Newton County seeking judgement on land deal
Newton County has filed a complaint in Jones County arguing against the legality of two contracts related to the purchase of 518.4 acres of land in Jones County by Newton County in 2009.
On July 24, 2009, the county entered into a $2 million agreement for the land to use it as mitigation for the environmental impact of the proposed Bear Creek Reservoir. Within that contract, there was a clause granting the seller, Southern Vision, LLC, an option to repurchase the property for $10.
The contract was signed by Newton County’s Chair at the time. However, there are no recorded minutes referencing a vote or approval for the purchase by the Board of Commissioners. That is one of the key points Newton County is using to get a judgement from the Superior Court of Jones County before Timbervest Partners III Georgia, LLC can attempt to initiate the repurchase clause.
“Not only did the Newton County Board of Commissioners never approve nor ratify the Real Estate Sales Contract, the Board did not authorize an option for Southern Vision, LLC, or any other entity, to repurchase the Real Property for ten dollars,” said the Complaint for Declaratory Judgment filed by Newton County Attorney Megan Martin.
The filed complaint also cites a special stipulation that was in the real estate contract stating that “This agreement and Newton County’s obligation to consummate the transaction shall be and are expressly contingent upon the approval and ratification of this Agreement by the Newton County Board of Commissioners.”
Along with the purchase agreement between Newton County and Southern Vision, the county is also seeking a judgement concerning the transfer of the right to repurchase the property from Southern Vision to Timbervest Partners.
In the transferring of assignment of rights to Conservation Easement Property between Southern Vision and Timbervest, in May of 2014, a modification stated that Timbervest would not be bound by the prohibition on removal of standing timber.
However, according to Martin’s complaint, “Removal of the restriction against timbering will frustrate the conservation purpose” of the mitigation land.
Newton County is also arguing that the modification of assignment of rights was signed off by a former Newton County Chair in 2014 and was not approved by the Board of Commissioners.
The county is awaiting a decision from the Jones County Superior Court on the following judgements:
- “determining that the Real estate Sales Contract is invalid, null, ultra vires and void;” and
- “determining that the option to repurchase the Real Property is invalid, null, ultra vires and void.”
Newton County also filed with the Jones County Superior Court that it is entitled to the return of the $2 million of the purchase of the property, located to the west of Monticello Highway. A sale of the land for $10 to Timbervest has not occurred.
It is undetermined when a response is expected on the Newton County’s legal finding.
Since the time the contract in dispute was signed, Newton County has put in place purchasing policies that, among other things, act as controls against signing of checks by one party and purchases of a certain amount being granted without Board of Commissioners approval.