Judge dismisses suit against Hofmann Forest sale
Posted November 23, 2013
Updated October 18, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.