Magnolia Springs terminates purchase agreement

By Jessica Vaughn
Posted 11/11/19

MAGNOLIA SPRINGS - During a special council meeting held on Wed., Nov. 6, Magnolia Springs councilmembers voted for Mayor Kim Koniar to officially terminate the purchase agreement between the town …

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Magnolia Springs terminates purchase agreement

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MAGNOLIA SPRINGS - During a special council meeting held on Wed., Nov. 6, Magnolia Springs councilmembers voted for Mayor Kim Koniar to officially terminate the purchase agreement between the town and property owners of 12395 Magnolia Springs Highway. By terminating the agreement during the due diligence period, the council will receive back earnest money in the amount of $10,000.

The town recently entered into the purchase agreement at the beginning of Oct. Councilmembers have spent the last month performing due diligence on the property. Plans included turning the existing building into a joint town hall and library before building inspections revealed the project would be more costly than predetermined.

During inspection, the building was found to have large amounts of mold covering the entire bottom of the house, as well as some mold growing on the ground beneath the structure. The mold developed due to moisture being trapped in the crawlspace, and while no wood rot was detected, Rick Massey, an inspector with AFS, stated it would cost approximately $50,000 to mitigate the damage. The project would include controlling the groundwater and pumping resting water away from the property, removing the existing mold with a three-step process, and changing the environment under the house to prevent mold growing in the future.

Massey pointed out another problem area was the hallway floor, where a center beam under the house was beginning to sink, causing the floor to slope. He did not notice any mold spreading into the house or termites, but stated neither of those were his specialty and outside parties would need to be brought in to confirm. No tests were performed to determine what type of mold was under the building.

Along with AFS, Koniar met with two architects to discuss the future development of the property and what would be involved in the renovation. She invited Rebecca Bryant with WATERSHED to the meeting to reveal her findings to the town.

Bryant said along with the crawlspace, other issues that would need to be addressed were the requirements of a civic building, like accessibility. The property on Magnolia Springs Highway would need a raised porch along with checking to ensure doors were wide enough, and the bathrooms would need extensive remodeling to become accessible, including the removal of the tubs. She also stated rot issues were present in the wood around windows and doors that would need addressing, along with air ducts needing to be checked for mold.

“The kicker is when you start discussing combining two rooms and remodeling the bathrooms and removing certain walls to make areas accessible,” Bryant said. “There’s a stipulation in the existing building code that says if you affect more than 50% of the floor area of a building, then you have to bring the whole building up to code. So all the little things I mentioned you’d need to do, there’s a really big thing that would happen in the blink of an eye once you start removing those walls … It’s a good thing for a civic building to be up to all codes, but it’s an expensive thing to do.”

Bryant stated judging by square footage of the building and the work that needed to be done, the lowest estimated cost would be $300,000, but more than likely would increase to nearly $600,000 once renovations were begun.

Based on the findings by both Massey and Bryant, the council voted to terminate the purchase agreement with the owner of the property and instead look to other options. Items discussed were the purchase of a piece of property near the current town hall where a new construction could be built, building a new civic building on the schoolyard property which the town already owns, or continuing the search for an existing property to be transformed into the new town hall/library. During a meeting in June, many citizens seemed against a property being built on the schoolyard parcel, wanting to save the space for a town park or greenspace. Bryant brought renderings of what a civic building on the lot would look like, showing that much greenspace would be left for other uses. By comparison, the empty parcel across the street from town hall’s current location would cost $125,000 upfront to purchase, but if bought would then connect the arboretum, fire department, town hall/library, and schoolyard property. Bryant estimated the cost of building a new construction to be around $175,000.

Citizens seemed to favor building on the schoolyard property as it’s already in the town’s possession, though the council wanted to deliberate further on all potential options. They’re looking to plan another town meeting where citizens can come and voice their opinions on a future location for the town hall/library project.

“The town needs to understand that the council has done due diligence on this,” said councilmember Nick Shields. “Every single member on the council was assigned a responsibility, and everybody did a tremendous job. I think you have every right to be proud of the due diligence that was carried out, regardless of the disappointing decision we had to come to. We’re doing what is best for our town.”