A Talked About Piece of Property: The NCDOT-Owned 60 Acres Along Hodges Gap Road

Published Wednesday, December 16, 2015 at 10:48 am
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Watauga County leases NCDOT-owned land off of Hodges Gap Road for the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and Watauga County Jail. A citizen wants to fund the construction of disc golf course nearby on NCDOT land. Photo by Ken Ketchie

By Jesse Wood

Several people have proposals or ideas on how to utilize the 60-acre property along Hodges Gap Road that is owned by the N.C. Department of Transportation and currently sits vacant.

This property became a hot topic, if you will, whenever Richard Rosenfeld, a commercial real estate broker and former App State graduate, approached Watauga County to request the local government to lease the state-owned property in order to build a disc golf course.

A big fan of disc golf and concerned that a public course didn’t exist in Watauga County, Rosenfeld said he was willing to fund the construction of the course and maintain it for five years at no cost to the county.

The Watauga County Board of Commissioners discussed the proposal at two different meetings this past year. At the meetings, residents in the area objected to the proposal of building a course in their backyard, while others thought it was a great idea.

In the two meetings in May and October, the commissioners denied the request once and tabled the issue in the other meeting. In denying the request, commissioners cited that this disc golf course would be more appropriate around other recreation infrastructure in the Town of Boone or Watauga County, such as the Boone Greenway or Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park. In November, the Boone Town Council discussed the property after being approached by Rosenfeld as well.

Councilman Quint David spearheaded the discussion and asked his fellow council members to consider the NCDOT-owned property as a location for greenspace and hiking trails, according to meeting minutes.

Here are the minutes on this topic:

“He advised that this property is located within the Town’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, and that side of town is severely lacking greenspace. Council Member Mason asked if that location would be suitable for the Watauga County Land Trust for workforce housing.

“Town Manager John Ward advised that the conversation between Richard Rosenfield, who originally wanted the site for a public disc golf course, and DOT stopped with the discussion of a recreational location, but he could ask if they would be agreeable to that as well.

“Mr. Ward added that Council should keep liability in mind with the budget since doing this could have a financial impact in regard to liability. He stated the Town could keep this location on the radar as they move forward with looking at potential greenspace.”

NCDOT spokesman Steve Abbott said that the NCDOT doesn’t have any current plans for this property. Abbott said he was unable to determine how long the state has owned the property but it was certainly before 1971, which was when the state transportation agency was named the State Highway Commission.

Abbott noted that property consists of four parcels – a 3-acre parcel, a 3.6-acre parcel, a 5-acre parcel were all purchased by the State Highway Commission, and a 48.6-acre parcel was reallocated from the Department of Corrections. Currently, the Watauga County leases some of the NCDOT-owned property in that area for the jail.

“It is not on the market. If it would ever be determined to be surplus property, meaning we don’t plan any future use for it, then it could be put up for sale,” Abbott said.

Abbott said he wasn’t aware of any talks with the county or town about the property and is only aware of discussions with the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office.”

“There is a facility on this property for blasting materials that we no longer use, but the Sheriff’s department has requested to use it and we are working on an agreement with it,” Abbott said.

Sheriff Len Hagaman noted that the property is leased through the state for $1 per year. Hagaman said that his department is attempting to extend a parking lot in the back that currently holds 20 cars for additional storage space, including for seized vehicles.

“We’re not talking about a huge area,” Hagaman said.

Earlier this year, the NCDOT sold property on Blowing Rock Road, which happened to be High Country Host’s home since the ’80s, to a private developer. High Country Host had a free lease with the state for the property. But with the pending redevelopment of nearby Kmart for a Publix Super Markets, that area became a prime target of developers.

The NCDOT said it began discussions about selling the High Country Host building after inquiries from several developers. The 1.17-acre property was sold to the highest bidder in September for $1,342,500.

See Google’s satellite view of the area and the county’s tax map of the 48-acre parcel that houses the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office below:

 

Hodges Gap

Hodges Gap Map

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