Appraisal shows Baton Rouge sold surplus property for $200,000 less than it was worth

    The developer who got a steep discount on a piece of city-owned land at auction earlier this year also picked up another piece of property from the city at an auction several years ago for less than half its value, according to a city-parish appraisal.

    Developer Radu Cosman paid for an appraisal on the 22,000-square-foot piece of land fronting Bluebonnet Boulevard in the Inniswold Estates neighborhood in 2013. That appraisal, completed by RHI Appraisals, found the property was only worth $42,000.

    But the city commissioned its own appraisal on the land—which the city-parish owned—and found it was worth $255,000.

    Cosman earlier that year had asked his representative on the Metro Council, Ryan Heck, to declare the land surplus and have the city sell it to him. The land is located behind Cosman’s house. The council then approved the land to be sold at auction, where Cosman outbid one other person and bought the property for $50,000.

    The Metro Council unanimously approved the sale of the property in December 2013, and the deal closed the following month. The city-parish appraisal, which assumed a single office building could be developed on the property, suggests Cosman got a more than $200,000 discount on the land.

    Cosman’s purchase of a corner tract of land at Jefferson Highway and Bluebonnet Boulevard earlier this year raised eyebrows for the price: $10,000 for a 50,000-square-foot piece of land at a busy intersection. Daily Report first reported on both of Cosman’s land deals with the city-parish Monday, and the city-parish has since said it will change how it conducts surplus land sales.

    The Louisiana Legislative Auditor earlier this week also began investigating how Baton Rouge handles land sales, arguing the city cannot sell property for less than market value. The city-parish disagreed, but said moving forward it will get appraisals done and erect signage for every piece of property it plans to sell as surplus.

    —Sam Karlin

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