American Legion Post 6 Signs off on Chapel Hill Land deal

CHAPEL HILL — The general membership and executive committee of American Legion Post 6 have signed off on a deal with the Town of Chapel Hill, finalizing a contract for the town to purchase the post’s 36-acre property.

The veterans organization’s general membership voted unanimously to accept the town’s offer to purchase the property for $7.9 million during a meeting Thursday night after the local post’s executive committee on Wednesday voted unanimously to recommend it. The town is expected to close on the property in early 2017.

“We are elated,” Post 6 Commander Bill Munsee said. “We couldn’t be happier. Now we are ready to begin closing the book on Post 6 in Chapel Hill and getting into a new building and moving on.”

The Chapel Hill Town Council voted earlier this month for Town Manager Roger Stancil to sign a contract to purchase the 1714 Legion Road property, with an installment purchase plan with three payments. At the time of closing, the town would make the first payment of $3.6 million from its fund balance or savings with two equal payments of $2.15 million to follow in 2018 and 2019. According to a presentation made to the Chapel Hill Town Council, the town ended the fiscal year $3.6 million over its fund balance target.

The American Legion will continue to occupy the clubhouse, dance studio and surrounding land for at least three years for $1 per year to give the organization time to find another space.

“We’ll be looking for land and probably be building a new building,” Munsee said.

In 2015, the property appraised for $4.8 million, but the value jumped up to $10.3 million if the land was rezoned to allow 500 apartments, 30 townhomes and 50,000 square feet of office space. Raleigh-based Woodfield Acquisitions offered $9 million for the property and proposed a similar project. The town council decided against purchasing the property then, but members said Chapel Hill was in better financial shape to purchase the property now.

Once the town has officially closed on the property, a multi-month strategic planning process will begin to best decide how to develop the property.

“The council affirms its intent that the American Legion property be used for a mix of purposes, both public and private, consistent with the guiding principles approved by council in June 2016 and that council expects the town will recoup a portion of the purchase price by making some portions of the American legion property available for private development,” according to a resolution that was approved in an 8-to-1 vote by the town council.

There’s an assumption, according to the council presentation, that a portion of that land will be used as a park as it neighbors Ephesus Park.

Contact Anna Johnson: ajohnson@heraldsun.com, 919-419-6675.

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