I’ve recently been reviewing some of my old links covering the evolution of UNC’s Carolina North development.

Here’s some interesting comments made at the December 8, 1995 UNC Faculty Council Meeting by then Chancellor Hooker:

Now I want to mention a constraining factor with respect to Horace Williams because everybody is aware vaguely of it but not many people that I’ve talked to are fully aware of the nature of the Horace Williams tract. The tract that I’m talking about, of course, is the 1000 plus acres out near to the west and north of the Horace Williams Airport. And that land was given to us by former Philosophy Professor Horace Williams. It was bequeathed, I think, about 1942 or 43. And it was Horace’s intention that the land should be used in such a way as to throw off cash which would then be used by the Philosophy Department for fellowships. It wasn’t clear whether he was talking about just graduate fellowships or graduate fellowships and faculty fellowships. And if you read various remarks he is purported to have made at various times, you can interpret it either way. But it is clear that he intended that the Philosophy Department benefit, and benefit fairly soon, from the use of those lands.

Well, there were, in addition to the Horace Williams tract, the 1000 plus acres, there were a number of houses in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham that Mr. Williams, Professor Williams, had amassed, and those were sold. And the proceeds from sales were put into a small endowment for the Philosophy Department that does provide graduate student fellowships, but the price of land being what it was in those days, the price of housing being what it was, the sale price was in no case significant, and back in those days the University invested all of its endowment in government bonds and so the annual yield and growth was miniscule relative to what it might have been had the University been investing in equities at the time. So the Philosophy Department did not benefit significantly.

Now, at this point I have to say that I’m in an obvious conflict of interest situation, because I am a member of the Philosophy Department. I expect that one day, hopefully later rather than sooner, I will be a full-time faculty member teaching in the Philosophy Department and doing my research there. And so I have a particular personal interest in seeing that the Philosophy Department grows in quantity and quality, and so I’m in an awkward position as I negotiate on behalf of the University with the Philosophy Department regarding the Philosophy Department’s interests.

But I think even unbiased people would say that we have not really fulfilled our moral obligation to the Philosophy Department yet. It is still to be discharged, and there is a question, “How should it be discharged?”

It’s arguable, and if I had my Philosophy Department member’s hat on, I would argue that the University should develop the land in the highest and best use possible to return maximum cash to the Philosophy Department. But, of course, there’s no way in the world that we can do that. It would be irresponsible as neighbors in Chapel Hill to contribute to the significant infrastructure burden in the town by adding the usage there that would strain the already strained resources. So we can’t do that as responsible neighbors. And then the question is, “Well, what do we do?”

Ideally, from the perspective of just the University, if Horace had given the land to the University for its benefit and had not specified that it be specifically for the benefit of the Philosophy Department, then clearly we would want to hold the land until we really needed it for our own purposes, for houses for faculty and graduate students and staff, or for academic buildings, or research buildings, or administrative buildings, or whatever. But we can’t do that and fulfill our obligation to the Philosophy Department. And so, the next best thing would be, then, to arrive at some reasonable assessment of the value of the land and, in a sense, buy out the Philosophy Department’s interests in the land. I mean, the Philosophy Department obviously doesn’t own the land because it can’t. It’s part of the University. It’s the University that owns the land, but the Philosophy Department has an interest, and so we should make some effort to buy it out. And that is, in fact, what we’re doing now.

We’re trying to arrive at some reasonable assessment of the value of the land. But clearly it can’t be market value because we can’t sell it to the highest bidder. I mean we can’t sell it to Disney to put a theme park there.

So how do we determine what a fair market or fair value of the land is, given the constraints that we would face in developing it? That’s the conundrum with which we are wrestling right now. And I wanted you to be fully aware of where we are. We are making an honest good faith effort to buy out the Philosophy Department’s moral interest, let us say, in that land since it’s not a legal interest. And I think we will reach a amicable resolution.

Part of the difficulty, of course, is that we don’t have a source of funds to tap to buy out the Philosophy Department’s interest. I mean, what you would want to do is to develop part of the land and use those proceeds to buy out the Philosophy Department. And the Philosophy Department could argue that whatever you realize from developing the land is 100% theirs and the remaining undeveloped land is also theirs. So it’s a challenge.

Professor Brown: Are they being reasonable? [laughter]
Chancellor Hooker: They are being more reasonable than I would be if I were representing just the Philosophy Department. But don’t tell them I said that. [laughter]

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