WEST JEFFERSON — The estate of Herbert Francis — consisting of some 154 acres on the east slope of Paddy Mountain — was sold to J. Randall Eller during a public sale at the Ashe County Courthouse April 11, according to a land transfer finalized June 18.

Eller’s $945,000 purchase of the 154.25 acres on Paddy Mountain — which is situated adjacent to and is partially within the town limits of West Jefferson — is more than double the land’s appraised market value of $435,000, according to County of Ashe documents. A number of residences along Ridge Avenue back up to the Paddy Mountain tract.

Randall Eller is listed as the owner and president of Independence Lumber, a company that operates forestry and harvesting operations spread over northern North Carolina and southwest Virginia, according to its website. Prior to establishing Independence Lumber, Eller owned and sold another mill operation in Jefferson, the website said.

Eller and Independence Lumber declined to comment after repeated attempts at contact from Ashe Post & Times. Further interview requests have gone unanswered.

Directly west of the plot purchased by Eller, two tracts consisting of some 350 total acres are protected by the state of North Carolina as Paddy Mountain Nature Preserve.

Blue Ridge Conservancy officials expressed interest in the Paddy Mountain tract prior to its purchase, but the conservancy was unable to place a bid higher than $900,000 due to laws limiting the nonprofit’s ability to pay above appraised value for land.

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