by Tom Lappas, Henrico County Citizen Editor 21.FEB.08
article outtakes include:
"Henrico's Board of Supervisors should implement some of the land-purchasing strategies recommended by an independent commission earlier this month, but other suggestions might not make sense, County Manager Virgil Hazelett told the board and School Board during a work session Feb. 12.
The five-member commission, established last July, issued a 543-page report earlier this month and cited a number of occasions on which the county paid more than twice the appraised value for land parcels during a five-year period.
Hazelett concurred with the commission's recommendation that the county make more prominent to landowners its ability to use eminent domain to acquire property if necessary. He also agreed that entering into land option or right of first refusal agreements – as the committee suggested – could prove beneficial as a way to prevent speculative buyers from purchasing the land first, then reselling it to the county for a huge profit.
"These are two tools that we could add to our toolbox," Hazelett said.
The board agreed to proceed with the creation of a resolution that would empower Hazelett and Henrico Public Schools Superintendent Fred Morton to enter into land option agreements without first receiving approval from the Board of Supervisors or School Board. Such authority, Hazelett said, would allow for quicker action on land viewed as desirable by the county. Currently, the Board of Supervisors must approve land option agreements on a case by case basis."
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"Hazelett told the two boards that eminent domain "should only be used judiciously" and as "a tool of last resort." But, he said that he expected more cases of eminent domain in the coming years, "simply because of the lack of [available] land."
Hazelett disagreed with the commission's recommendation that the county hire its own certified appraiser to examine future appraisals acquired by the county and those submitted by landowners. He said he would prefer to hire an outside appraiser to fill such a duty, in order to eliminate any perceived conflict of interest."
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