MOUNT VERNON — The board of the Knox County Revitalization Corp. (Knox County Land Bank) voted to buy and resell the property at 1375 Newark Road on behalf of the Board of Knox County Commissioners. The parcel is home to New Hope Industries.
Tuesday's action marks the second time the Land Bank has agreed to market and sell property on behalf of a municipality. Earlier this year, the Land Bank acted as agent on behalf of the City of Mount Vernon in the sale of the former fire station at 215 Ames St.
Commissioner Thom Collier said the commissioners started thinking about selling the property after being approached in the spring by Jeffry Harris of the Area Development Foundation.
“In mid- to late May we received a letter from the Area Development Foundation expressing the dire need for building space as well as land for expansion in the industrial park,” he said. “They had several folks in the industrial park who want to expand who are looking out of town if they couldn't expand locally.
“After discussing it amongst the commissioners, we decided to consider selling [the New Hope Industries property] A) to keep economic development in the area, and B) we decided it just didn't make sense for the county to own non-taxable property in the middle of some of the most valuable land in in the county.”
Collier added that the economic viability to maintain the building, which needs a new roof, was another factor in the commissioners deciding it was in the county's best interest to sell the property for the “highest and best use.” In this case, to promote commercial, industrial, and manufacturing in the area.
Harris said the county is “really short” on inventory of available high-quality M-1 (light manufacturing) sites with utilities. After noticing the New Hope building is lightly used compared to the past, he approached the commissioners.
“The Area Development Foundation frequently gets phone calls asking 'hey, what's available?'” he said. “The answer is 'not much.' This will be the infusion of another high-quality site.”
Harris said there are no companies “waiting in the wings” to get the building, but two Knox County companies have specifically asked about it.
The county bought the building and six acres in 1987. It leases the property to Knox Board of Developmental Disabilities. In turn, Knox DD has leased the building to New Hope Industries for the past 10 or 12 years.
“Both of those leases expired in the past year and neither have been renewed, nor did we think it made economic sense to continue in the existing leases,” said Collier.
New Hope Industries is a private, tax-exempt, nonprofit adult day facility that provides occupational training and habilitation for developmentally disabled clients. It only occupies part of the 30,000-plus square-foot building.
The commissioners do not have a set number in mind as a sale price. According to the auditor's website, the property, which will be sold as one parcel, is valued at $576,780. Based on recent research and market activity, Collier estimates the sale could bring in over $1 million. A formal appraisal ordered as part of the sale process will be completed by the end of July.
The Land Bank's involvement is pending commissioners' approval, which is expected to be formalized next week. The Land Bank will give the county $5,000 in earnest money for the sale.
The Land Bank will coordinate marketing and showing the property to interested buyers. It will also handle the closing and sale details. Technically, the Land Bank will only own the parcel for a few brief minutes. During the closing, the legal process calls for the Land Bank to buy the property from the county; it will then turn right around and sell the property to the buyer.
Following the sale, which is expected by Dec. 13, the Land Bank will monitor progress to make certain that the buyer makes the repairs and improvements as stated in the contract. A Land Bank lien will be lifted when the repairs and improvements are made within the specified time frame.
In keeping with the Land Bank's ability to select the end user based on its mission of “highest and best use” of property, the Land Bank will collect and review applications and make a recommendation to its board. The board will have final approval of the buyer. Approval is expected by Aug. 30.
New Hope Industries must vacate the property by Dec. 1.
Knox Pages was unable to reach Dennis Eggerton, chief executive officer of NHI, as he is out of the office until July 15.