ASHEVILLE, NC-Citing a public need to preserve the land, Gov. Jim Hunt and top state officials voted unanimously to seize 2,200 acres in DuPont State Forest and pay the owner $12 million. The site is 140 miles east of Charlotte and just south of Asheville, NC.

Landowner Jim Anthony, however, says the $12 million is low because his total investment in the tract to date is $12.3 million. He says he never received a formal purchase offer from the state or even a deal to settle the six-month-old dispute.

North Carolina is seizing his land under eminent domain law. The dispute could wind up in court, real estate lawyers familiar with similar transactions tell

Anthony paid Sterling Corp. $6.3 million for the land, outbidding several others. The state’s bid of $5.5 million was the third highest. Anthony says preliminary improvements worth another $6 million have been made to roads and bridges on the property.

Even if he had received a realistic offer, Anthony argues he couldn’t sell the dirt because of existing contracts he has with other developers to use his planned vacation home community.

Anthony is advertising the venture as a residential/retail retreat comprising a private lake, horse-riding facilities, a wellness/fitness center, spa and restaurant.

The state maintains it had to move quickly and condemn the land after environmental and homeowner groups claimed Anthony’s enterprise would contaminate the spectacular Bridal Veil Falls, High Falls and Triple Falls at the development site.

Anthony says, however, he had offered to place the waterfalls in a trust and build observation decks and hiking trails for the public to use while visiting the property.

The 2,200 acres will be added to the DuPont State Forest, increasing its size to more than 10,000 acres. The North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund is providing $12 million to fund the condemnation.