Wicomico Seeks Lower Price For Property Purchase

SALISBURY – Wicomico officials are considering a land acquisition that could alleviate parking issues and allow for improvements at a county-owned athletic complex.

In an open work session last week, Wicomico County Recreation, Parks and Tourism Director Steve Miller met with the Wicomico County Council to discuss the acquisition of a one-acre lot near the Mason Dixon Sports Complex in Delmar.

Last year, the county purchased two properties adjacent to the complex using Program Open Space (POS) funding. Miller said the county now has an opportunity to purchase a third lot.

“At the time, there was a third lot that was not for sale, so we purchased the two lots to help with parking and do other things for increased activity in Delmar,” he said. “Since that time, this third lot has become available, so we are here to ask the council to consider a request to acquire that property.”

Miller told the council last week the county would use POS funding to pay for the property, which is owned by Marshall Auction Marketing Company. While the property is appraised at $34,000, he said the owner will accept no less than $38,000.

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“The $34,000 would be covered by the state grant, so the $4,000 would be out-of-pocket county funding, which we could absorb through recreation and parks,” he said. “That would be our intent.”

When asked how the county would use the parcel, Miller said the public would have a say in the matter. He noted, however, that the county could use the lot to expand parking, create additional ball fields, or relocate the concessions and restroom building.

“If we are able to acquire it, what I’d like to do is engage the public up in Delmar and get ideas,” he said. “I don’t think we are under a rush as far as what to do.”

Councilman John Cannon, however, questioned why the property was not available last year. He noted the auction company had recently purchased the lot.

“It appears to me that the only reason the property might have been purchased was speculation, possibly even knowing the county would buy it …,” he said. “I don’t see how it’s justifiable to pay the additional $4,000.”

Councilman Joe Holloway agreed. While he supported the purchase of the property, he did not support the purchase price.

“The old farmer says, ‘I don’t want all the land, I just want the piece next to me,’” he said. “But I don’t think the old farmer would pay more than it’s worth, or what it’s appraised for.”

Miller, however, said the acquisition would benefit county residents.

“Adjacent property is always a unique opportunity that we may or may not get again …,” he said. “What we were told was take it or leave it at that price.”

Councilman Bill McCain agreed. He noted the county would be responsible for $4,000 of the purchase price.

“At the end of the day that’s all the county’s having to pay for this …,” he said.

Officials noted one company had appraised the property at $33,000 and another had appraised it at $35,000, giving an average appraisal of $34,000. Instead of accepting the $38,000 offer, the council reached a consensus to offer $35,000, or the highest appraisal price.

“I think we’re being held at gunpoint here …,” Cannon said. “I think he’s trying to take advantage of the situation.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.