Correction: A quote from Dan King was misinterpreted in an earlier version of this story. King stated that two other pieces of property were involved in this exchange in addition to the reclamation of the land where the National Soil Dynamics Laboratory is located. The Plainsman sincerely regrets the error.
The Auburn University Board of Trustees has voted to approve several land exchanges between the University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service. The deal was made in a specially-called meeting Friday morning.
The University will acquire 6.29 acres of land at the southeast corner of the intersection of West Samford Avenue and South Donahue Drive where the USDA's National Soil Dynamics Laboratory is currently located. In exchange, the University will convey five acres of land in its Auburn Research Park; 42.6 acres of land of its Longleaf Field Laboratory; and its 53.5-acre South Auburn Fisheries Research Lab on Lee County Road 27.
The ARS already leased use of the South Auburn Fisheries Research Lab before the deal was made, according to the University.
Dan King, Auburn's associate vice president for facilities, said the deal means the University will be regaining the 6.29 acres the USDA owns for the laboratory, which it currently uses as a tillage farm. The property was initially leased by the USDA in 1934 before the University donated the land in 1961 to receive federal research funding, according to King.
"In return for this property, the University [will] exchange 5.0 acres of land in the Auburn Research Park so that the USDA ARS [can build] a new $43 million research facility using the federal funding provided through the sponsorship of Sen. Richard Shelby," King said of part of the deal. "Two other pieces of Auburn property are involved in this exchange."
King said the University believes the property the National Soil Dynamics Laboratory currently occupies is prime real estate for Auburn's ever-growing campus. The boundaries of the core campus have expanded beyond the laboratory site over the past 60 years, but the USDA wanted to rebuild the facility elsewhere on land it owns around campus before a deal could be made.
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"In more recent years as the campus grew, it became increasingly obvious that the tillage farm operation might be better suited to a different location on campus and that the University could make good use of the tillage farm site," he said. "What has made this exchange possible at this time was the recent appropriation by Sen. Shelby to provide funds to the ARS to build their new facility."
With the exchange of property between the University and the USDA, King said Auburn will have increased growth potential of its core campus on South Donahue Drive. Its main boundaries to the north and east are Magnolia Avenue and South College Street, making the deal appealing for future University development.
"The proximity of the tillage farm site to the core campus makes it a particularly valuable site, one supporting many different possible functions," King said. "Its highest and best use, though, is probably a site for future academic or research facilities."
The conveyance of land to the USDA in the Auburn Research Park also benefits the University as now a "major research-oriented federal anchor tenant" will occupy part of the park, King said.
Following a presentation on which properties were to be exchanged, the proposal was approved by the trustees with none opposed. Wayne Smith, president pro tempore of the Auburn Board of Trustees, expressed the University's favor of the deal after its approval.
"The property exchange ... accomplishes two priorities important for Auburn's future," Smith said. "First, it allows the University to reclaim more than six acres in a growing part of the campus. Second, it clears the way for a new state-of-the-art facility in the Auburn Research Park that will advance agricultural science, technology and practices across the Southeast to the benefit of the consumers and the rural economies."
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