‘Land Scam’ Critic’s Probe Raises More Questions

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A Delawarean claims a citizen-led investigation implicates the Carney administration for selling state land for pennies on the dollar to a political insider, but DelDOT also provided additional insight into the issue that’s also at the center of a PAC advertising campaign.

Monday, Sam Chick released a detailed account on www.delawarelandscam.com surrounding the transactions that date back to 2008. The land in question is 11 acres along Route 1 in Frederica.

Chick’s account states that the State of Delaware bought the property for $2.78 million and sold it in late 2018 for $275,000 to John Paradee. Two weeks later, according to Chick’s analysis, the 11-acre site and ten adjacent acres were listed for sale for $6.5 million.

John Paradee’s brother, State Senator Trey Paradee, last year introduced legislation that would have directed proceeds from a Kent County lodging tax toward the DE Turf sports complex project. John Paradee was on DE Turf’s board, and the complex is across Route 1 from the land in question.

Chick called John Paradee a major supporter and fundraiser of Governor John Carney and presidential candidate Joe Biden.

“I had a hunch someone was being enriched, so I began to dig, researching, initiating title searches into suspect properties, filing a FOIA request on December 10th, 2019 which still has not been completely fulfilled,” Chick said. In calling for a state investigation, Chick added “the abuse of the public trust for private gain is a serious problem in the State of Delaware. Corruption must be exposed and dealt with.”

In response to an inquiry, DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan (who was appointed to that position in January 2015) said the parcels were acquired through the Advanced Acquisition Committee in September 2007 for the Corridor Capacity Program and the South Frederica Interchange project in order to preclude future development. An independent appraisal determined that the land was worth $2.78-million.

“By law the department has to pay for the highest and best use of the properties it acquires,” Cohan stated. “Deldot was approached about selling these two parcels in the summer of 2018 for an economic development project by the adjoining property owner. DelDOT no longer had a need for these parcels as the South Frederica Interchange Project was complete.”

Also, because the parcels were landlocked without a viable public access point, the parcels were appraised significantly lower in 2018 at between $379,000 and $442,000, according to Cohan. “The interested party initially offered nothing for the property and begrudgingly $100,000. In October 2018, the sale price of $275,000 was agreed to by both parties.”

Cohan said DelDOT recognized that the land could be part of a project that could create jobs and put the property back on the Kent County property tax rolls. DelDOT had maintained that there would be no access to Route 1 from those parcels, and now the current owners are filing suit to get that access, according to Cohan.

Citizens for Transparency and Inclusion recently began an ad campaign that also mentions the land deal.

Secretary Cohan’s complete reply to WGMD’s Mike Bradley follows:

“The acquisition of these parcels was approved through the Advanced Acquisition Committee on September 4, 2007. As I am sure you an imagine we are very heavily regulated in this area on both a federal and state level. The reason for this acquisition was in connection with our Corridor Capacity Program and the South Frederica Interchange project. Basically, we denied a proposed development request as we did not want additional access points to Route 1 from this parcel and knowing that we would likely need some of this property for the future project, DelDOT purchased the parcels to prevent that development from happening. An independent appraisal determined the value for both parcels to be $2.78 million, and DelDOT finalized the purchase in October 2008. By law the department has to pay for the highest and best use of the properties it acquires.”

“DelDOT was approached about selling these two parcels in the summer of 2018 for an economic development project by the adjoining property owner. DelDOT no longer had need for these parcels as the South Frederica Interchange project was complete. The project went through DelDOT’s regulatory process for selling excess land. As these parcels were landlocked, meaning there was no viable public access point, the parcels appraised for a significantly lower amount in September 2018 for between $379,000 and $442,000. The interested party initially offered nothing for the property, and begrudgingly, $100,000. In October 2018, the sale price of $275,000 was agreed to by both parties. This allowed DelDOT to no longer be responsible for this property and also hopefully see it become part of an economic development project in Kent County that will create jobs and go back on the Kent County property tax rolls. The only “expediting” we can do on things like this is administratively, ( basically putting them at the front of the line for processing) and we routinely do that for economic development projects across the state.”

“DelDOT has maintained that there will be no access to Route 1 from these parcels, and the irony here is that the property owners, the same who bought it from DelDOT, have now filed a lawsuit against us over this very issue. If there is a story that should be it! Bought the property at a reduced rate because there will never be access allowed to Route 1 and now sue the department to get said access…”