In a heated meeting Thursday, Loudon City Council approved with a 4-1 vote the sale of land in the Centre 75 Business Park.

The lone opposition came from Councilman Johnny James, who also holds an agricultural lease on the property for the growing of crops.

The buyer — described as automotive distributor while Loudon County Economic Development Agency is under a non-disclosure agreement — will purchase lot 9, which is 26.182 acres, for $580,000, with a first right of refusal on 13 acres of lot 6 by early of 2020 for an additional $266,500.

“What we’ve agreed to do as part of negotiating the sale is to update a Phase I (environmental study),” Jack Qualls, EDA executive director, said. “Basically, that’s a document that says there is no historical findings on the environmental document out there on the property. The other thing we’ve agreed to do as part of this sale is to do a boundary survey. Usually the seller is the one who does that, so we’ve agreed to do that. We’ve also agreed to construction 100 feet of roadway … that will come off the main (road).”

Building the roadway is contingent on the buyer constructing a new box culvert to accommodate the road.

There will be a 90-day due diligence period for the buyer from the day the contract is signed, which Qualls estimated would happen Tuesday.

James was combative during the meeting, lashing out at Qualls multiple times.

James first questioned whether lot 9 was the one previously considered by Bill Hamilton, who operates Hamilton Equipment Company in Lenoir City.

Upon learning the the proposed buyer would employ 13 people in the first phase of moving onto the property, with a second facility employing about 50, James became upset.

“Bill Hamilton was going to employ 30 people when he started, and I heard you tell him we didn’t need to sell that property to an operation like that,” James said.

“I’m not going to get into this because I wasn’t at that meeting you were at,” Qualls responded. “I said this before.”

“You were there,” James replied. “I looked straight at you like I’m looking at you right now. You’re talking out of both sides of your mouth at the same time. ... I’m just puzzled as to why you would turn down the sale ... to one man and sell the property to another person who is not going to employ as many people.”

Qualls said he never turned down Hamilton but informed him of the price of the property — $25,000 per acre — and Hamilton became upset and left.

James snapped at Qualls again when discussing the agricultural lease on the property.

Qualls said James would be notified of the sale of the property after contracts were signed since a 30-day notification is required for termination of the lease.

Jeff Harris, city mayor, asked James whether crops were already planted on the property. James deflected to Qualls.

When Qualls answered that James informed him crops were planted but that he cannot speak with certainty, James yelled at Qualls.

“Why would I tell you I did if I don’t have?” James said. “Don’t play stupid, because you’re stupid enough without playing stupid.”

Some discussion, started by James, also took place regarding billboards on the property. He claimed no money had been collected on the billboards.

Qualls said because the county is the fiscal agent for the property, collection is handled by the county purchasing office and that he could not answer specifics regarding billing.

James left the meeting as Harris was closing proceedings.

County OKs sale

Loudon County Commission on Monday unanimously approved by a 9-0 vote the sale of the land with Commissioners Van Shaver and Julia Hurley motioning and seconding, respectively. Commissioner Adam Waller was absent.

Commissioner Matthew Tinker hopes the sale could be a sign of good things to come.

“We do have interest from time to time,” Tinker said. “This seems like the best opportunity we’ve had in a while and I hope that it goes through because once you get a place started and some development going in, hopefully more will follow and it will continue to build on top of that.”