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DeKalb Commission Defers Controversial LaVista Land Purchase

The board of commissioners will return to the issue on June 28.

DeKalb County commissioners again deferred a decision to purchase more than six acres on LaVista Road for a future park, as discussion continued to center on whether the parcel is overpriced.

"Three of the four parcels of land on this tract are landlocked; only one has an entrance and exit onto LaVista Road," Calvin Hicks, chief county tax appraiser, told the board. "We have to consider each parcel separately, and those entrances increase the value of the overall tract."

District 2 Commissioner Jeff Rader made a motion that the board approve the purchase, but District 5 Commissioner Lee May made a substitute motion to defer the item for two weeks.

"I'm concerned that this property is appraised for $400,000, that we're going to purchase for $2 million," May said. "We need to discuss this further."

Rader said the item had already been deferred for two weeks, "and I'm concerned that waiting another two weeks is pushing the expiration date on this arrangement."

No designs have been set for the park, according to Rader. But the county plans to purchase the land to create a park with walking trails, according to the proposal. The land is "historically significant," the proposal said, "and an interpretation of original family ownership is planned."

Greenspace preservation in District 2 has been a priority of Rader's. It's important that the county acquire the land because much of the district was developed without greenspaces in mind, he said. Now, the area is mostly developed, so large tracts of bare land are hard to come by.

The land is currently owned by Paulee Partners headed by Rick Porter. It's adjacent to Lavista Road east of the intersection with Oak Grove Road.

Reid Mallard June 17, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Don, Sorry to have checked my sense of humor at the door. I didn't mean to get your ire up, but perhaps I had mine. I was responding to my feeling that your characterization of this Greenspace deal on the level of a Bear Sterns deal was unfair and meant to negatively sway rather humor or inform readers. Related, I beg to differ with your characterization of how Porter has handled the land as a Bernie Madoff-type move. In my opinion, that is again an unfair aspersion. Within the law Porter kept the parcels separate and no one would have advised him otherwise. Also, yes, I agree that my very subjective example of the value of another piece of land is not terribly pertinent. My intent, albeit unclear, was not to compare apples to apples, but to point out that land values have largely shown an overall increase since 2004 despite the massive correction of the last 2-3 years. Is a correction to an average yrly increase of 4-5% over the last seven years more down to earth than the crazy 10-20% annual increases prior to '08 and '09? So, I respectfully differ from your opinion. Yes, I am willing to go with the proposed settlement cost based on the private, market appraisals. I believe it is a fair deal and represents a good long-term investment for the community. Your opinion, as stated, is that this is full of "pork-barrel political pay-offs". I believe that is an unfair statement, or at least just as unsubstantiated as my own.
Reid Mallard June 17, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Finally, no intent here to lecture you about being informed. I respect your background, we have mutual friends that respect your work and I know you were in the BOC meeting on Tuesday, as was I. The closing point, that I stand by, in my earlier post was that over-stated, perhaps sarcastic quips, much like a bad political ad, do little to inform readers. But perhaps I am remiss and should know that forums such as this and the Vent generally invite that sort of exchange rather than a genuine attempt to inform, learn and exchange information.
Don Broussard June 17, 2011 at 10:18 PM
I stand behind the figures I put out and their sources. You have not disputed those. I think I am doing my part to give facts and inform readers of this site --including you. In fact, I supplied info that The Patch should have in its reporting, which started out pretty weak, in my view. I have not accused Porter of breaking any law. You are the one defending Porter's business acumen and ignoring his ethics and the policy issues. Porter bought the land as a unit and got it zoned as a unit; it would be developed as a unit --- not as 3 parcels. You, Porter, and Assessor Curtis Hicks apparently want to hide behind the contrived fiction that these 3 unconsolidated parcels somehow do not reflect the $1.4 million Porter actually paid for them and explain away his tax break in this fashion. NO ONE on this blog takes that argument seriously. Georgia law may, MAY allow Hicks to do this, but you can't seriously defend that as good public policy. You also rushed to defend someone who's post amounted to "buy this now -- because I want it and prices will only go up." That flippant statement deserves sarcasm and derision and it IS the mindset that pushed Wall Street and the U.S. economy into a ditch in 2008. There's a list of about 12 recent books I can send you that explain this. Try reading even Wikipedia on Bear Stearns and you will get an idea about my reference. Let's talk further by email directly. Have a nice weekend.
Reid Mallard June 20, 2011 at 06:36 PM
David. I'll try and answer some of your questions from what I know. There were actually three private, market appraisals done on the land. Two of them came in at $1.7, but the third appraisal came in at $2.3. So, if my math is right they agreed on the average of the three being $1.9. The tax assessment on the land is lower than the market appraisal because, in short, the county must appraise the land as four separate parcels, three of which are land-locked. The three land-locked parcels of land have simply held the total cost of the four way down. Land-locked land simply isn't that valuable. Also, that tax assessment is for tax purposes only and would have little or no impact on the ultimate settlement price of a market sale now or when Porter bought the land in 2004. Still smarting from the last 2-3 years, it is hard to imagine land increasing at 35%, but the years prior to that have offset the recent years. I am not a real estate agent but the way I look at it is that the correction of the last 2-3 years has brought the average yearly value back down to a believable 5% increase/year over the last 7 years. I have always heard that one can reasonably hope that property might increase by 4-5% annually, but someone can check me on that. I know that vacant land we own has increased by exactly 5%/year since 2004 despite the bombshell of the last 2-3 years.
Reid Mallard June 20, 2011 at 06:36 PM
Also, the distinction in the meaning of "park" is an important one. I think alot of times the terms park and greenspace are used interchangeably to the confusion of some. This will be purchased from greenspace money that only establishes this as greenspace, preserved land. However, this land does adjoin approx 4 acres of other undeveloped wooded area adjacent to Coralwood ES that has had nature trails, bridges, and a little pavilion built by Boy Scouts and other groups. It's really a nice area and frequently used if you haven't seen it before. It is perfectly reasonable to think that these would be extended by other groups into the 6.2 acres in question and even connect to LaVista from Coralwood Rd. I know one scout leader who has already said it would be a great area for scout projects and service. I also talked with someone at the BOC meeting that represents an organization that builds soft foot paths (not the PATH Foundation). She was also interested in the possibilities. Quite a nice vision, huh?

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