The deal to sell the Hofmann Forest will continue, despite revelations that the buyer circulated a prospectus earlier this year that proposed clearing a large portion of the forest for development and farmland, university officials said Friday.
“Yesterday, the buyer confirmed there are ‘no plans to develop the property into a large commercial and residential community,’” Brad Bohlander, associate vice chancellor for University Communications and chief communications officer at N.C. State, said in an emailed statement. “In addition to this commitment, the property in question is zoned for conservation uses and any changes to accommodate such development would require a county public approval process.”
Bohlander said Hofmann Forest LLC, the buyer, has made clear it will honor these outcomes, which are consistent with the sales agreement.
“Throughout the sales process, N.C. State has negotiated in good faith, doing our best to ensure this sale will achieve the goals of preserving the legacy of the forest and allowing for the continuation of the current uses of the land, including opportunities for continued university research,” Bohlander said.
Ron Sutherland, a conservationist for the Wildlands Network, said he’s not buying the University’s message. The Hofmann process has consisted of several half-truths and lies, Sutherland said in an email.
“Apparently NCSU made those drawings [development plan renderings] in 2009, and clearly they gave them to Walker Group/Hofmann LLC,” Sutherland said. “So they were lying their pants off when they said this was the first they had seen of the prospectus document. They wrote at least part of it and they gave it to at least one potential buyer when promoting the sale.”
Tom Percival, a spokesperson for Hofmann Forest LLC, told WNCT, a CBS News affiliate on Friday that the company has “no plans to develop Hofmann Forest for any commercial or residential ventures.”
“The development plans contained in the document are renderings that were done by N.C. State University four years ago as an exploratory study,” Percival said.
Bohlander’s statement said Section Eight of the sales agreement outlines the commitments between N.C. State and the buyer, “including the buyer’s intent to establish the forest as a legacy property, pursue securing easements with the military and use the property for timber production and agricultural endeavors, as well as allow the University to continue research activities at the forest.”
“Section 16 includes a merger clause that states the sales agreement, and not any previous documents or discussions, is the final and entire agreement,” Bohlander said.
Sutherland said N.C. State is trying to reframe the debate to make it all about the urban development, as opposed to clearing the land for agricultural purposes.
“Even there, all they are really saying is that they have no immediate plans to start building next year, and they’re making broad assurances to the military that they don’t plan to develop the entire property,” Sutherland said.