The company that owns a huge tract of land in Onslow and Jones Counties says there are no plans to develop the property.
A document obtained by WITN appeared to contradict the claim by Hofmann Forest, LLC that they did not plan to develop the property. However, the company says that document was to show the property's potential while it was up for sale. The company released this statement to WITN:
“The document in question was specifically put together for Hofmann Forest, LLC. It is a document that was originated for internal purposes in early 2013 for use by Jerry Walker, as a Managing Member, and other members of the LLC in the process of their initial consideration of purchasing the property. The purpose of this document was to show Mr. Walker and other members the many different and synergistic aspects that Hofmann Forest possesses and its potential for various types of uses that have been identified over the years. As an example, the development plans in the document are renderings that were done many years ago by North Carolina State University as a general study and were not prepared by or for Hofmann Forest, LLC. Since this document was created, the LLC, under the guidance of Jerry Walker, has recognized the value of the Hofmann as a forest and has no plans to develop the property into a large commercial and residential community.“
The proposal, which was obtained by WITN News, was aimed at potential investors. It includes plans to clear most of the nearly 80,000-acre Hofmann Forest near Jacksonville for a golf course community, commercial development and farmland. The document touts the fertility of the "virgin soil" for agriculture once the trees are gone.
University officials have said they approved the $150 million offer from Illinois agri-businessman Jerry Walker specifically because of assurances his company would preserve the forest, which is home to wildlife including rattlesnakes and black bears. A lawsuit filed by foresters and conservationists seeks to block the sale.
In a statement, Onslow County Commissioners said they have concerns about the military losing an "irreplaceable asset to the mission readiness" of the Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force.
"The loss of Hofmann Forest for these vital national training capabilities would have a drastic negative impact on readiness," according to the statement.