Biscuit Run on Hold

The developers behind the massive Biscuit Run project say it’s on hold, Tasha Kates writes in today’s Daily Progress, a result of the collapsed housing market. You’ll recall that Biscuit Run was sold to developers by the Breedens for $46M three years ago, and that the county calculated that the development would cost us the taxpayers $222M, but that we’re basically powerless to prevent it, so it was approved a year and a half ago. The planned 3,100 houses are to be located just south of town, but since nobody appears to be able to sell any existing houses right now, building new ones wouldn’t make any sense at all.

10 Responses to “Biscuit Run on Hold”

  • This is not quite accurate. Biscuit Run was sold to settle probate of the original buyer’s will which had about 25 heirs.

  • …and that original buyer’s will was a Breeden.

    I understand that many of the Breeden are responsible citizens, and probably would have rather seen something else happen to this property and thus don’t want to be associated with this development; nonetheless, I feel pretty strongly that landowners have a responsiblity for the land that extends to what happens when they sell it.

    It doesn’t matter if it was someone’s grandfather who bought it years ago as an investment with intent to develop. It still is the generation that follows through on that is responsible. After all, they took land use tax breaks for many, many years, knowing the land was bought to be developed, not for farming, even though the development of this parcel would eventually cost taxpayers $225 Million. It’s a case study of economics in why properties like this should be ineligible for land use taxation.

    If a family doesn’t want to be associated with something like this, then they should do everything in their power to prevent it (and indeed some of the family may have done all they could to prevent it, or mitigate the damage). Indeed, it could have been much worse, and we probably have people like Elizabeth and David to thank for that.

    Of course, I’ve also know lots of otherwise environmentally responsible people that drive hybrids and recycle, but would sell their property to Wendell Wood in a heartbeat if he offered the right price.

  • Can I just say: hahahahahahahahahahaha!!

    Stupid developers! I hope they get about 1/4 of the money out of it they spent on it!
    I guess this is the one silver lining in the housing market collapse: No more great big unneccesary developments South of town.

  • Lonnie, I could be wrong about this but if the will was in probate and had that many heirs- the executor
    could have been sued if they didn’t get the highest price possible.

    You could righty point out that the county would have been better off if this land had been sold while she was alive. It could have done a lot to preserve the rural aspects.

  • Perlogik,

    While I admittedly know nothing of such laws, that would present an interesting legal dilemma… Would we be legally forcing people to choose money over ethics? I’d guess it depends on how the will is put together. Maybe right now I should include a clause that our land shouldn’t be sold to the highest bidder, but rather left in the care of the most responsible.

    If what you say is true, I suppose it would indeed remove responsiblity from all living family members involved, and force them to choose the least ethical option. In that case, the writer of the will itself would be the one we should all blame. Of course, the county itself should have reviewed it’s land use policy long ago, and excluded parcels like this. For that matter, I was checking and it looks like a big chunk is still getting a land use exemption, even though we all know it is really a development waiting to happen. Seems odd indeed to continue with a tax break to a parcel that will cost taxpayers $222M…

    I think it also brings out the fact everything in the system seems to reward subdivision and over development. The few incentives out there, like conservation easments aren’t really enough to convince average landowners that the best economic plan is not to develop at all, but rather leave it as forest or farmland.

  • The county and city could condemn the land for a park and pay for it. End of story. Once again I am flummoxed by this relentless microscoping of public policy into personal morality stories. The Breeden cousins here could not afford to buy out the other Breeden cousins and keep the land undeveloped. Fascinating to those of us who do not have $47m worth of land in our family, but entirely beside the point. Yes, I’m sure you would act honorably yourself, blah, blah. I have the same issue with people obsessing over guilt-tripping people about where they shop. If Wal-Mart is cheap, people will shop there. The fix is to make Wal-Mart act fairly in the market. Corporations are tolerated by our society, not entitled. It’s public policy that matters, not where you shop and how morally pure you feel as a consumer.

  • Colfer, I think you miss my point entirely.

    You acknowledge that market conditions are part of what drive families like the Breedens to subdivide and develop. I’ve essentially said the same thing. This is why I question the land use policy. Why were/are we paying people in the growth area a subsidy for properties that are ultimately going to be developed and cost taxpayers money? The only way to stop situations like this is to change the rules of the game, and thus the market itself.

    While this is already done, and is unlikely be changed now, there are plenty of adjoining properties still in the growth area also getting the same tax break. The effect of this subsidy, is to encourage speculation and ironically make land unaffordable for farmers. We need to rethink our policies, because we’ve seen what happens when we let the market decide. If what Perlogic said is true, then we could be limiting the options of family members by not changing the rules.

    As for myself, my family does indeed own quite a bit of land, and to some degree the ownership is spread over many people. When my grandmother dies, there will be pressure to sell some of the farms by members of the family that have no interest in farming. Luckily, we’re planning on all this in advance, and making detailed arrangements so that we can save the properties that are most important to us. So, yes, I totally understand the Breeden’s predicament, but it still doesn’t completely exempt their family as a whole from the responsibility for costing taxpayers $222 Million.

    Even though I know Elizabeth, and think she’s a good person (and probably did everything in her power to prevent this) that doesn’t exempt everyone else in her family from responsibility. Some person/people in that family made choices that led to this situation and they are indeed are responsible for that choice (even if it was only the person that wrote the will). I’d hold myself and my own family to the exact same standard.

  • Hey Lonnie, I think I was agreeing with you to some extent… that it’s a matter of public policy, not personal morality. If the development laws were different, the land would not be worth $47m, which would be another solution to the (social) problem.

  • I’m just thrilled the investors and developer will have to carry the undeveloped land. Hope they choke on the carrying costs. BTW, they’re paying property taxes on Fair Market Value now. No Land Use Taxation on the rezoned vacant land. HaHaHa That’s costing them over $250,000 in “extra” property taxes each and every year. Sometimes there is justice in this world. Hope they have to hang on to it for 50 years.

  • I could be reading it wrong, but according to Albemarle’s GIS, for parcel 09000-00-00-006D0, it says:

    Land Value $28,870,400
    Land Use Value $27,243,300

    If I’m reading this correctly it means there is a $1,627,100 dollars that is still “tax free”, due toLand Use on this property. That just seems absurd, since we know it is going to be developed.

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