January 10, 2018
Note from the Commander
Last night we entered into the arena to present our request for a Special Use Permit (SUP) to the Orange County Board of Adjustment (BOA). We had expert witnesses for every aspect of our project. In turn, each witness presented their salient points and detailed our specific plan to develop our new property. I ended our presentation basically saying how terrific all of you are and our desire to pass-on a legacy to the warriors of the future. At the end of our presentation, one neighbor wanted to limit the amount of noise coming from our property and insisted on a ban on the use of outside amplifiers. We also had an issue with the wording of some of the conditions that would have required us to have an “easement” for relatives of the people in the gravesite on our property. Our attorney LeAnn Brown dispatched each punch with a knockout punch in defending our position. In both cases, the County administrators fully understood our point of view and agreed not to place any unnecessary restrictions on our request for the SUP.
The bottom line is, the SUP was approved and after some administrative issues are completed, we will be the proud owners of 128 acres of beautiful farmland and should close the deal within the next 45 days.
All of this progress was possible because we had the right people working on everyone’s behalf. Initially, Lee Heavlin was handed a mess when our coffers were emptied in a massive lawsuit. Showing great leadership, Lee solicited the men and women of the VFW to help keep the American Legion afloat while we tried to forge the “way ahead.” Lee was tenacious and frugal and the Post started taking on new members and began to develop steam again…and, again, our VFW comrades always had our back.
While Lee was guiding the ship (the best that any Post Commander could do), many members became very concerned that a catastrophic event at the Legion would break our back. So Lee formed the Revitalization Committee lead by Robert Medred. After over a year of analysis, Robert’s group concluded the best thing we could do was to sell the land; purchase a new piece of property; then rebuild using our profits. After many presentations at our monthly meetings, we held a Special Meeting and took a special vote. Virtually every member concurred with the Committee’s opinion to sell.
Once we decided to sell the property, I was able to call upon some of my previous relationships to determine how best to sell the property. My goal was to do it without a Real Estate Broker; thus, saving the Post hundreds of thousands of dollars. We initially had developers willing to pay as much as $10 million dollars for the property, but we soon found out our friendly neighbors were not as friendly as they could have been. The Town of Chapel Hill and our neighbors were blocking the proposed development at every turn…their tactics could have stalled the developers project for many years and we would still be in a decaying building.
So, with the developer’s permission, I threw down the gauntlet and challenged the Town of Chapel Hill to purchase the property. After several meetings with the Town Manager, it became clear we could strike a deal if we didn’t need all of the money “up-front.” Eventually, a deal was struck for $7.8 million dollars for the property and extra bonuses for the Post like: Renting our Post for three years for $1 dollar per year; lawn mowing by the Town; and the ability to keep the rental income from our property (which was about $20,000 last year).
After the property was sold, we established a new committee…the Land Acquisition Committee lead by Paul Horwhat and Robert Medred. After viewing many properties, a site on NC Highway 54 became available. This was a 128 acre farm and all of the people on the committee agreed it would be a perfect site for a new American Legion Post. We made an offer and it was accepted pending our being able to obtain our Special Use Permit.
Now we are forging ahead with a “site developer” and a design architect. Don Kritsch is the head of the “Design Committee” and has been working with his team for five months to design a new facility and work with the architect to implement that design. In the meantime, Bruce Runberg has been using his skill as a former development manager to shepherd the development plan for presentation to the BOA.
All of this brings me back to paragraph one: Our Special Use Permit was approved by the Orange County Board of Adjustment and the property will be ours within the next 45 days.
And, yes, there is even more. While all of this was going on, our Finance Committee (led by Kurt Uphoff) has ensured the money we have received is invested in “low risk,” but FDIC insured interest bearing accounts, and ready to be used as we need the money.
In closing, I just want to say “Thank You” to all of the members who have or are now serving on these critical committees. Without you, this day might not have happened.
If you are a member who has not attended a meeting in awhile, please rejoin us as we begin the transition to our new site in Orange County.
Commander, Post 6