Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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Neighbor’s overture leaves council salivating over potential value of abandoned town well


A neighbor’s designs on the site of an abandoned town well seems to have released a groundswell of new interest among Elon’s municipal leaders in this all-but-forgotten piece of publicly-owned real estate.

The members of Elon’s town council ultimately decided not to do anything with this small, unused tract when they considered its potential disposal on Tuesday in response an inquiry that the town’s municipal staff has reportedly received from the adjacent landowner – Gary M. Oakley.

During a regularly-scheduled meeting that evening, Elon’s town manager Richard Roedner suggested that the council use one of the statutorily-approved methods to unload this parcel, which he conceded has no current municipal function.

“I went to the department heads, and none had any kind of use for it,” Roedner went on to recall, “We have options [for its disposal],” he added. “We could put a for sale sign on it. We could hire a real estate agent, or we could put it out to bid.”

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Located at the juncture of North Manning Avenue and University Drive, this .68-acre parcel was reportedly once home to a community well, which apparently fell out of use at some murky point in the past. Roedner acknowledged, however, that the property has lately garnered some renewed attention thanks to an informal query from Oakley, who purchased an adjoining 2.2-acre parcel earlier this year.

According to Lori Oakley, the town’s planning director, Gary Oakley has broached the potential combination of his own property, which contains a single-family home, with the town’s unutilized real estate. The town’s planning director, who is no relation to Gary Oakley, added that the neighboring landowner hinted that he may want to redevelop the combined site – perhaps as “some kind of business.”

The prospect of a direct sale to Gary Oakley initially appealed to some council members given that the town must currently rely on the adjoining parcel to access its property, which doesn’t have any road outlet of its own.

“I understand being fiscally responsible and getting the best price for our citizens,” declared council member Stephanie Bourland, “but there is also something said for being good neighbors.”

Others, however, were tempted by the property’s possible commercial value – based not only on Gary Oakley’s interest but also on the proximity of a large subdivision that Raleigh-based Greenhawk Development has in the works on another adjacent tract.

“Let’s not give away the property because you think you’re doing the neighborly thing,” councilman Monti Allison said in response to Bourland’s suggestion.

“I say we just sit on it, and not do anything,” added councilman Quinn Ray. “If there’s an opportunity for a public-private partnership, I hate for us to sell it and lose that opportunity.”
In the end, the council decided not to green light any of the statutorily-permitted methods to dispose of the property. Nor did it sign off on a professional appraisal, which Roedner suggested as a check on the property’s assessed tax value of $31,634.

The only action the council did take was to instruct the town manager to follow up with Gary Oakley to ferret out his long-term intentions as well as his actual level of interest in the town’s land.

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