Hoping for a better price than $1.9 million, the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners voted to wait another two weeks before deciding whether to purchase six acres of LaVista Road property for greenspace purposes.
"I just want to make sure that when we're using public funds, we're getting the best price," said Super District 7 Commissioner Stan Watson, who made the motion to defer. "I want to have answers if someone puts a microphone in front of my face and asks about this purchase."
The tract's assessed value – $393,000 – and the much higher proposed sales price have led to pointed questions from media and local residents.
Watson asked county staffers to renegotiate with the seller in hopes of securing a lower offer.
Commissioner Jeff Rader, in whose District 2 the property is located, said "this piece of property is one of the very few undeveloped lots [in my district.] There is a great deal of support for this greenspace purchase and other greenspace purchases in central DeKalb."
Despite agreeing that the county needs additional greenspace, former DeKalb planning commissioner Don Broussard urged the board to purchase the property at a reasonable price.
The property is located at 2886 LaVista Road.
North Druid Hills-Briarcliff Patch spoke last week with Calvin Hicks, the county's chief appraiser, who offered several reasons for the price discrepancy:
- While the land is being sold as one tract, it's actually four contiguous parcels, all of which are individually appraised for tax purposes. Because three of those parcels are landlocked and have no access to roads, their singular value is greatly diminished. But, when sold as one with access to Lavista Road, the market value of that tract increases greatly, Hicks said.
- The lot's "highest and best use" is not considered when assessing it for ad valorum tax purposes. When that land hits the market, however, private appraisers can speculate about different uses–and values–for the land. "We are required to view them as they are," Hicks said.
- The state prohibits assessment increases on land that has not been changed or developed until 2012, he said. The four wooded parcels have not changed, so their asssessed value has not changed since 2008. It's market value, however, changes fluidly.