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Board votes to make $2 million property purchase
On Nov. 2, during a special called meeting, the Black Mountain Board of Aldermen approved the purchase of over four acres of land near the center of town for $2 million.
The board voted 5-0 to buy 304 Black Mountain Avenue, the current home of Carolina Foam Fabric and Home Decor. The town plans to use the existing structure to house its public services and recreation departments.
The property was appraised by Buncombe County earlier this year for $1,452,500, but the nearly 22,000 square foot structure (assessed value of $645,100 by the county) is valuable to the town, according to town manager Matt Settlemyer.
“The primary purpose for the purchase is to move public services and the administrative offices of the recreation and parks department into the building,” he said. “The existing structure will more than meet our needs.”
Public services facilities are currently located at 2992 U.S. 70 West on less than an acre of land in a building that does not provide sufficient space for the department to grow with the town, Settlemyer said.
“The current building is around 7,000 square feet,” he said. “The new building is on around four acres of land and around 22,000 square feet, so this is an opportunity for that department to grow and be centrally located.”
Administrative offices for the recreation and parks department are currently located in the Carver Center, which is leased by the Swannanoa Valley Montessori School for its daily operations.
“The Montessori school is continuing to boom and their long-term plan had always included using the office portion of that building,” Settlemyer said. “We were unable to accommodate that, so this will allow that school to grow there and make better use of that facility.”
Consolidating the two departments into a single location makes logistical sense as well, he added.
“They work together closely on park maintenance and things like that,” Settlemyer said.
The adjacent lots, which include 75-100 parking spaces more than what the town would use, will be used for public parking.
Don Collins approached the owner of the property after the town had a map made of private and public parking near the central business district.
“We got a good view of where the parking was near downtown,” Collins said. “I was looking at the 75 spaces the current owner of Carolina Foam and Fabric had and I approached him about the possibility of leasing that land to the town.”
The owner of the property, which is registered to Gurley Properties, LLC, of Marion, told Collins he’d be willing to sell it.
“The board began to have discussions,” Collins said. “We had an appraisal done and based on that appraisal we felt like we were getting a piece of property that would benefit the town in a lot of ways.”
Collins, who touted his efforts toward fiscal responsibility while running for mayor in the Nov. 7 election (results not available as of deadline), said the purchase is "good for the town."
"There are so many possible benefits for the town," he said. "It's a parking aide and since the town is buying it, it can stay as it is. If a hotel goes and buys it, which was something being inquired about, then how could that affect that block?"
A future I-40 interchange at Blue Ridge Road would allow the town to eventually sell the current public services site, Collins said.
"We could sit on that property for awhile and sell it later, which would help pay for a large chunk of this purchase," he said.
The transaction, which Settlemyer said will take at least six months to complete, is the largest land acquisition by the town since 2010 when it purchased the 1.2 acres of land that now serve as the site of Town Square.
"I think having a presence on that side of town gives us an opportunity in the future, as the town continues to grow, to be an actual player in how the downtown area can develop reasonably," Settlemyer said.