2013-08-21 / Front Page

Developer to foreclose on 714-acre property

Lawyer blames county proffers
By Michael Buettner

A company led by a prominent local developer is moving to foreclose on a property owned by another company led by the same developer.

A foreclosure auction was recently advertised for the 714-acre Debonair Acres property between River Road and Hickory Road in the Matoaca District. The property is owned by Debonair Acres LLC, one of numerous development-related companies of which Chester developer George Emerson is the managing member.

The advertisement did not include the name of the creditor who was foreclosing on the property. Documents filed in Chesterfield County Circuit Court indicate that the note securing the debt on the land was bought in June from the original lender, First Capital Bank, by a company called Hickory Estate LLC. Those documents were signed by Emerson as manager-member of Hickory Estate.

Carrie Coyner, a Chesterfield attorney who was named by Hickory Estate as one of two trustees for the property, said the auction, originally scheduled for Aug. 16, has been postponed for technical reasons but will be readvertised in the near future.

Coyner, who is listed in state corporate records as the registered agent for both Debonair Acres and Hickory Estate, and is Emerson’s daughter, said the property is in foreclosure because “they decided not to pay off the note.

“With cash proffers, they can’t make it work,” she said. The property is “in an area where they don’t expect to get relief from proffers.”

Coyner did not return a phone call seeking additional information last week. Emerson declined to comment on the foreclosure.

The property consists of 21 separate parcels varying in size from less than an acre to just over 160 acres that were bought by Debonair Acres in 2007-08. According to county real estate records, the total sale price amounted to about $6.3 million; the property is currently assessed at about $3.6 million.

Court records indicate that Debonair Acres originally borrowed $2.1 million to fund the purchases. Modifications to the original note increased the loan principal to about $2.9 million as of January 2009. A current total outstanding principal was not available.

In October 2007, the Board of Supervisors approved the company’s request to rezone the land for a residential development of up to 248 single-family homes. The plan was to build an upscale, equestrian-themed subdivision to take advantage of an existing horse track and rolling terrain that was well-suited for horse trails.

The zoning application included payment of cash proffers at the county’s maximum amount at the time, $15,600. The current maximum is $18,966 per home.

With the housing market downturn taking hold around the end of 2007, plans for the development were put on hold. In 2010, Emerson offered the property to the county’s department of parks and recreation at a discounted price for use as a regional park.

Coyner told the Observer at the time that the company was offering to sell the land to the county for $2 million, and would take advantage of the state’s conservation easement tax credit program to help offset the loss.

“It really just made more sense to take a financial hit now than betting on if the equestrian development would be successful,” she said then.

The proposal was discussed at community meetings and even reached the Planning Commission in November 2011, when the parks department withdrew its application to buy the property before a public hearing could be held.

Matoaca District Supervisor Steve Elswick and Planning Commissioner Edgar Wallin held another community meeting on the proposal in April 2012, but no further action has been taken. The plan “didn’t go anywhere,” Coyner said last week.

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