Originally created 12/13/04

Hospital, Columbia County to negotiate land price



Columbia County's plan to purchase a tract of land owned by Doctors Hospital in Evans is now in the negotiation phase.

County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said Friday that the county and hospital have completed their own appraisals of the 17-acre site behind the Evans Kroger on Washington Road and plan to meet this week to continue negotiations on appraisal amounts and discuss whether the hospital would prefer a land swap or outright purchase by the county.

"They're very, very cooperative, from the home office in Nashville and the local people," Mr. Cross said. "Just the details and the logistics of the sale remain to be determined."

County events are often staged on the property in the Evans Town Center, and commissioners have agreed that the site should remain open for such events.

Mr. Cross said the county's appraisal on the land was $3.7 million. He said a county survey found it to be about 17 acres. He said Doctors Hospital's appraised value was $4.2 million.

"Once we can agree on a value, we'll handle it in whatever method they want it handled," he said.

Mr. Cross said the county would be interested in either a land swap or a purchase.

"We really have no preference whether we buy property around the Greenbrier area and trade it or whether we buy it straight out," he said.

The hospital has been eyeing land for possible development in the Greenbrier area. Mr. Cross said he expects the Evans land off Washington Road could be sold as early as January or February, after which a county-hired consultant would examine the property to help determine its best use.

"We don't want to chop it (the property) up and take away the volume," Mr. Cross said, adding: "We don't know whether we want to maintain athletic facilities there or not. We want to be able to have a gathering space and some walking tracks and a real nice community-oriented space. So we're not going to rush into that."

Mr. Cross said that to pay for the purchase, the county has a plan to use some special purpose local option sales tax money, reserve funds and possibly some borrowed funds. A projection of more tax money from new businesses and property appraisals next year also would contribute, but Mr. Cross said a tax increase would not be needed.

Commissioner Steve Brown said the purchase is something county residents would support.

"I would think probably the general citizenship wouldn't be so upset doing that versus an exotic animal museum," he said, referring to a Martinez resident who recently offered to donate a mounted exotic animal collection to the county if it agrees to the construction of a museum to house it.

WHAT'S NEXT:

Columbia County and Doctors Hospital will meet this week to continue negotiating the county's purchase of a tract of land the hospital owns.

Reach Preston Sparks at 868-1222, ext. 115, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.