A video posted by Commissioner Dennis Hunt, representing District 6, the area where the proposed Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores would be, is reviewing handling the sale of the property by the Coffee County Industrial Board. The video is called “Coffee County’s Real Estate Boondoggle.”
The video states that handling the sale of the property has potentially cost Coffee County taxpayers more than $6 million, a profit that benefited an individual real estate investor instead of local taxpayers.
Hunt posted the video Aug. 8 on his official Facebook Page, Dennis Hunt Coffee County Commissioner District 6.
“The stewards of Coffee County’s real properties should be embarrassed,” Hunt said.
According to Hunt, in 1977, Coffee County taxpayers purchased 795 acres of Air Force property that was rendered non-contiguous to AEDC by the construction of I-24. Within that 795 acres, said Hunt, were 67 acres that were rendered non-contiguous to the 795 acres because of Wattendorf Highway.
In April 1977, the industrial board was placed in charge of this acreage to develop, sell and control the 795 acres, said Hunt. In October 1980, protected covenants for the Coffee County Industrial Park are recorded, in which it is stated that when land is sold, there must be one meeting with preliminary site plan before sale can be completed and a second meeting with final site plan before construction begins, according to Hunt. The covenants also state that the board would have 180 days to initiate right to repurchase if construction has not begun in two years, known as 2-180 rule.
The 67-acre property owned by Coffee County has been dormant from 1977 to 1999, according to Hunt. In 1999, Coffee County donated to the AEDC Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit, 10 acres of the land at Exit 117, accepting symbolic sum of $10,000, for construction of a museum. However, when construction plan is abandoned, Coffee County didn’t obtain the land back.
“At this point, the prudent thing would be to repurchase the 10 acres for $10,000 the benefit of Coffee County taxpayers,” said Hunt.
The land remained property of the Heritage Foundation, and in 2014, the nonprofit sold it to an individual real estate investor for $52,000, said Hunt.
“On the very same day, June 17, 2014, and inexplicably, the board sells to the same individual real estate investor 51 acres of Coffee County taxpayer property,” Hunt said. “No record of a site plan presented before the sale can be found. County receives $258,000. This action represents an unprecedented transfer, by volume/acreage of Industrial Park property not accompanied by comprehensive plans for development.”
Hunt added there’s no record of advertising or bidding process. The 2-180 rule had expired on the 10 acres. The 2-180 rule on the 51 acres would expire on Jan. 11, 2017, said Hunt. With no signs of construction, when the 2-180 rule expired on the 51 acres, the board made no attempt to repurchase the land.
Then in June 2017, Love’s representatives presented a site plan utilizing the 10 acres and the 51 acres. That matter was not on the agenda, according to Hunt. The individual real estate investor didn’t attend the meeting. In January 2018, the Coffee County Commission approved rezoning the area, clearing the way for Love’s to purchase the property from the investor. In April 2018, Love’s finalized the purchase of 15 acres from the real estate investor for $2.1 million, with 5 acres being part of the 51 acres purchased by the investor on June 17, 2014. The individual real estate investor has received about $1.8 million gross profit. The investor still retains title on the remaining 46 acres, according to Hunt.
Hunt made it clear that Love’s has done nothing inappropriate.