Bald Head Island’s largest property owners association has taken the remarkable step of opposing the village municipal government’s 11th-hour attempt to purchase the ferry system.
Bald Head Association (BHA) represents about 1,900 owners of buildable lots on the island. In November, islanders who are registered to vote in Bald Head will be asked whether the village government should obtain $54-million in general obligation bonds to buy the ferries, trams, tugboat, barge, parking lot and terminals at Southport and on the island.
There are 354 registered voters on the island.
The other property owners group on Bald Head represents roughly 100 owners in the Middle Island neighborhood.
The system is for sale to help settle the estate of the developer, the late George Mitchell. Operating under a state law earlier endorsed by the village, owner Bald Head Island Limited began working with the Bald Head Island Transportation Authority on a sale more than four years ago.
The Authority was established to create a lasting, not-for-profit entity to manage the ferry system, which is the only practical way for people, staples and materials to move between the island and the mainland. The Authority is set up to function much like a ports or airport authority.
Bald Head Island Mayor Andy Sayre and the village council have stated that they believe the price negotiated for sale of the system was too high and that there were issues such as deferred maintenance that were not adequately addressed in the purchase agreement with the Authority. They want the village to buy and run the system using a general obligation bond, which requires a vote.
Two weeks ago, Sayre asked to meet with Limited’s board in-person. Limited rejected his request and stated it would deal with the Authority.
“…we will no longer allow the personal or political agendas of a few individuals to be used to delay the sale process,” Limited wrote in a letter to the mayor. Limited also noted that island voters make up 5-percent of property owners and 10-percent of ferry ridership. The vast majority of riders are vacationers, island business owners and their employees.
Limited also stated that if the Authority does not obtain permission from the Local Government Commission for bonds to purchase the system “in the near future, we believe it highly likely that parts of the system will be sold at a substantially higher collective price than the entire system has been offered in the past to the Authority.”
In a letter to Sayre on Friday, BHA President Alan Briggs and the other five members of the board urged Sayre and the village to resolve the matter quickly.
The BHA letter reminded village leaders that Limited and the Mitchell family contend that the actions of the village in “its withdrawal of its unanimous support and consent for acquisition of the system by the Authority after almost five years into the process was ill-considered and its reasons for doing so unpersuasive.”
“It is the opinion of the directors of Bald Head Association that sale of the ferry transportation system to (the Authority) for its long-term ownership and operation would be a very good result and is the right result to take place now,” the BHA letter stated.
Previously, two certified appraisers were asked by islanders to review the appraisals used by the Authority. Both stated there were deficiencies in the original appraisal.
Authority Chairwoman Susan Rabon said the methodology used for the Authority’s appraisal was exactly what was called for by state law, not the methodology utilized by the reviewers. She added that state law is clear: the Authority shall acquire the system at or below appraised value.