PBP questions Arrowmont appraisal

Fraternity insists it wants Arrowmont to stay
Jan. 04, 2013 @ 11:58 PM

Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women questions the way Arrowmont School did its appraisal of the land, but insists it still wants the downtown Gatlinburg institution to remain on the property and has extended the lease another year to give the school more time to buy it.

Arrowmont and Pi Beta Phi are far apart on what each thinks the property is worth. Arrowmont got a certified appraisal in 2012 and offered to buy the 14-acre site from PBP for the appraisal amount. In November the fraternity countered with an offer much higher than the Arrowmont appraisal.

Pi Beta Phi Fraternity "wants to see Arrowmont own the land where their campus resides," a statement from fraternity president Mary Tatum and spokeswoman Eily Cummings said. "We continue to negotiate with Arrowmont to try and make it possible for them to purchase this property."

The fraternity extended the $1-a-year lease with Arrowmont through 2015 because PBP "clearly understands it would take Arrowmont time to secure the funds to purchase the land," the statement said, and for Arrowmont to put together a financing plan. PBP has leased the land to Arrowmont at the same price for over a half-century.

Arrowmont said last week it offered to buy the land from Pi Beta Phi last summer at its appraised value. The fraternity's counter offer was millions of dollars more than the school’s appraisal, board president Geoff Wolpert said last week. The school says the terms of the counter offer “were not feasible for a non-profit educational institution like Arrowmont.”

Pi Beta Phi says Arrowmont's appraisal "was based on residential property in the surrounding area and not commercial real estate as the campus is zoned."

After consulting with its legal counsel and receiving what it called "comparables" on its property, the fraternity made its offer in November that it says was "well below market value for the property. The fraternity was trying to honor Arrowmont’s request to come to an agreeable solution before the end of the year."

Wolpert said the fraternity indicated it had “an unsolicited offer” from another entity to buy the land, and PBP's counter to Arrowmont was based on that other offer. Wolpert said he doesn’t doubt the fraternity, but did say he feels Arrowmont deserves “consideration for the fact we want to continue the legacy of Arrowmont in Gatlinburg.”

Neither Wolpert nor PBP would reveal the amounts of their offers.

Arrowmont decided to go public with its negotiations because of interest from supporters, potential donors and those who take classes there, Executive Director Bill May said.

“2011 and 2012 have been outstanding years for the school in terms of programming, enrollment, and community involvement.  Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Artists-In-Residence program, with the return of 50 of these artists from across the nation, was a highlight for the school and its supporters,” May said.

In 2008 the fraternity announced it had an offer from a private entity to buy the Arrowmont property, forcing the school to look for a way to survive, even if it meant relocating. The fraternity deal to sell the land fell through, but Arrowmont fielded proposals from Knoxville, Greeneville and Gatlinburg.

Its board voted unanimously in August 2010 to stay in Gatlinburg, where it has operated since 1912. It also decided it needed to buy the property from the fraternity.

Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts is a nationally known arts center that offers workshops in ceramics, fiber, metals, glass, painting, mixed media, and woodworking. The 14-acre residential campus features five galleries, an art supply store, and artist resource center.