|LUB makes offer for Hutch property
With the end of a 120-day due-diligence period coming Friday, Loudon Utilities Board met Monday in a brief special called meeting to discuss purchase of the Hutch property in Loudon.
The property, which neighbors LUB’s current offices, was originally put on the market at $1.5 million before dropping to $1.35 million during front-end negotiations before LUB entered into a contingency contract.
Following a positive environmental impact study, LUB board of directors voted unanimously Monday to enable Ty Ross, city/utility manager, and Joe Ford, LUB attorney, to pursue purchase of the property at $1 million.
Ford made the recommendation the board pursue at a price of $1 million based on the need to remediate asbestos and underground tanks on the property.
“That’s $350,000 off of the contract price, and that $350,000 off of the contract price would be set aside to take care of the asbestos and underground tanks, which we’ve got ballpark estimates that, that might just take care of those two items,” Ford said. “... It was a pretty good environmental study, but there’s some things there that need to be remediated. That $350,000 would give us a pretty good cushion.”
Johnny James made a motion to accept a resolution to allow Ford and Ross to pursue the property. Carlie McEachern seconded and the motion passed 5-0. According to the resolution, the acquisition of the property is for “a potential new Loudon utilities/municipal building complex,” but Ross said there were no concrete plans for the location.
“The idea being to look at the opportunity to acquire it, which would open up a whole host of options for the community,” Ross said.
Interest in the waterfront portion of the property is great should LUB complete the purchase, James said.
“That’s a priceless piece of property,” James said. “That’s Loudon’s future, and I look at it — the city of Loudon and the utilities, we’re not into development, that’s not what we’re into. There is a portion of the property we would like to have, and the waterfront is not part of it, but if we own it, we can control how it is developed, what happens and who we sell it to. If Hutch manufacturing sells it, we can’t control anything.
“... I can tell you, and I know for a fact, that there’s two people, outside developers, that’s interested in it,” he added. “And I can tell you for a fact that one of them met with our manager, and I’m sure he’s going to have a meeting with the other one.”
James was initially reluctant to support the purchase, but believes it could end up being a positive at a $1 million price tag.
“If we play this right, I think we could end up having a property that we have little of anything in other than demolition if we market the waterfront property,” James said. “We won’t have $1 million in what we’re going to keep. I know that for a fact. So that’s why I’m for it.”
If the city doesn’t end up with the property, several board members voiced the importance of having the location in the hands of someone who will properly develop the waterfront.
“Look at Knoxville, look at any place that’s utilized its waterfront and look what it has done for them, OK,” James said. “... There was a time in Knoxville’s history when that waterfront wasn’t developed. Neyland Drive was two-lane. It’s four-lane now.”
Hutch Manufacturing closed its plant located on the property in January 2012.
Former city/utility manager Lynn Mills expressed interest in the property for the city and LUB at the time of the closure.