Originally created 05/19/00

Boy Scouts board balks at industrial land offer



Local Boy Scouts of America board members have rejected economic development officials' offer to purchase Scout property inside boundaries of the county's future industrial park.

The board's action Wednesday could set the stage for condemnation by Richmond County.

The county's development authority claims the one-acre tract - and its 2-mile-long easement - could interfere with plans to turn surrounding acreage into a mega-industrial site called Augusta Corporate Park.

Mayor Bob Young, Development Authority Chairman Monty Osteen and Boy Scouts board Chairman Tom Fuller negotiated an offer of $5,000 for the land during a meeting last week.

But the Georgia-Carolina Council of the Boy Scouts of America balked at the offer when it came up for vote Wednesday at its board of directors meeting.

"They have not accepted at this point," Mr. Fuller confirmed Thursday, adding that the board has referred the real estate issue to its attorney and director of property, Ed Stalnaker.

Development authority members have threatened to ask Richmond County to initiate condemnation proceedings, which would force the Scouts to sell the land at a fair market price determined by a neutral appraiser.

The undeveloped south Augusta property has no utilities, is surrounded by industrial-zoned property and is about two miles from the nearest paved road.

Attorney Harry Revell, who has handled the authority's previous condemnation efforts, said Thursday he has not been requested to proceed with condemnation.

"We have not been involved in any of the negotiations," Mr. Revell said. "We're just waiting back to see if they're going to call on us."

Two years ago the Scouts carved the one-acre tract out of a 400-acre parcel, which they later sold to two private individuals. All of the property in question stems from a 1993 gift from Kimberly-Clark Corp., which also donated the development authority's neighboring 1,500 acres.

Although both sides in the deal downplay conflict, sources close to the development authority say some members are incensed at what they say is the Scouts' attempt to force the county to pay top dollar for the land.

The Scouts characterize their holdout not as extortion but as creative fund raising.

"We have a fiduciary responsibility to raise money for Boy Scouts," Mr. Fuller said.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486.