Guilford County Commissioner: Alamance County walking away from prison farm site

Posted: Saturday, October 24, 2015 4:38 pm

GREENSBORO — Alamance County apparently is not going to buy a 111-acre parcel of the Guilford County Prison Farm, Guilford County Commissioner Alan Branson said Saturday.

“Late Thursday, I learned that Alamance County was wanting to walk away,” he told about 50 people gathered at the site this afternoon.

“At this particular time, we can breathe a little sigh of relief on that piece.”

Recent reports had surfaced saying that Alamance County was interested in the property for major industrial use. It wasn’t clear what that use could involve.

The McLeansville Wildlife Club hosted the community meeting at the site to let neighbors discuss their fears about the property becoming an industrial site.

The meeting also let them air their concerns that Guilford County would be giving away the farm if the reported selling price of $4,700 per acre were true.

“Four-thousand, seven-hundred dollars was not in my vocabulary,” Branson told the group. “If this becomes a situation for development, the developers are not paying $4,700 per acre.”

Listeners said they were not interested in development. They argued that the land has more value if used for agricultural purposes.

The largest industry in North Carolina is agriculture, said Guilford County Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor Ray Briggs.

“The Prison Farm is agricultural, and it is a perfect fit for the area,” Brig said. “We’ll need more, not less, suitable farmland.”

For more than a year, operation of the farm has been shifting from the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office to the county. The site, once used as an inmate worksite, is under a one-year lease for agricultural use.

But developers say the site has the potential to help Greensboro match growth in Charlotte and the Triangle, which are pulling jobs and skilled workers from Guilford County.

People who attended the meeting said the site is pristine farmland, a resource that is disappearing.

Other ideas that might work for the site, said David Teague, would be turning it into a regional fire training facility or an agrarian mental health center.

“It would be a place where people can get away from the city,” he said. “They need a place where they can get out and walk.”

Others suggested asking whether N.C. A&T or N.C. State would be interested in using the prison farm for agricultural research.

Neither appear to be interested, Branson said.

“The N.C. Wildlife Habitat Foundation has mentioned they may be interested,” he said. “You’re going to have to have five (commissioners) that are willing to sell out of the nine. I don’t think the board is too engaged in selling.”

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