Obiter Dicta

Soggy Bottom Saga

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Illustration by Jamie Jackson

Officials in Wake County, N.C., put several tax-delinquent acres up for auction in September 2006 and made no secret of the fact that the parcels were at the bottom of Lake Lynn, a man-made lake created to enhance flood control. They didn’t expect any takers, but they got one.

Kristin Wal­lace of Cary, principal and sole member of the Sugar­tree Invest­ment Group, decided to buy the acreage for $12,500. Be­cause of its proximity to residential structures, as well as a greenway used by dog walkers, cyclists and joggers, it appeared to be prime real estate for development— if she could force the city of Raleigh and the county to drain it.

When that didn’t seem likely, Wallace tried selling the property back to the city and county. Then she filed a lawsuit demand­ing that the property either be repurchased or drained. Her attorney, H. Cliff Kirkhart of Cary, says the easement that al­lowed the county to flood it was re­scinded by the tax lien sale.

Not so, says Shelley Eason with the Wake County Attorney’s Office, citing documents that say the easement remains in perpetuity. “That property was sold ‘as is,’ ” she says.

Eason says a colleague summed up Wallace’s and Kirkhart’s chances of selling the property or having it drained with this remark: “They’ve acquired one of the most expensive fishing licenses in Wake County.” Kirkhart insists his client will prevail. “She’s got good, solid ground to stand on,” he says, “even though it’s under the lake.”

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