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County makes counter offer on 60 acres near Industrial Park

Washington County is awaiting an answer to its counter offer for 60 acres of the farmland near the Industrial Park in Telford.
During its Dec. 1 meeting, members of the County-Owned Property Committee reviewed a copy of the contract submitted to the county by the Sanders family, which has been reviewed by attorney John Rambo.
The 60 acres have the best topography of the entire farm and are immediately adjacent to the Bush Hog building, County Mayor Dan Eldridge said.
“We need to consider not just what the land costs, but what it will cost to develop,” he said.
The contract includes a counter offer from Washington County based on the following contingencies: the removal of five acres that are not needed, a survey, a phase I environmental study, and an appraisal. The county will pay for the survey, the environmental study and the appraisal.
Eldridge said the seller also has a contingency – one or both of the land parcels totaling 11 acres on 11E Highway be swapped, with the value being subtracted from the sales price. This is property that was included in the county’s purchase of the Industrial Park.
Commissioner Mark Ferguson said 11E road frontage can’t be traded for back land.
“That’s giving taxpayers’ money away,” he said.
“I support buying the property, but not trading the acreage.”
Mitch Meredith said the deal should be considered if the county does not have any plans for that land.
Eldridge said there won’t be a deal without the land swap.
“Based on what he told me, it’s a deal-killer because they think they’re selling the 60 acres under market value,” Eldridge said.
Money for the purchase will be fronted by the Johnson City/Jonesborough/Washington County Economic Development Board and the Johnson City Power Board, an agreement that was approved by the EDB Executive Board earlier that day.
“The county can’t afford to buy it, and the county can’t borrow to buy it,” Eldridge said.
Ferguson argued the county has more negotiating power if the Sanders family wants to sell.
“I don’t buy the idea that it’s underpriced,” Ferguson said, adding he would consider a swap if it was at fair market value.
Eldridge asked committee members what would give them the comfort level to approve the agreement and make a recommendation to the full Washington County Board of Commissioners.
“I think it’s the best part of the farm, and the best news for us is that it’s adjacent to the Industrial Park,” Eldridge said.
Ferguson made a motion, which passed unanimously, to make an offer for the 60 acres at $10,000 per acre with the contingency that the land swap be taken out of the contract.
Eldridge made the counter offer to David Sanders, who said he would take it to his parents.