MOREHEAD CITY — More than a dozen acres of marsh-front land here donated for conservation nearly 20 years ago is on the market again after a judge ruled the property “free and clear” of a deed restriction.
The ruling in favor of the property’s owner, Beverly Pham, ends a legal dispute stretching back to early 2019 when Pham filed a civil case in Carteret County Superior Court arguing her land was exempt from a conservation deed restriction because it had been purchased in tax foreclosure.
A spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office, which was granted by a judge in the spring of 2019 to intervene in the case, said in an email that the decision was not appealed.
The property at 1300 Blair Farm Parkway was listed for sale in early December for $635,000, according to various realty websites.
That’s $60,000 more than the previous asking price of $575,000 when the property was initially put on the market more than three years ago. The property has an assessed tax value of $68,020.
The land was purchased in a foreclosure auction in early 2016 by Andy Nguyen, who’s last-minute upset bid of $44,742 bumped the high bid submitted 10 days earlier by Morehead City and Carteret County.
City and county officials wanted to conserve the property and use it for a park with water access to Calico Bay.
The state Division of Coastal Management determined the land had conservation value.
The property is adjacent to Blair Farms, a residential subdivision developed by the now-defunct Blair Pointe LLC in the Crab Point area of Morehead City.
In 2003, the limited liability company donated the 12.6 wooded acres to the nonprofit Coastal Hunting Land Group Inc. of Morehead City to satisfy wetland mitigation requirements related to the development of the subdivision.
When Coastal Hunting Land Group’s founder died in 2009 he had not completed the process to exempt the property from local taxes and unpaid property taxes began to mount.
Four years later, the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013 repealed a program that permitted tax credits Blair Pointe LLC had been receiving for donating the land.
By 2015 nearly $14,000 in unpaid taxes had accrued on the land and in December of that year the county advertised the property in a foreclosure auction.
After Nguyen’s Jan. 25, 2016, bid beat out the competition, he transferred interest in the property to Pham, his wife, who put the land up for sale in March 2017.
A few months after Pham filed a civil suit to get the conservation restriction dropped from the deed, the state was allowed to intervene in the case when a Carteret County Superior Court judge sided with the attorney general’s argument that the public’s interest in the property was not voided when the property was sold.
Last August, the parties in the case attempted through mediation to reach a settlement.
An agreement was not reached and the parties submitted motions for summary judgement in superior court.
Superior Court Judge Joshua Willey Jr. issued his ruling in favor of Pham Sept. 30, 2020.
The land was placed on the market Dec. 7.
Water and sewer service are available on the land, which “would make a wonderful estate or possible development,” according to realty websites.