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News Planning board looks at future of surplus land in the county

The old Cullasaja Elementary School is one of the properties that county commissioners will be looking at to sell or find another purpose for. The property sits on eight acres and is just off the Highlands Road. Photos by Travis TallentThe Macon County Planning Board met last Thursday for its monthly meeting. Members were tasked by the board of commissioners to look into potential uses for existing properties owned by the county.

County Planner Matt Mason presented members with a portfolio of properties ranging from undeveloped land-locked properties to commercial properties. Some notable properties that were examined during the meeting included the old Cullasaja School, the old county garage just inside the Franklin city limits and a small tract of land between the Highlands Road and the Little Tennessee Greenway. Other properties considered were land locked properties off of Middle Creek in Otto, two pieces of property on Bradley Creek in Cowee, and another piece of property off of Bethel Church Road.

The old county garage was the first bit of property to draw the attention of the board, likely because of its prime location in the city limits and its designation as a secondary commercial property.

“This is a good piece of property. It's flat and it's right by the highway. All you have to do is go down Sloan Road,” said Chairman Derek Roland. “It's a good piece of property. Also if that property were to be developed, it could liven up that whole end of town.”

Some of the properties to be discussed are currently listed on the county's website for sale, but not on any other sites. Board member John Underwood pointed out that the board of commissioners needed to go beyond simply putting the property on the website.

“In our recommendation to the commissioners I think we need to put out that they need to list these properties with some realtors or put some signs up,” said Underwood.

The old Macon County Garage sits just inside the city limits of Franklin on the Old Murphy Road.  Three structures on the site have been used for garage areas and storage over the years.Roland proposed that if the planning board did recommend the sale of any properties to the commissioners, it would be beneficial for them to be listed on a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) that is often used by realtors.

“Nobody in this room even knew that they were for sale. If we're trying to sell them, then everybody in the room should have known,” Roland said.

Before the discussion of selling the county properties could progress too far, member Jack Morgan spoke up in favor of looking in another direction.

“I just think before we go trying to sell these parcels that we should really look at the potential uses we may have for them,” Morgan said. “We should ask ourselves if there is another use for this that would improve Macon County's economy or is it useable for county administration or the Sheriff's Department or EMS. We should first consider if there is a use.”

Before looking at each property the board discussed their plans to move forward on each parcel under consideration. The members agreed that if they thought the property in question could possibly be used by the county then they would circulate plans to department heads throughout the county and see if they receive any feedback.

The board decided to send information about the old county garage, the old Cullasaja School, the 3.76 acre tract off of Bethel Church Road, and the 5.25 acres off of the Highlands Road to department heads of the county.

“I think once information is circulated to the department heads and if there is no use found, then we should get rid of them,” said board member John Shearl.

A parcel of land located off of Iotla Road that adjoins N.C. Forest Service land will also be sent to the department heads, but it is unknown whether it will be able to be used or in what capacity.

“I think that we should approach the Airport Authority about the future of this parcel to see what restrictions there may be,” said board member Chris Hanners. “But if we're stuck with it maybe we can at least get some use out of it like a community garden or a fire station.”

“There very well could be building restrictions imposed by the [Federal Airport Authority] that could keep building down,” Roland said.

The futures of the Middle Creek, Bradley Creek and Barnard Road properties appeared to still be up in the air as the meeting came to a close.

A .86 acre tract of property that adjoins the co-op property of Windy Gap was also discussed. The board unanimously agreed that the small portion of land should be donated to the Growers Association who currently uses it.

The board will meet again next month on Thursday, Nov. 21 at 4 p.m.


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