Where do you want to fly?
The Washington County Board of Commissioners agreed Tuesday to seek a real estate broker to help sell some county properties. Fort Ritchie won’t be one of them, though; an attorney cautioned the commissioners that doing so could breach a contract.
The breach of contract concern was because the county put on its Tuesday agenda to consider seeking a licensed/residential real estate agent to assist with the Fort Ritchie property without notifying the county’s master developer for the property, JG Business Link International, JGBLI CEO Wonro Lee said in a phone interview after the meeting.
“This is an issue that, first of all, shouldn’t (have) even been brought up without prior notification,” Lee said.
“They’re being uncommunicative. It’s as if they’re doing these actions unilaterally” and forgetting they have a master developer agreement with JGBLI, he said. That agreement is for the proposed Cascade Town Centre at the former Army base property.
Before the commissioners voted unanimously to seek a request for proposals for an agent to assist with various county properties, County Administrator Robert Slocum told them they were not acting on the Fort Ritchie property yet.
The county will seek a broker to help with other specific properties listed, and potentially with other properties in the future, Business Development Director Susan Small said. The contract will be for a limited timeframe.
Before the commissioners’ public meeting, they met in closed session with representatives of JGBLI and its sister company, Washington Realty Management, as well as JGBLI’s attorney, Jeffrey M Hamberger.
Hamberger provided Herald-Mail Media with a copy of a letter he sent county officials late Monday night. In it, he states, among other things, that “the hiring of an agent to list any of the Fort Ritchie/Cascade Town Centre property for sale, without JGBLI’s express consent, will constitute a breach by the County of the Master Developer Agreement.”
Lee wasn’t at the public meeting for the discussion about a real estate agent, but he said later it’s “too premature” to hire an agent now.
JGBLI has seven prospects interested in buying 519 acres; Maryland businessman Kevin Rowe interested in buying 582 acres for $6.25 million; and approximately 20 different potential projects for different pieces of the property.
“(You) need a Realtor when you don’t have prospects. We already have prospects in place. They’re just not approving them,” Lee said.
Two potential deals to sell 519 acres to two different South Korean groups have fallen through so far, both involving timing issues.
Hamberger’s letter states South Korean real-estate developer Dae Yeun Jin Hung withdrew its $6 million offer because it found the county’s terms to settle within 14 days “unreasonable.”
Then the county pursued selling the 519 acres for $6 million to South Korean developer Issac Holdings, which also expressed concerns about the quick turnaround time the county wanted. Eventually, Issac also withdrew its offer, in part because of the quick schedule set for the full deposit. Issac forfeited its initial $200,000 deposit to the county.
Hamberger’s letter also states that it’s premature for the county to establish a Cascade community partnership, which should be deferred until Jan. 2. That would give the newly elected county board time to settle in after taking office on Dec. 4.
The commissioners agreed informally last week to a plan that included inviting representatives from three parties — the transitioning economic development coalition, the former PenMar Development Corp. that once owned the property, and the Fort Ritchie Community Center — to the table to keep them apprised and use their knowledge to vet offers for the Fort Ritchie property.
After the commissioners’ meeting, Slocum said they were going to further discuss Hamberger’s letter.
Commissioners John Barr and Jeff Cline said they expected the issue to be discussed at next week’s meeting.
The board was going to “sit on things a little bit,” Barr said.