BERLIN – A large parcel of farmland on the border of Ocean Pines that languished unsold for years found a new owner last week by auction, bringing in $700,000 despite the lack of utilities at the site.
Developer Palmer Gillis purchased what has been called the Burbage property, just south of the North Gate of Ocean Pines and across from the north Route 589 Shore Stop, on Thursday for less than the assessed value of the land.
The most recent state assessment of the land’s value listed the parcel at $919,000, according to state records.
The 21-acre farm property is zoned general business, allowing an enormous variety of potential commercial operations on the land. The parcel borders Ocean Pines on the north, west and south.
The land, described as an important property by auctioneers Marshall Auctions of Salisbury, was sold without a reserve or minimum.
Although roughly 40 people turned out for the auction on a rainy day, to stand on muddy, almost flooded ground under a tent on the side of Route 589, only a few bidders spoke up.
“It’s an absolute sale. We’re going to sell it to the highest bidder. There is no reserve, folks,” said Doug Marshall, auctioneer and founder of Marshall Auctions, as the small crowd awaited the opening bid. “Whoever has their hand in the air last is going to own the property.”
According to Marshall, the company did not have a bona fide survey on the land.
“It’s a court ordered sale. We’re selling it as-is,” he said.
The land could be part of the coastal bays critical area, but the company has not looked into that, he pointed out.
Marshall asked for a pie-in-the-sky $4 million bid to start, then threw out reductions to $3 million, then $2 million.
“Two million anyone? I’m just trying to get a bid, trying to make a living,” Marshall said.
Bidding finally got underway with an offer of $100,000, then quickly progressed up to $500,000. Offers went up in $25,000 increments from there to $625,000.
Marshall tried to incite further bidding while waiting for the principal bidders to determine if they could or should go further.
Gillis then stepped in with an increase to $700,000.
“I’m $700,000 bid,” said Marshall. “If you want to bid, I suggest you get your hands in the air.”
No one threw out a higher offer, despite Marshall’s patter inviting further bids, at $725,000 or $710,000.
“Seven and a quarter? You’re going to wish you had tomorrow,” Marshall said.
The other bidders declined to offer more, and Gillis won out.
“We thought it was going to bring a lot more than this,” said Marshall. “This is a steal.”
The purchase was a gamble for Salisbury-based developer Gillis, who said that he is concerned over sewer service at the site, without which no building may go forward.
There are no public utilities available for the parcel, a factor that has let the property languish unsold even during a previous hot local market for commercial property along the increasingly populated Route 589 corridor. Gillis said it would not likely be developed for three to five years.
“It’s going to take a long time,” Gillis said.
The last plans made public placed medical offices on the site, but those were tentative at that time.
“We do a lot of medical offices,” said Gillis, who has developed many existing medical buildings in the area. “There’s a lot of people here that need doctors.”