Why did Lewisville spend $2M for less than two acres?
Happy Tuesday. Sweaters are not out of order today.
With little fanfare – and no doubt in hopes of escaping public notice and an attendant uproar – state Rep. Jeff Zenger reached an agreement with the Town of Lewisville to take nearly $2 million in public money for less than 2 acres of land purchased for $65,000.
Nice work if you can get it.
The deal, which was finalized Feb. 27, was the culmination of a contentious proposal for an apartment complex floated in 2020 by Solomon Development LLC, Zenger’s company.
The Lewisville Town Council turned it down – twice – so Zenger turned to the lawyers.
So after months of negotiations and mediation, Zenger and the town settled for $1.975 million.
People are also reading…
“The real losers in this are the people of Lewisville who will be out $2 million from the general fund that could have been spent for a public use,” said Mayor Mike Horn.
While appearing slick, this particular land deal is perfectly legal and obviously lucrative.
Lawyers hired by the town and Solomon Development saw to that.
The shortest version of a long saga goes like this:
In 2004, Solomon paid $50,000 for .77 acres on Belnette Drive and $15,000 in 2018 for an adjacent .8 acre on North Street.
Then in 2020, Solomon approached town officials with a plan to build a four-story apartment complex (and a restaurant) on the land.
The planning board and town council turned down the request because members believed that the proposal was not in line with the comprehensive land-use plan, nearby single-family houses and officials’ vision for development in the area.
Four stories and 48-feet tall apparently was too tall.
Instead of folding, Solomon repackaged their plan in 2021 to make the building two stories.
Because the revision called for two stories instead of four – technically meeting a requirement – the planning board OK’d the new plan.
Council, however, thought otherwise and voted 5-2 to deny the request.
And that’s when the lawyers waded into the fray.
Zenger, through his company, notified the town and individual members about an intention to file lawsuit asking for $8 million in damages and attorneys’ fees.
Solomon felt it had a case and the town agreed; its lawyers wouldn’t have given a frivolous case a second glance.
In this instance, settlement offers and counter proposals were floated. Mediation followed in December where the parameters of the deal were nailed down
And after finalizing the agreement earlier this month, officials and lawyers moved on to the next phase: damage control and explaining to residents why the town would be cutting a very large check to a former council member now serving in Raleigh.
Mayor Horn, acting on the belief that the town’s residents deserved an explanation, issued a public statement that apparently caught some off-guard.
“After many hours of discussion among council members, and at the advice of our attorneys, the council reluctantly agreed to this settlement to avoid a jury trial in which a favorable verdict for the town was uncertain and that could also have resulted in compensatory and punitive damages significantly greater than the settlement that was reached,” Horn said in his statement.
For non-lawyers, that can be loosely translated as “You probably have a case. But do you really want to take your chances?”
Not that it should come as any sort of surprise, but sometimes parties involved in dealings that carry the potential for public blowback prefer that terms be kept quiet.
Zenger, so far, has remained mum.
“You’ll have to speak with the attorney on that,” said Amy Jordan, a legislative aide for Rep. Zenger. “There’s nothing to add. All statements will have to come from the attorney.”
An attorney for the firm of Allman Spry Davis Leggett and Crumpler provided a four-page statement Monday that noted, among other things, that Solomon submitted the plans legally, that it was in fact in line with the vision for the area and would have provided much luxury apartments catering to senior citizens within walking distance of shops while adding to the tax base.
“As taxpaying citizens of Lewisville, Mr. and Mrs. Zenger would greatly prefer for Solomon to have developed a beautiful project for Lewisville seniors to live in on Shallowford Square, rather than the current empty lot which sits devoid of beneficial use, and each and every Lewisville taxpayer is paying a price for the decisions made by a very few,” the statement reads.
In the end, Solomon Development, Rep. Zenger and his wife pocket $1.975 million for sitting on 1.57 acres next to Shallowford Square – and building nothing.
The town gets 1.57 acres of land with an appraised value of $136,300, and elected officials who make $50 per meeting are left shaken.
Nice work if you can get it.
Energy policy debate
GREENSBORO – If for just a minute members of the Guilford County Board of Education might take their minds off the politics surrounding filling a vacancy, they might be able to change policy on energy sustainability.
A vote is scheduled for tonight that would establish sustainability and conservation policies that would represent progress toward a goal of using 100 percent clean and renewable energy sources by 2050.
(Plenty of public boards set such goals way off in the future. They mean well but they also know that in the end, meeting it won’t be their problem.)
Still, for some citizens, the proposals don’t go far enough.
Anyone interested in, say, the future of the planet rather than the school-board politics will find out tonight how that works out.
Leaps and bounds
WINSTON-SALEM – While we’re on the planet, the annual Forsyth County Creek Week is upon us.
(See what we did there? On the planet … environmental issues? We crack ourselves up sometimes.)
The event, actually nine days of events designed to draw attention to protecting our waterways and drinking water, starts Saturday with a Frog Walk in Ivey Redmon Park in Kernersville.
We’ll assume that one is designed with families in mind and will check out habitat for amphibians rather than asking grown-ups to hop or walk like frogs.
Anyhow, for a complete schedule for events, consult the Forsyth County website or social media.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.
- Former Corporate Attorney for Apple Pleads Guilty to Insider Trader
- Kennedy's attorney fees in prayer case could run into the millions
- Merrick Garland's former law professor says he thinks the attorney general will indict Trump over January 6
- Orange County District Attorney's Office clears 30-year backlog of untested rape kits
- Attorney General Garland to undergo procedure to treat enlarged prostate