Documents obtained by The Augusta Chronicle detail Pendleton King Park’s history as a legacy to John Pendleton King II and its uncertain future under a sales contract to an Evans homebuilder.
News of the sales contract with Winchester Homebuilders caused public outcry last week while Augusta officials went on the defensive against claims the mayor and commission ignored warnings the 64-acre park would be sold.
The Oct. 25 sales contract, obtained by The Chronicle, reveals two park trustees under the will of Henry Barclay King signed over their interest in the park property for $1.2 million to Winchester Homebuilders. The contract bears the signatures of trustee Clarence Barinowski, trustee Troy Breitmann, who is a trust officer with Queensborough Bank and Trust, and Winchester President T.J. Washburn.
The contract says Winchester put down $20,000 in earnest money when the agreement was executed, with the balance of the purchase price due - after parties complete their due diligence - at the time of closing or about 150 days. Real estate firm Jordan Trotter, as broker, receives seven percent of the purchase price at the time of closing, it states.
The contract does not include the signature of the third park trustee, Mary L. Speir, who has not been able to be reached for comment.
Neither Barinowski nor Breitmann has detailed why either wants to sell the property. Barinowski said the city should have made him an offer or accepted his offers to increase the rent - to $85,000 a year - or sell the property to the city for $1 million or more. He has said the funds would go back into the trust.
A news release issued by a public relations firm on behalf of “the trustees” indicated they found park ownership problematic, but did not elaborate.
“For some time now, the Henry B. King Trust has been in a position that made it impractical to continue to own and lease the property,” it said. “The trust’s need to sell the property was made clear well in advance of the expiration of the lease.”
Augusta has formally leased the property since at least 1958, according to lease documents. An initial 25-year term at $1 per year was amended in 1966 to add 10 more years to expire in 1993. In 1985, former trustee Eugenia Lehmann, a former bank trustee with Citizens & Southern Bank, and Barinowski extended the lease another 25 years from 1993 to its current expiration date of Jan. 1, 2018.
Henry B. King was the son of Augusta industrialist, judge, banker and railroad builder John Pendleton King, and had extensive land holdings and other wealth in Augusta. He disbursed it among numerous relatives, employees, colleges and others in an 18-page will with eight codicils, which are supplements added after the original document was written.
Among King’s beneficiaries were World War I soldiers, their wives and children, with a preference for those who served in King’s son’s division and with “good character” only. The soldiers and their families were to be provided room and board in homes on King’s property, each with a garden of no less than a half-acre.
Today, a cluster of private homes on a fenced tract off Johns Road represents what remains of “Pendleton Camp.”
Codicil 4 says with whatever estate resources are not required for Pendleton Camp, the trustees must establish “a public park for the use of Pendleton Camp and of the City of Augusta and for the protection and preservation of its wildlife, both animal and vegetable.”
When the purposes of the veteran camp are “attained or in their judgment are unattainable,” the trustees should “devote the resources of the trust to some other object which will realize the ambition of this testator to perpetuate the memory of his son,” the will states.
Another portion of the will describes what happens should the trustees disagree.
“If at any time there should be friction or disagreement among the trustees, a majority of them may settle any question,” it states.
A majority may also “expel an obnoxious member.”
But a single trustee who disagrees with the other two may also “bring the matter before the courts, who shall have power to remove and appoint others,” it states.
The will makes no mention of the Pendleton King Park Foundation, which was created in 1966 by the Augusta City Council to oversee maintenance and its development as a park and has dedicated many volunteer hours to its gardens and trails.
Foundation President Jim Blount, who appealed to the Augusta Commission on Tuesday to support the preservation of the park, said foundation members are doing “everything within our power” to ensure King’s wishes for a park to honor his son are continued in perpetuity.
Two Augusta commissioners expect some sort of short- or long-term solution to be presented by city staff during a called meeting Tuesday.
Commissioner Sean Frantom said he expects the commission to consider taking action on a solution Tuesday.
“I’m encouraged there will be a solution,” said Commissioner Dennis Williams, who represents the area.