N.C. State in negotiations with buyer for 80,000-acre Hofmann Forest

relder@newsobserver.comApril 26, 2013 

— N.C. State University officials are negotiating with a potential buyer for the 80,000-acre Hofmann Forest, a research site near Jacksonville that university officials hope to convert to cash to help support the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources.

College dean Mary Watzin and Brenda Brickhouse, chairman of the board for the Natural Resources Foundation, sent a letter to faculty members and others last week saying they had identified a prospective buyer for the forest, which is valued at between $120 million and $150 million.

The letter states that Natural Resources Foundation board members considered multiple offers for the site and “found that at least one offer generally meets the price and other key terms and conditions.”

Watzin declined to name the potential buyer or the asking price until a contract is signed, but said she is optimistic about the proposal.

“We are not asking for additional offers,” Watzin said.

Among the university’s conditions for a sale is retaining the Hofmann name. The forest was named in honor of Julius Hofmann, founding chairman of the N.C. State forestry department, now the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources. The property in Onslow and Jones counties was purchased in the 1930s under Hofmann’s guidance for use “as a forestry laboratory, demonstration area and as a source of revenue.”

Watzin said the terms of the sale are expected to include commitments to maintain the majority of the plot as a working forest and allow faculty and students continued access for research and demonstration projects.

Watzin said negotiations over terms of the sale will be carried out by the N.C. State University Foundation board, which oversees campus-wide fundraising and investments. She said contract negotiations are expected to take at least a month.

News that a potential buyer has been identified has drawn mixed reactions from faculty and alumni, Watzin said.

“We’ve heard positive feedback from some folks and disappointment from others,” she said.

Fred Cubbage, a professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, asked Natural Resources Foundation board members to defer their decision to sell the Hofmann property.

“Virtually all forestry students, faculty, and alums want to retain and manage the forest,” Cubbage told the board on April 18. “The Hofmann is a huge source of pride and identity for them.”

Cubbage also noted that timber sales from the forest already generate between $1.5 million and $2 million per year to support the College of Environment and Natural Resources and that interest income from investing proceeds from the sale may be less than that amount.

The board voted unanimously to go forward with the sale, Watzin said.

Elder: 919-829-4528

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