Chapel Hill News

Hillsborough begins eminent domain to acquire the Colonial Inn

The town of Hillsborough has begun legal proceedings to acquire the former Colonial Inn by eminent domain, town officials announced Thursday.

The Hillsborough Board of Commissioners authorized the move July 21. Under the process — authorized in Chapter 40A of the N.C. General Statutes — the town would provide the owner with just compensation for the property, according to a town news release.

When filing the action, the town placed a deposit of $250,000 with the Orange County Clerk of Court, which is the estimated fair market value of the property, as determined by appraisers hired by the town.

The property’s current owners agreed in January to allow appraisers to access the 177-year-old structure at 153 W. King St.

The owners previously received a 30-day notice of the town’s intent to exercise its power of eminent domain and now have 120 days to answer the town’s filing. If the filing is not contested or if the deposited compensation is taken from the court, title for the property would then transfer to the town.

“The Board of Commissioners is committed to acquiring the historic property, which is a contributing structure in Hillsborough’s historic district and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places,” the news release said. Possible public uses for the structure include using it for offices, a museum or other educational or recreational space.

3 principles

“There are three principles we want to keep in mind regarding the former Colonial Inn property,” Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said. “First, is to remember the primary goal is simply to see that this historic landmark in our community is preserved for future generations; second, that we make decisions regarding the property based on solid information rather than sentiments; and finally, that we treat all parties fairly and respectfully as we move toward that goal.”

The town contracted with the Development Finance Initiative of the UNC School of Government in 2015 to determine types of public participation that might be necessary to renovate and return the former inn to economic use. The town is considering transferring ownership to a public-private partnership that would be responsible for stabilizing and restoring the structure under guidelines set by the town.

The partnership would pay for renovations to the structure, which are estimated to cost about $3 million, according to the initiative’s report.