Land grab

By Steve Woodward

(Editor’s note: The content of this post reflects the author’s informed opinion and is not necessarily endorsed by the Moore County Republican Party)

The Pilot‘s August 8 editorial presumes to instruct our county board of education on making “the right choice” with regard to the sale of land formerly occupied by Southern Pines Primary School. Allow me to interject that “the right choice” would have been to do some research on the topic.

For if one does not choose to conclude that the editorial begins with a false assertion and an erroneous claim, the only other conclusion is that the writer is lying in order to make a racially charged argument for the Land Trust’s proposed land grab.

To wit, the opening of paragraph five: “The rules are complicated, but the school board is not obligated to take the highest bid. It can accept the lesser offer if it deems it to be in the best interest of the community.”

To the contrary, the rules certainly are not complicated, while the board certainly is obligated to accept the highest bid for the 17-acre parcel. These are plainly cited by a state general statute and by the state’s constitution. In other words, law dictates what the board must do. A few examples. First, “local school boards have statutory authority … to own, purchase, and sell real property.” And, as one sales option, “bids are solicited and received at one time and opened publicly, and the highest responsive offer is conveyed to the school board.” 

But, but … what about the section allowing non-competitive sales to a non-profit or a trust seeking land owed to its “cultural, historical, natural or scenic significance”? The statute addresses this plainly. “The exception listed above is discretionary, not mandatory.” Which leads to the constitutional authority granted school boards to dismiss low bids. This is hiding in plain sight in Article 9, which holds that the constitution prohibits “school boards from donating real property or selling it for less than its fair market value” unless another school would be built on the land. 

The Land Trust’s plan for the land includes “affordable housing for minority teachers”, along with a museum, an outdoor learning lab and “entrepreneurial opportunities” (black-owned businesses, in other words). Thus, this pandering editorial begins with falsehoods and goes on to advocate for converting the land into “a mixed-use hub … focused on serving its historically black community.” 

The Pilot’s “right choice” envisions a permanently segregated Southern Pines. That’s a false choice. The board’s only choice is to comply with the law and the North Carolina Constitution, sell to the highest bidder and allocate a projected $1.5 million in proceeds across all of Moore County’s structurally deteriorating schools.   

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