Land dealings get look

Staff WriterMarch 10, 2004 

State Rep. Lucy Allen said she sought to help Franklin County enhance its airport runway when she introduced a bill last year to give the county more power in acquiring land for public use.

Allen and her husband, Felix, a Raleigh accountant, own 215 acres west of the airport that the county considered for an industrial park several years ago. Allen said she operated against her interests in introducing the bill at the county's request. "I can't imagine any landowner wanting land condemned any quicker," said Allen, a freshman Democrat from Louisburg.

The bill would have given the county "quick take" rights, which means the county could move forward with developing the land against the owner's will as long as it set aside money equal to the land's appraised value. The owner could negotiate or sue for a better price, but the land would have been taken by then.

In the end, the legislation wasn't needed. County officials realized that the state already had given them quick-take powers about 10 years ago.

The land the county sought wasn't the Allens'. Economic Development Director Ronnie Goswick said the county needed about 60 acres on the airport's south end to extend landing lights and allow the county to lengthen the runway. That would help attract traffic, particularly corporate aircraft. The county is acquiring the land after reaching an agreement with the landowner.

Such expansion could lead to one possible benefit that Allen said she didn't foresee: She and her husband's nearby land might gain in value.

Allen said she and her husband are learning quickly that her position draws more scrutiny to their land dealings. In the past few months, she and her husband have had to respond to questions about selling easements on 400 acres along Sandy Creek to a conservation group that her husband used to head. The Tar River Land Conservancy sought about $1 million in state and federal grants to buy the easements.

Felix Allen stepped down before the government money was awarded to avoid an appearance of a conflict of interest.

Checks still coming

An audit released Tuesday found that the state treasurer is having difficulty keeping track of retirees who have died.

At least 25 people reported dead on the Social Security Death Index Web site were still receiving checks, the auditor said, and the treasurer's staff, which sends out retirement checks, had some evidence to suggest many had died.

The treasurer's office said it has revised procedures so staffers learn sooner when retirees die, and it plans to beef up internal auditing to make sure payments are properly paid.

Candidacies announced

* State Court of Appeals Judge John M. Tyson said Tuesday he would run for the state Supreme Court. A Cumberland County native and Campbell University law school graduate, Tyson won election to the appellate court in 2000. His career includes being a corporate and private lawyer, but he has also worked as a high school teacher, probation officer and special deputy.

* Former state Rep. Robert Brawley of Mooresville announced his candidacy for state insurance commissioner at the state GOP headquarters in Raleigh on Tuesday.

By staff writer Dan Kane, who can be reached at 829-4861 or dkane@newsobserver.com.

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