Murray/Cornell lots draw no bids at auction
By Virginia Bruce
Washington County held an auction on May 1, 2013, to sell off five parcels of surplus land. Included in the auction were two lots (to be sold as one parcel) at the southeast corner of the intersection of Murray and Cornell.
The minimum bid for the combined lots was listed at $850,000. No bids were received. Representatives from Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services said their developer clients were not willing to pay such a high price for the property. They indicated that there might be more interest if all the lots in that area were combined, since that would provide access from Murray. There’s no indication that the other property owners (the Tattoo Parlor and the building with Poppas Haven etc.).are interested at this time, however
The two lots were purchased by the county in 2008 to facilitate the widening and improvements for the Murray-Cornell intersection. The county has to pay the full assessed market value for property it wishes to buy for projects. Land agents cannot take into account the effect that their proposed actions will have on the values.
The larger parcel (previously1.02 acres) that faces Cornell was purchased from the Cheng Family Trust for $3,040,000. (They had acquired it in 1994 for $980,000.) Prior to the county’s purchase, the property contained a two-story building, with apartments above and several small businesses below. A dry-cleaning business occupied one of the spaces, and chemical contamination had seeped into the ground. After the roadwork was done, remediation efforts, paid for by the former property owner, continued from 2008 to October 2012. The DEQ issued a “no further action” letter on December 4, 2012.
The smaller parcel that had been the site of the Sunset Hum-Dinger hamburger shop was purchased from Seng Leng and Heang Theang for $278,000. That property has a billboard lease with Clear Channel Outdoor that runs through 2015. The lease is valued for county taxes at $13,000, with property taxes of $69 per year.
In addition to subtracting the land for the roadway, leaving a total of only about .75 acres, access to the property will only be allowed on Joy Avenue. County arterials (both Cornell and Murray) have a minimum access spacing of 600 feet and that can’t be met along either frontage for this property.
The billboard lease could also be a problem, but it will likely run out by the time anyone is ready to develop. An additional downside may be that although the DEQ has indicated that contamination in the soil is below a level that is harmful to health, it “may require special management if generated or removed during future site development.”
Julie McCloud, Public & Government Affairs Assistant in the WashCo Administrative Office says, “The process of setting the price involved a market analysis of nearby similar properties, much like a realtor would do for a seller. Our facilities staff found that similar properties were averaging around $27 per square foot. This amount was applied to the square footage left after the project was completed and we arrived at $850,000.”
The property is in the Transit Oriented District (TO) because of its proximity to the Sunset Highway. It is designated TO:RC for retail-commercial development. The county’s Town Center ordinances specify height, sidewalk-facing orientation and other parameters, but recent, successful projects like Auto Zone and the 12923 NW Cornell building show that they aren’t an undue burden.
Those who are interested in purchasing the property must submit a formal letter in care of the LUT Property Manager, Ms. Wilson, indicating that they are interested in acquiring the property. They must reference the property by map and tax lot and indicate the amount of their bid. The offer is then reviewed by Facilities, Land Use and Transportation, and by the Assistant County Administrator. The final step is for the Board of County Commissioners to formally accept or reject the offer.
McCloud says, “There is no timeline involved. The County will keep the property until we receive an offer that is considered reasonable. If no offers have been accepted between now and whenever another auction comes up, it will be placed back on the auction list.” No “sealed bids” have been received so far.
So the county could just “sit on” the property for a few more years. They don’t have to pay property taxes on it, anyway!