State Agency Sells Land
23rd September 2011
A state agency sold nearly 16 acres of land to developers of a 480-acre, mixed-use neighborhood off Northwest Expressway and moved closer Thursday to accepting a $1.35 million settlement with a Tulsa oil company in the underpayment of royalties from several years ago.
Commissioners of the Land Office agreed to accept the settlement offer made by Kaiser-Francis Oil Co. to settle the royalty payment dispute after discussing the matter in closed session.
Gov. Mary Fallin, who serves as the commission's chairman, suspended the action until the attorney general's office reviews whether the matter appeared correctly on the agenda.
“If the AG opinion says that the agenda complied, then they can go ahead as directed,” said Aaron Cooper, Fallin's press secretary. “But if it's not OK according to the AG, we'll address that issue at the next meeting.”
“We just think that that's the most cautius thing to do to make sure we're completely complying with the Open Meeting Act,” said Judy Copeland, Fallin's general counsel.
She said she expects to hear from the attorney general in a few days.
James Dupre, a former employee of the state agency who dealt with the collection of royalties, questioned whether the proposed executive session complied with the state's Open Meeting Act. Dupre, who worked until he left the agency in 2009, said the identity of the company involved in the litigation should have been listed on the agenda.
Dupre said he opposed the settlement and that he would write the governor giving his views.
Harry Birdwell, secretary of the Commissioners of the Land Office, said the settlement is to resolve a 2002 lawsuit involving land in Beaver County. The agency contended Kaiser-Francis underpaid royalties to the agencies from a lease the oil company acquired.
The negotiated settlement covers the underpayment plus interest penalties for several years, Birdwell said. The agency also will collect attorney fees.
“We believe that it is a settlement that is fair and will permit us to put the underpayment in the permanent trust and distribute the interest gained to the public school and university beneficiaries in short order,” he said.
Money from oil and gas exploration and land leases on the agency's controlled property and dividends from investments made by the trust fund are distributed monthly to state schools. The agency is assigned the task of managing, leasing and selling properties set aside decades ago to be managed for the maximum financial benefit of Oklahoma's common and higher education schools.
Acreage brings $315,000
During the open part of the meeting, commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the sale of a 15.7-acre tract of land for $315,000 to developers of Village Verde, a 480-acre, mixed-use neighborhood off Northwest Expressway just west of Kilpatrick Turnpike.
Village Verde will include a commercial town center intended to provide a small-town feel. It's also designed to meet and achieve national green certification through the National Association of Home Builders' Land Development Program.
It will have townhomes, single-family house and senior housing. In addition to the residential and commercial offerings, more than 100 acres, or 20 percent of the project, will be planned open space, parks and trails to encourage an active lifestyle.
This was the first parcel of land sold by the Commissioners of Land Office to the development, Birdwell said.
“Portions of it will be sold as that mixed-use development comes out of the ground,” he said. “This is the starting point.”
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