Letters to the Editor - Sept, 23

September 23, 2012

Property decision wasn’t ‘brutal,’ it was a bargain

To the editor:

It is indeed a shame when the president of the Washington County Board of County Commissioners considers it a “brutal day” when the county votes to acquire a piece of property, deemed to be the most suitable and cost-effective location for a new state-of-the-art elementary school, for $900,000 less than the asking price.

Even at that discounted level, the reason why the negotiated sale price was so much higher than the assessed value and the seller’s purchase price is the intervening re-approval of a 240-unit multifamily housing project (thus the name of the entity). The individual members of the entity are not and never have been a mystery or withheld from anybody who asked; they are David Lyles, a Washington County real estate developer, and Doug Moul, a former resident of Washington County, personal friend and business associate of Lyles.

Baker’s comment that “nobody is getting three times the assessed value of a property in Washington County” may be a fair statement in the world of existing, single-family homes, but not in the world of real estate development. When a property is purchased in its raw state with no entitlements to build, as this property was, and then obtains the necessary entitlements, as this property did, its market value routinely increases and often dramatically; that is the very purpose and intent of real estate development.

My clients were in the process of marketing the property at its new value level of $2.4 million when the county approached me about purchasing it for a new elementary school site.

At the time, the property was under contract for $2.4 million, so discussions stalled with the county. When the contract was terminated by the buyer based upon the uncertainty of future market conditions in Hagerstown for multi-family development, I called the county to let them know the property was now available if they still wanted to pursue an acquisition.

Joe Kroboth accurately recounted the negotiations in his presentation to the commissioners which eventually settled at the purchase price of $1.5 million.

My clients were divided on the issue.

Moul, the investor, was of the opinion that the property should stay on the market for $2.4 million as an approved multi-family project and Lyles, having deeper roots in  Washington County, wanted to get this done for the community per the desires of the county’s school site evaluation team. Mr. Lyles convinced Mr. Moul that the right thing to do was to sell the land to the county and it got done.

For anybody, least of all members of the board of county commissioners, to cast negative aspersions, make outright accusations of misconduct or be generally disgruntled because my clients were able to make a profitable business decision while at the same time doing the right thing for the county and the future of its public school system, is a shame.

Thankfully, the majority of the board saw things differently and focused on the reality of the factual circumstances and the positive nature of the objective site selection process and good faith negotiations. Factors that should be, and in this case narrowly were, more important than anger and spite over someone else making a good business decision.

Jason Divelbiss
Hagerstown attorney for Hagers Crossing Multifamily, LLC.


Senate bill is unkind to polar bears

To the editor:

After reading about SB 3525, The Sportsmen’s Act of 2012, I was shocked to find out that Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is one of the cosponsors of this dangerous bill.

In addition to removing the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the public and wildlife from toxic lead ammunition, this troubling legislation would also provide undeserved exemptions to a small group of wealthy trophy hunters to import polar bears they shot and killed in Canada prior to the bear being listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Our government should be figuring out ways to safeguard the survival of this majestic species and protect their habitat, rather than granting exemptions for those who want to decorate their homes with polar bear rugs.

Ginnie R. Maurer
Falling Waters, W.Va.

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