Here we go again: hardballing the CWPT way

The Morris Island situation in South Carolina is following the Chancellorsville and Mullins Farm template. Bad things are happening.

The situation begins with a lowball appraisal. You can hire someone to give you a lowball appraisal, or you can err wildly on the side of cheapness by misclassifying the land in question. Near Chancellorsville, on land not zoned, electrified or connected to water or sewage, the preservationist's transparent game was to pretend that this was farmland - and to demand the right to buy it for farmland prices, even though the surrounding parcels were commercial and residential.

At Chancellorsville, the seller, John Mullins, was faced with Civil War Preservation Trust trying to scoop up his property for farmland prices in a public campaign denouncing his sellers' offers; he was also publicly portrayed as venal. Mullins' response was to break off dealings with CWPT. He would not sell to preservationists, which is how we arrived at the convoluted deal in which Mullins sold to Tricord, then Tricord tries to sell some pieces to CWPT.

In South Carolina, a developer named Harry Huffman has been trying to get Morris Island's zoning upgraded from two homes to 20. His permit requests are in and he has the right to imagine they may be approved. He owns the island and has been testing the market with a $12.5 million price. Now get this:

Blake Hallman of the Morris Island Coalition believes the island should be made available at the $4.1 million amount it was appraised for in 2001.
This is an absurd statement by any measure, but if it is a negotiating ploy, it is one that needs to be made in private to the seller, not via newspaper. Huffman is surprisingly gentle with this clumsy display. "He says he will charge a conservation buyer considerably less than $12.5 million." The Mullins reaction has not kicked in yet.

So you have your two bargaining positions outlined publicly: go into some office, close the door and get to work.

When Huffman garnered publicity for the sale with a failed eBay auction, the certified deal-breakers at CWPT felt obliged to weigh in:

"This is a stupid publicity gimmick," says Jim Campi, spokesman for the Civil War Preservation Trust, which placed Morris Island on its list of the 10 endangered battlegrounds in the country. "It is a ham-handed attempt to ignore negotiations with preservationists."
Ham-handed? You are publicly calling Huffman "stupid" in the name of preservation organizations and you want favorable consideration?

CWPT is leading the Morris Island Coalition, so I expect a repeat of their Chancellorsville fiasco. They are again publicizing a lowball price they are willing to pay while working to embarass the seller into accepting it. If the Morris island Coalition does not put CWPT into the background on this, expect little good.

Think win-win and leave the scorched earth to Sheridan.