Elissa Yount: Selling Southerland Mill Pond

by Elissa Yount

Suppose that in 1953 your parents bought 79.43 acres of beautiful, pastoral, land with a ten acre pond in the middle of it, with timber and natural growth alongside a dam with huge stones and pristine water.

For all of this they paid a little over $50,000.

It is now 2009, and you have an offer on the land and water. You have no urgent pressing need to sell the property, but you have an appraisal by Cushman & Wakefield dated January 23, 2009 that values the property at $55,000. You also have an appraisal done by Jeffery R. Weber and Associates as of June 6, 1998 appraising the property for $163,300. Would you think $43,000 would be a fair, negotiated price? You would…if you were seven of the sitting Henderson City Council members.

The ineptness of the city council’s decision on this deal is astounding. This vote defies logic; it is stupefying and unbelievable. I would bet that most of the city council members have not laid eyes on Southerland Mill Pond and have no idea what they are selling.

I would also venture to bet that most of those on the Council have never heard of the Triangle Land Conservancy, the Tar River Land Conservancy, the Natural Heritage Program, the Mountain to Sea Trail, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund to protect wetlands and watersheds, or the Keep It Wild Project. Have they even considered that using this property correctly for future generations will go a long way towards promoting a progressive image for Henderson? If they really want to get rid of the land, there are far better means at their disposal that will benefit the public.

We own Southerland Mill Pond. It is public ownership, and that public ownership constitutes our natural legacy. There is one thing that they’re not making and more of, and that’s land. Teddy Roosevelt said that a nation behaves well, it treats natural resources as assets that it must turn over to the next generation, increased, not impaired in value. For this council to blithely vote to sell Southerland Mill Pond, our natural legacy, is almost criminal. By this vote, the council showed both a total lack of fiscal responsibility and a total lack of environmental concern.

Council people have stated that they wanted Robert Southerland to own this land. I do not. I want the people of North Carolina to own this land for us all because I have no faith in the city government doing what is ethical about this natural resource. I even think that the county should consider purchasing this property. They could trade the city for part of the debt the city owes them for the municipal hall and come out ahead on the deal.

The City has owned this esthetically beautiful spot in the county for over 50 years. If this land becomes private property, there is no guarantee that the owner could not then resell and/or develop the land. The city has already negotiated with Mr. Southerland as the committee asked Mr. Southerland to increase his offer from $42,000 to $43,000. Then, after negotiating the price, the council voted to sell the land for the good of one private owner. Henderson’s city government, it seems, is disconnected from what is good for us all.

The law requires that the city now proceed with a “sealed upset bid” process. There will be more to this story. Stay tuned.