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December 4, 2018

Supervisors skeptical about BB&T building purchase

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Under one scenario, the county would move several departments to Main Street to consolidate courts at 40 Culpeper St.
Anything much north of $2.5 million, most of the supervisors are going to be out, because of other priorities, including me.
— Supervisor Chris Granger
BB&T Main Street Building
• Where: 21 Main St., Warrenton

• Size: 30,000 square, including unfinished basement.

• Land: 1.25 acres, zoned commercial

• Owner: BB&T, Winston-Salem, N.C.

• List price: $3.5 million.

• Assessed value: $4.1 million for real estate tax purposes.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Testing the waters of the local real estate market, Fauquier’s board of supervisors recently made a $2.5-million offer to buy the vacant BB&T building on Warrenton’s Main Street for government offices.

Written by County Administrator Paul S. McCulla, the three-page Nov. 14 “letter of intent” also outlines the terms under which Fauquier might buy the 30,000-square-foot building and 1.25-acre lot.

The next day, Warrenton Realtor Bill emailed Mr. McCulla a counter offer of $3.3 million for the 21 Main St. property and several conditions that differ from those spelled out in the county administrator’s letter.

“The bank came back with the following counter,” wrote Mr. Chipman, who represents Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T. “Let me know your thoughts.”

“They didn’t like the number” the county offered, “so we’ve got nothing,” Mr. McCulla said Friday. “There’s no contract, no agreement to purchase. There’s not even a letter of intent.”

For tax purposes, the county values the property at $4.1 million. Mr. Chipman’s firm has it listed at $3.5 million.

The building has been vacant since late July, when BB&T shut the branch. The bank maintains a larger Warrenton branch at 236 W. Lee Highway.

The supervisors will discuss their interest in the building at the Dec. 13 meeting, Mr. McCulla said.

“I don’t know where the board’s going with this,” the county administrator said. “This is a board decision.”

“It’s got to be a compelling deal for the county,” Supervisor Chris Granger, whose Center District includes Warrenton, said Tuesday of a BB&T counter-offer. “Anything much north of $2.5 million, most of the supervisors are going to be out, because of other priorities, including me.”

“That doesn’t work for me,” Supervisor Rick Gerhardt (Cedar Run) said Tuesday of the $3.3-million BB&T counter-offer.

While the idea of purchasing the former bank building for office space may have “value,” that kind of investment “has got to make sense,” Mr. Gerhardt said.

“It’s not a deal, unless it’s a steal,” he added.

The county’s capital improvements plan includes $2 million to relocate the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court to the county courthouse at Lee, Ashby and Culpeper streets.

The Fauquier County Circuit Court and clerk’s office already occupy the structure, built in the early 1970s.

To accommodate the juvenile and domestic relations court and its clerk’s office in that building, the county would need to relocate the treasurer’s office, commissioner of revenue’s office, community development department and geographic information system office.

Under one scenario, those agencies would shift to the BB&T building.

The commissioner of revenue and community development also have staff in the Warren Green Building at 10 Hotel St. Those employees also would move to the BB&T building, according to the plan.

The board last month authorized Mr. McCulla to hire an architect to determine the cost and feasibility of putting those agencies in the BB&T building.

But that study has been put on hold until the supervisors’ Dec. 13 meeting, when they will discuss various capital project, Mr. McCulla said Tuesday.

Besides the building price, areas of disagreement between the county and BB&T include the deposit amount and the study period.

Fauquier proposed a “good faith,” refundable $25,000 deposit held in escrow “at the time of signing of a purchase agreement,” with “all interest paid on the cash deposit” going to the county.

BB&T’s counter offer calls for a $50,000 deposit upon “execution of the sale and purchase agreement,” according to Mr. Chipman’s email.

The county sought a 120-day study period; BB&T wants to limit it to 60 days.

While placing the circuit and juvenile and domestic relations courts and related services under one roof would reduce security costs, Fauquier has no legal obligation to do so, Mr. McCulla said.

Fauquier’s General District Court will continue to operate in the old courthouse on Main Street.

Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300.
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Keith Macdonald · December 10, 2018 at 8:03 pm
"For tax purposes, the county values the property at $4.1 million. Mr. Chipman's firm has it listed at $3.5 million."

WOW That's scary!!!
Why is this so and What does this tell us?

The sales price for a class A building well situated on Main Street in the commercial district is currently selling at 14.63% discount to its tax assessed value tax value after a historic ten years of economic growth. (Thank you, President Obama)

At this stage in our economic cycle, this building should be selling for a LARGE premium to its tax value - not a discount.

So why is it selling at a discount?

Take a hard detached look at the state of our Historic Town Center. Lots of empty buildings, Vast amounts of asphalt parking that provides a negative return to the community. Many buildings only partly used. When they are leased, it is for low return on investment uses - producing low rents and tax revenues. Third tier retail & other business focused on tourists and not citizens, situated in an area with too few options to become a desirable destination - so people mostly go elsewhere or know not to come at all.

Focus on the acres of parking that are keeping new development, growth, and investment from revitalizing our town core. Look at the zoning ordinances that keep appropriate infill projects from happening. THIS IS WHAT NEEDS FIXING

Go ahead - hang potted flowers - they look great, but they are not addressing the root cause of the problems in our town center.

We need sustained investment in our core - not our periphery. This problem is deep, complex and protracted. Time for our leaders to get to work with new fundamental approaches or get out of the way. I have watched for more than 25 years and as yet - no one has addressed the real issues.
Keith Macdonald · December 10, 2018 at 6:51 pm
Diagonal, LC the developers of the Library 2.0 development proposed over 4 years ago to build two floors of office space over the Library 2.0 building to be located at the corner of Winchester Street & Diagonal Street. At the time Mr. McCulla informed Diagonal LC that the County did not need "any office space." in a long letter of full of B.S. Go figure? We knew the County DID need additional space then, we also knew the Clerk's office needs additional space. Let's think about this.

A new modern energy efficient building - built to the counties specifications at Diagonal's risk - that houses a beautiful Library with outstanding views across the Piedmont, two floors or more of county offices above the Library and a below-grade parking garage with 350 parking spaces. All situated just 500 feet from Main Street and the Courthouse. Sounds like a perfect situation (because it is). Oh, and I forget - All of this for less than half the cost of the Chestnut Street Library idea. All ready to go when interest rates were a whopping 2.5% and not 5+%.

And for the record. Diagonal, LC after discussions with four of the five Supervisors spent over $150,000.00 of its own cash in the development of the concept only to have the proposal stuffed into a trash can and never read by anyone at the County. If you want to know why this community struggles it is because so many in power are idiots.
Silii · December 4, 2018 at 8:12 pm
Mr. McCulla needs to go and take other county administrators with him. We need new blood, new thinking, new administration. Get rid of the cobwebs.The current group is too full of themselves and their perceived "importance" to do what is best for taxpayers. And, yes to llfarm88's comment about tax assessments - the Big Taxpayer Ripoff process. How many good ol boys and girls can one county have? That's why we need total change.
llfarm88 · December 4, 2018 at 4:44 pm
Well this is a fine example of the difference in the county's tax assessment,
the owners perspective of the property Value and what the market is willing to pay.
It is probably more important for the county to solve the Assessment/Value issues
than to move the courts????
Also what is the MOVING Relocation cost? Building modification cost???
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