Sale set for Mottley Lake

Published 3:12 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Farmville Town Council on Wednesday is slated to grant authorization to Town Manager Gerald Spates to complete the sale of Mottley Lake to Farmville Farms, LLC.

The town is set to sell the 147-acre property in Prospect for $1.25 million to the firm, despite a bid from neighboring property owners David and Robyn Simpson that could net more revenue for the town.

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According to the Simpsons, their offer of $1.225 million includes a 20 percent down payment, with the balance to be paid over five years at 4 percent interest. Farmville Farms’ bid of $1.25 million includes $300,000 down, payments of $95,000 per year for five years at zero interest, and payment of the remainder of the balance over the next five years at an undisclosed interest rate.

Town Manager Gerald Spates said the rate will be set on going interest rates at the time.

According to an email from Robyn Simpson to The Herald, under their proposed

bid terms, the town would net $1,327,891.40 — including interest — compared with $1,250,000, excluding the unknown interest for the final five years of payments, that Farmville Farms would pay.

Spates said he’s recommending the council sell the property to Farmville Farms because “they were the higher bidder.”

As part of the sale, the town would retain water rights to the lake.

In addition to the lake, the property includes one house, one cabin and 17 mobile home hook-ups, with water, sewer and electricity for each, along with various outbuildings and a maintenance shop.

“We don’t need it,” Spates told The Herald, referring to the land included with the lake.

Russell Harper — the registered agent of Farmville Farms — is also a managing member of Harper Associates. According to its website, the firm is a real estate development, investments and management company.

The company has built a multitude of sizable projects “ranging from 150,000 to 300,000 square-feet in commercial and residential mixed-use communities,” according to its website.

The lake was purchased seven years ago by the town as an emergency backup water supply for times of severe drought.

According to the State Corporation Commission, Farmville Farms, LLC has a principal office of 7113 Three Chopt Road in Richmond — the same address as Harper Associates. The articles of incorporation were filed in December with the state.

In May, the town council voted to advertise for sealed bids for the lake and property with intentions to retain rights to the water in the lake.

“The seller reserves exclusive water rights to release water during extreme periods of drought,” the ad read.

The town purchased the property and lake for $1.67 million.

In May, Spates told The Herald that the land’s value had decreased since the town took ownership because rental trailers had been removed and Luck Stone was planning to operate a quarry on adjacent property.

Though there were no speakers at the previously held public hearing on the sale, in an email to the council, the Simpsons asked the council to consider accepting their previous bid as the higher bid or allow them to continue bidding on the property.

“We live on a family farm adjoining the Mottley Lake property,” said Robyn Simpson. “We are interested in purchasing this property and have, in fact, been bidding on it. Our latest bid was for $1,225,000 with terms discussed with (Gerald) Spates as being 20 percent down with the balance to be divided into annual payments at 4 percent interest, being paid in full in 5 years with no penalty for early payoff.” 

Spates said that the information in the email was incorrect, and that her bid was for $1.2 million.

Farmville Farms’ “terms of $300,000 down with 5 annual payments of $95,000 at zero percent interest, with the balance being paid in the next five years at an undisclosed interest rate, is not only unfair, but actually much less money to the Farmville taxpayers than our bid,” Simpson said.

Spates said that the town would not reopen the bidding.