The Pullen House will be sold
By Valerie Cury
At the Jan. 12 Purcellville Town Council meeting, the council voted 7-0 to start the process of selling the Pullen House – by sealed bid at a base bid of $330,000. The Pullen house is located at 301 S. 20th Street, across from the Bush Tabernacle.
The Town, under the Lazaro administration, purchased the .51-acre property in 2010. The property has been vacant since then, and has been identified as one of the Town’s underutilized assets.
The Council was faced with three choices: demolish the home for $70,000, reserving the property for a future Town use; sell the property by sealed bid; or sell the property using a real estate firm. Before a sale can take place, the Town would have to hold a public hearing.
Town Council Member Chris Bertaut, who is the Council liaison on the Purcellville Economic Development Advisory Committee, said that when he first started looking at the Pullen house; “I thought there were a lot of very good worthy uses for the house; it could be rebuilt. I have changed my opinion since then. I have come to understand it’s a structure with seven-foot interiors, asbestos insulation in places, and other very, very serious issues.
“Many of the things that have been proposed as recreational amenities …” he continued, “are also worthy. I like the idea of a tot lot … a water park … and a picnic space.
“But, I would argue there is no reason to put any of them on the existing property. We would find the highest and best use of this property by selling it, preferably by sealed bid, and taking the revenue that comes from that, and apportioning at least some if to one or more of these amenities.
“There is space for things like that behind the Bush Tabernacle and various other spaces in between and around the ball fields.” Bertaut noted that if the Town keeps the property, a small space, the Town would be left with finding revenue for the desired amenities. “I counsel everyone [here] to sell the property.”
Council Member Stan Milan reasoned that if the Town kept the property, the cost alone to tear the house down would be prohibitive, and “there is no estimate for a cost to put anything on it … My suggestion is to sell it, and use part of the money” for a tot lot and/or a water park elsewhere. He said that the Town still needs to look at the community garden space, which is 5.86 acres, and a much larger area which could be used for multiple things. “We don’t need to incur any more debt.”
Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser said, “A wise man once told me never to fall in love with a stock and never fall in love with real estate.
“We have a property that has doubled [in value] … That wise man told me that real estate never goes up to the sky. We can’t predict tomorrow.” The Town bought the property for $175,000. Fraser added, “Given the financial situations we are faced with, I think it is time for us to sell the asset and put it on our [property] tax roll. Whoever occupies it, whether it be a $500,000-dollar building … it is $500,000 of assessed value coming back to our tax roll … in addition, that occupant will be using our water and sewer. So, that is money coming back to the Town.”
Fraser, supporting park assets and Town finances at the same time, suggested the Pullen House could meet dual goals. “We do have a lot of park assets … that are underutilized.” He noted that the citizens have access to park assets owned by the County, and, that the courts at Emerick Elementary are often empty. Here, he looked back at his own childhood, and how heavenly open spaces were for kids. “When I was a boy … that would have been heaven to me …” But, he noted that making maximum use of what the Town and County had already invested in is a better financial strategy. “My guidance would be to sell it.”
Vice Mayor Mary Jane Williams initially wanted to keep the property, and use it for a tot lot or a place for kids to study outside. She supported the sale on the condition that part of the proceeds would go to youth activities behind the Bush Tabernacle, as suggested by Bertaut.