Grice discounts IW offer to state

Published 7:28 pm Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Tells club members paper got it wrong

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice appears to be discounting the value of the property from what it was offered to the state for the proposed youth correctional center.

The comments came during Thursday’s Smithfield Kiwanis meeting, according to two members, John Graham and Mac Cofer.

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Grice said the 20 acres of land was valued at $3,500 an acre, according to Graham and Cofer.

Grice said that was contrary to what was reported in the newspaper, according to Graham and Cofer.  (The Smithfield Times and the Tidewater News have both reported on the issue).

Grice confirmed the comments, but said he was breaking down the actual value of the land before it is developed, based on his personal assessment of the issue. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Contrary to Grice however, is a letter dated Feb. 27 to the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice, and signed by Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors Chairman Rudolph Jefferson, that 20 acres of land just off Route 258 was valued at $700,000 — or $35,000 an acre.

The Smithfield Times accurately reported that amount, based on the county letter. The letter also states that the county’s economic development department is marketing land in the intermodal park at $35,000 an acre. 

The total contribution to the state, including $500,000 for utilities, is valued at $1.2 million, according to Jefferson’s letter. 

The DJJ is asking for 20 acres to locate a new juvenile correctional center — a proposal that once it became public has generated some controversy.  

The Isle of Wight Economic Development Authority owns the land, which is located in phase III of the intermodal park.

Grice said he’s getting questions on why the county is giving away $1.2 million and wanted to clarify the issue. 

He said his comment about not accepting what one reads in the newspaper was not meant to imply that the paper inaccurately reported the numbers, which it did not. He later apologized privately to the paper for giving that impression in public remarks to the Kiwanians.

“Ultimately it (the land) will have a value of $700,000; today it doesn’t. That’s my personal take on it,” said Grice.

If Grice is correct, then did the county mislead the Department of Juvenile Justice in the letter urging that agency to locate its facility here?

“We’re not trying to fool anybody,” he said of the value amount provided to the state.

Isle of Wight County Commissioner of Revenue Gerald Gwaltney said the land in phase III of the intermodal park is assessed at $1,000 an acre and is primarily wooded.

“(Keurig) Green Mountain’s property is assessed at $30,000 for the improved portion of their parcel and $25,000 for their next phase of development.  That may be what they were using for the basis of the value.  But, Green Mountain’s valuation is based on a parcel, which is already developed and in use,” said Gwaltney in an email.

Values appear to change.

When Isle of Wight County purchased a 115.5 acre parcel along Route 258 in 2009 for $1.5 million, it paid $9,978 an acre. The land was then transferred to the EDA. 

The most recent assessment now has that land valued at $2,468 an acre. 

Another 522-acre parcel now owned by the EDA was purchased by Isle of Wight County in 2008 for $1.4 million, or $2,835 an acre.

Today it is assessed at $628,700 or $1,204 an acre. 

Grice said that overall, the average cost of each acre when purchased was about $3,800 and that was confirmed by county staff. 

The county purchased the property in phase III for $3.7 million for just over 965 acres, according to Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson. 

That would be about $3,883 an acre, he said. 

Grice said the Board of Supervisors was unaware that phase III contained so much wetlands when it initially approached the state about the correctional center last year. 

The 900-plus acre parcel appears to be about 80 percent wetlands, according to a preliminary assessment provided by Kimley-Horn. 

Grice said he does not know what “due diligence” was done before the county purchased the property and that Jefferson’s letter was written before state funding was confirmed for the project and the condition of the property was unknown.  {/mprestriction}