The Guilford County commissioners have approved the sale of 2.5 acres at 201 N. Eugene St. to the City of Greensboro so the land can be used for a future parking deck to support commercial growth in downtown Greensboro.

At the Thursday, Sept. 20 Board of Commissioners meeting, the board voted unanimously to sell the property, which currently houses Sandhills Center operations – the county’s mental health services.

According to the agreement reached between the county and the city, Guilford County will continue to occupy the building for two years after the closing date, at which time the county will move mental health services to an as yet to be determined location. The city has entered into a complicated deal with developer Roy Carroll, who owns the Rhino Times. After land is traded and sold, Carroll will own most of the frontage property on sections of Eugene and Bellemeade streets in the area and the city will build a parking deck on land in the interior of the property.

At the Sept. 20 commissioners meeting, Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing provided details of the property sale.

“We think this can be a real estate transaction that can be a win-win for the city and the county,” Lawing said.

The manager said the land will be used for a parking deck that will support commercial development downtown.

The negotiations between Guilford County and Greensboro were obviously intense and drawn out: The county commissioners only got a copy of the agreement while sitting at the dais at the meeting Thursday night. For that reason, Lawing spoke in detail about the deal.

The agreement calls for a property examination period, which could extend to Jan. 31, 2019. The end of the examination period will be followed by a closing within 14 days.

According to Lawing, one “complicating factor” in the deal is that the county will lease the building back from the city for two years. The county will pay $1 a year to its new landlords.

Lawing said Guilford County has had numerous meetings with Sandhills officials regarding the agreement. While mental health services will remain there for the next two years, some of the north side of the building – currently used as an intake center and nursing station – will undergo demolition.

It’s clearly not ideal that there will be major construction going on so close to where mental health patients are treated, but hopefully the noise inside the building and the activity around it will not be too disruptive to mental health care.

The cost of renovations to make new accommodations for those who occupy the north end of the building will be paid by the City of Greensboro. The county will pay utilities over the next two years, as well as for maintenance and repairs during that time unless those repairs result from demolition activity.

The lease requires the city to provide 65 parking spaces to the county and that includes two spaces near a new entrance so that law enforcement and Emergency Services workers may drop off patients.

There has been a lot of discussion among the commissioners on the deal in closed sessions before the Sept. 20 meeting. However, there wasn’t much public discussion on the matter when the board approved the deal.

Commissioner Carolyn Coleman said she was dismayed that the commissioners were only seeing the agreement at the last minute and they had had no time to read it before voting on it.

Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne said he agreed that wasn’t ideal.

“We understand it is a thick document and we have been working on it quite literally until this morning,” Payne said, “and so that’s why we walked you through it phrase by phrase.”

Commissioner Skip Alston also expressed concerns about getting it “at the last minute.”

“It’s a lot to absorb” Alston said.

Commissioner Hank Henning made the motion to enter into the agreement “in substantial form” – since it still may need some tweaking from staff. The motion passed unanimously.