff Hites.
Other questions included: Are there carve-outs planned for High Gap? What happens when Dr. Keller is no longer in charge of ACC? What’s the reason we purchased this property and what are we getting back? If ACC acquires the land then in the future decides to sell it, can we have first right of refusal?
Survey and more town hall meetings
Following the first town hall meeting, the POA board posted a one-question survey asking—yes or no—should the POA sell the High Gap tract. The survey will be open through Nov. 12.
Two additional town hall meetings were scheduled at the Big Canoe Chapel from 5-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6 and from 10 a.m. until noon on Thursday, Nov. 8. The POA’s November work session will begin at 5 p.m. on Nov. 8 in the Mountains Grille Room at The Clubhouse at Lake Sconti.