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Judge dismisses suit against Hofmann Forest sale

Posted November 23, 2013

The 79,000-acre Hofmann Forest in Jones and Onslow counties is the largest university-owned teaching and research forest in the world.

— In the on-going battle over the sale of a 79,000-acre research forest from the endowment fund of North Carolina State University to a private Illinois company, a judge on Friday ruled against the group challenging the sale.

A group of N.C. State professors, foresters and environmentalists filed suit in September, alleging that the sale of Hofmann Forest would violate the state constitution's mandate of conserving public lands for public benefit. The plaintiffs also maintain that members of the Board of Trustees of the N.C. State Endowment Fund failed to follow state environmental regulations requiring input from public agencies or citizens on the proposal or to consider any alternatives to selling the forest.

In ruling to dismiss the lawsuit, Superior Court Judge Shannon R. Joseph wrote, "The role of this Court is not to decide whether the sale of Hofmann Forest is wise or ill-advised. Rather, this Court must decide whether the North Carolina Law on which Plaintiffs rely would entitle them to relief ... in this case, it would not."

Hofmann Forest has been owned and managed for the benefit of N.C. State’s College of Natural Resources for nearly 80 years. Officials said it is the largest university-owned teaching and research forest in the world.

University officials said they expect the proceeds of the sale to generate $6 million a year in revenue for the college, which they said is more than triple the current annual yield from owning the property.

Opponents of the sale worry that the buyer will use the forest for development. Their argument was bolstered earlier this month by the release of a prospectus from the newly formed Hofmann Forest LLC which outlines several "higher and better uses" for the property, including commercial development along U.S. Highway 17 and subdivisions to accommodate Jacksonville's growing population.

The plaintiffs had not decided Saturday whether to appeal the dismissal.

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  • heathcl Nov 26, 8:52 a.m.

    Shame on the NCSU administrators for even contemplating the sale of this state treasure to absentee landlord developers. Even so, have they not ever heard of a conservation easement? The university administrators also claim that the institution must to sell this particular property, a legacy to the people of North Carolina, because of decreases in university funding from the General Assembly. Shame on the current state legislature for not adequately supporting higher education in our state, and for other recent conservation legislation failures as well. Hopefully, the NCSU Chancellor will realize this potential mistake before it is too late, and step in decisively to terminate the Hoffman Forest sale for the good of the university and the people of North Carolina. If not, shame on him too! If the University needs money, the Board of Trustees should sell a few high value properties on the periphery of the main campus, areas already clear-cut or urbanized, not the Hoffman Forest.

  • stormwaterguy Nov 25, 3:32 p.m.

    Very short sighted view by the trustees who approved this deal.

    Within 10 years, there will be housing and roads where there are now trees and wetlands if this sale is not stopped.

  • amwillis Nov 25, 3:15 p.m.

    I am incredibly disappointed in the NCCSU Board of Trustees for its false representations to the student body throughout their secret meetings concerning the sale of the Hofmann Forest, their failure to divulge relevant information during their "review" process, and their repeated promises and vows that the sale would only occur if the legacy of Hofmann Forest would be preserved as a working forest with continued access to students and faculty.

    NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson, NCSU CNR Dean Mary Watzin, and NRF Exec. Director David Ashcraft have shown that they possess no honor, no integrity, and no respect for the students or faculty of the university. Consequently, they have lost my respect as its leaders.

    Theirs shall be a shameful legacy to bear, and each my fellow classmates and I should forever be chagrined as graduates of CNR to have allowed this treasured natural resource to be squandered on our watch.

    Amanda M. Willis, Esq.

  • scubagirl2 Nov 25, 2:33 p.m.

    Raleigh doesn't want parks, NC doesn't want forest land, it truly is a sad and misguided outlook that is held.

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh Nov 25, 1:13 p.m.

    Strange that in a state where magnificent trees and forest are our identity and our greatest legacy, a short-term business deal easily trumps a giant forest in North Carolina. Those trees just can't move as fast as the money changing hands in the back rooms.

    Funny to consider: those dollars they are trading came from trees, as does the contract they signed so quickly.

    Now if we could just get that governor to show a flash of intelligence and leadership, and sign Dix Hill over to the people of North Carolina for a park before they bulldoze it as well...

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh Nov 25, 1:07 p.m.

    "Where is the AG in this. As NCSU is plainly onwed by the state it follows that the Hoffman Forest is plainly owned by the state. And the state rules would apply. If you believe otherwise, go look at the property tax records for the past 80 years and see if the institution and the forest are listed as private tax paying entities, or property tax exempt public property." - dlnorri

    Solid point, dlnorri. But the simple fact is, Purdue herself didn't have anything to do with this particular state parcel, so no one running the show right now really gives a hoot about Hoffman forest and the firesale price involved. So it leaves the people of NC on the outside looking in, a familiar position of late.

  • dlnorri Nov 25, 1:01 p.m.

    Where is the AG in this. As NCSU is plainly onwed by the state it follows that the Hoffman Forest is plainly owned by the state. And the state rules would apply. If you believe otherwise, go look at the property tax records for the past 80 years and see if the institution and the forest are listed as private tax paying entities, or property tax exempt public property.

  • UpChuck Nov 25, 11:38 a.m.

    They've had it for 80 years; I'm sure the people that donated it are taking a dirt nap and could care less.

  • Rebelyell55 Nov 25, 11:17 a.m.

    Sad day for NC State. I bet those who donated the land aren't happy with this. I'm also wondering what it'll do in the future when someone thinking of donation to them. Will they look somewhere else now that they know their donation maybe abused.

  • Rolling Along Nov 25, 9:19 a.m.

    Follow the money... :(

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