Posted by Rich on July 30, 2000 at 14:47:19:
In Reply to: posted by Rich/Mohican Press on July 28, 2000 at 07:53:30:
Article from the Hendersonville Paper ... Do act now folks!
Fate of the falls to be decided
By Harrison Metzger
Times-News Staff Writer
July 30, 2000
N.C. Insurance Commissioner
Jim Long has already cast his
vote for the state to force a
South Carolina developer to
sell land with three spectacular
waterfalls in the middle of
DuPont State Forest.
"If we lose that land to
development, we will never be
able to reclaim it," he said last
Long, a member of the N.C.
Council of State, won't be able
to attend the group's meeting Tuesday morning in Raleigh,
so he cast a vote in advance.
The 10-member body of the state's top elected officials is
set to discuss whether the state should use its power of
eminent domain to force developer Jim Anthony to sell the
2,223 acres he bought last year from a group of Texas
The land is surrounded by the DuPont State Forest and
partially surrounds the Agfa film plant formerly owned by
DuPont and Sterling. It is home to Lake Julia and several
other lakes, mountain bogs and forests and the three
breathtaking cascades: High Falls, Triple Falls and Bridal
Questions abound as state leaders prepare to discuss the
issue. Will the council follow through with Gov. Jim Hunt's
April threat to force Anthony to sell? Or will they settle for
some kind of compromise, details yet unknown, to grant
public access to the waterfalls on Anthony's terms?
Anthony bought the land last year for $6.35 million,
outbidding by $850,000 a conservation group that was
seeking to buy the tract for the state. The group made its
bid based on a misunderstanding that deed restrictions
would prohibit much development. That was not the case.
Anthony at first said he had no plans to build homes on
the property, but would use it as a private park for
residents of his three Upstate golfing developments. Four
months later, he announced he would build up to 100 large
vacation homes there. The proposed development, called
the Cliffs at Brevard, apparently has the blessings of Agfa
which holds deed restrictions on the land.
In May, Anthony agreed to halt most construction at the
site to allow time for negotiations over the land's fate. That
moratorium, extended once, is now set to expire Aug. 8,
turning up the heat for the state to take action.
A decision, one way or the other
Unlike Long, state officials were tight-lipped about their
Sherri Evans-Stanton is deputy secretary for policy and
programs for the N.C. Department of Environment and
Natural Resources, and the chief negotiator on behalf of
"I would say by the 8th we hope to have it resolved one
way or the other," she said Wednesday.
Hunt proposed at the April Council of State meeting that
the state force the developer to sell all the land. That came
after Attorney General Mike Easley, the Democratic
candidate for governor, suggested the state force Anthony
to sell 478 acres around the falls.
Evans said her department was instructed to "look at
options to protect the land." Those range from a forced
sale to "some kind of agreement."
"If it is possible to reach an agreement that addresses all
the issues, and it could be done in a way that avoids
condemnation, I think there would be support for that," she
She added: "Public access is one of the key issues. I
don't think anybody would be satisfied unless that were
Where's the money?
Where the state would get money to buy the land remains
an open question. Sam Neill, a Hendersonville real estate
attorney and Democratic congressional candidate, says
the state has plenty of money available through the Clean
Water Management Trust Fund. The fund typically gets
$30 million a year, which a board of trustees allocates to
buy land critical to clean water statewide.
Woody and Jo Jo Keen of Cedar Mountain are leaders in
the Friends of the Falls, the local group lobbying for the
state to buy all the land.
"I think it is really important the public know the money
really is there," Mrs. Keen said Thursday.
If the state uses eminent domain powers, it would set off a
legal challenge with juries in Transylvania and Henderson
counties determining the amount Anthony would be paid.
That process would probably take at least a year, giving
the state time to tap into two funding cycles of the Clean
Water Management Trust Fund, she said.
The fund's board of directors has identified the 2,223
acres as a "promising opportunity to preserve outstanding
water resources," said Steve Bevington, senior scientist
with the fund. But trustees have in the past expressed
reservations about the idea of using money to buy land
where the sale is forced.
"It has never come to a vote, but several board members
expressed personal reservations in proceeding in such a
way," he said Friday. "But we have no formal policy and
no formal action in a test case."
The Friends of the Falls has heard from "various sources,"
that Anthony has proposed selling the property for $24
million, Mr. Keen said.
Anthony denies that.
"I have not quoted any figures to anybody, and anybody
who says I have is not telling you the truth," he said
Friday. "What I have had said is I have made promises to
people who have bought property in other communities. I
would be sued if I sold that property."
Anthony declined further comment saying he his
prohibited from discussing the matter while negotiations
Mr. Keen said he believes $24 million would be "way out of
line" for the waterfall property despite roads, bridges and
other work Anthony has done in the past year. But even if
the state did end up paying that much, the total state
investment in DuPont State Forest would come to about
$3,000 per acre. That's because DuPont originally sold
the bulk of the forest, about 7,600 acres, for $2.2 million,
well below the land's estimated value of $14 million.
Campaign heating up
For the past two months, Friends of the Falls has lobbied
Council of State members through e-mail and letters,
posting updates on the Web site dupontforest.com.
Property rights advocates have waged a lower profile
campaign urging the state not to condemn the land.
The Transylvania County Board of Commissioners
opposes the state forcing the sale, in part because it
would remove more land from the county's tax rolls.
"The board's position has not changed; my position hasn't
changed," Commission Vice Chairman Ray Miller said
Friday. "I was really hoping the state and Jim Anthony
could somehow reach a compromise that would be
satisfactory to everybody. I would like to see public
access to the falls."
Friends of the Falls believes public opinion is on their side.
Keen pointed to an unscientific poll conducted by radio
station WHKP-AM 1450 on its Internet site. Almost 60
percent of the 411 people who responded supported the
state forcing the sale, compared to 40 percent against,
according to Taz Painter, an announcer at the station.
"We just want to focus the public attention on what Gov.
Hunt said he was going to do," said Jeff Jennings of the
Friends of the Falls. "We really feel like the public support
has turned in our favor in the last two months."
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