County moves toward property swap

Chris Berendt Staff Writer

November 6, 2013

County officials laid the groundwork for a property exchange that would further facilitate wood pellet production plant Enviva Pellets Sampson, LLC, and its location to northern Sampson, while giving the county adjacent property for possible development.

The Board of Commissioners approved a resolution for the exchange of property between the county and Southern Produce Distributors Inc. earlier this week. The board previously discussed the exchange of 11 acres of county-owned property located between Connector Road and Eldon Thornton Road for 22 acres owned by Southern Produce Distributors.

“As the resolution provides, this proposed exchange would be conditioned upon Enviva Pellets Sampson, LLC acquiring approximately 22 acres of property from Southern Produce Distributors, Inc. and 180 acres from Sampson County,” said county attorney Annette Chancy Starling. “So the exchange would not occur until that condition is met.”

According to N.C. General Statute, the board is authorized to exchange real property by private negotiation if the county receives “full and fair consideration” for its property and after proper public notification of its intent to consider such.

The 11 acres owned by the county have an estimated value of approximately $66,605, while the 22 acres owned by Southern Produce Distributors, Inc., located on the east side of I-40 and north of the existing power line easement, have an estimated value greater than $66,605.

“The county is authorized to enter into property exchanges as long as the county receives fair and full consideration for the exchange and (General Statutes) are followed,” said Starling.

That includes giving public notice of the county’s intent to exchange land, which it did at the end of last month. And, according to the resolution approved by the board earlier this week, the move would fulfill required criteria while assisting the county.

“The board has determined that the county is receiving full and fair consideration in exchange for its property interests and that the property exchange would benefit the county with regard to economic development, the resolution states. “The (board) chairman is hereby authorized to execute the exchange agreement between the county and Sampson County Distributors, Inc.”

The Southern Produce Distributors property is owned by Stewart Precythe, who owns and operates the 70-year-old family business in the Faison area.

At a public hearing in June 2013, the Sampson Board of Commissioners approved providing a 12-month option to Enviva Holdings LP for the 180-acre stretch of county land at I-40 Exit 355. The board moved forward with an incentive agreement in September, putting the county in the running for a plant that would bring about $100 million in taxable investment, 79 direct jobs and a much-needed boost to the local economy.

State logging businesses are expected to experience an annual revenue increase of $23.4 million and 81 new jobs as a result, while Sampson would also see a 2.8 percent increase in its current $4.2 billion tax base, Economic developer John Swope said. If it comes to fruition, Enviva would serve as the county’s largest taxable entity, but not technically its largest taxpayer because of the 50 percent grant-backs it would receive through the first decade.

“If it gets to the point where they exercise their option for the 180 acres and actually purchase the 20 acres — which the purchase value is $475,000 — then the exchange would occur and that would be a permanent exchange,” said Starling. “Then we would own the 22 acres adjacent to our parcel, which would make another development site there.”

The board unanimously adopted the resolution.

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at