Land Sale Outcry

By: Mike Tolbert
By: Mike Tolbert

Twelve years ago the late Mattie Kelly of Destin left her 13 acre estate to Okaloosa-Walton Community College for the establishment of a cultural and environmental institute. Twelve years ago, the land was worth about $3.5 million. Since then, the value of the land has risen to $7.65 million. OWCC plans to sell the land but some members of the Kelley family say the sale violates the will.

OWCC says they notified the three representatives of the estate of Mattie Kelley of their plans beforehand.

Attorney Bart fleet met with the daughters of Mattie Kelly, Imogene and Carol.

“And I was told by both of them to go forward to seek buyers and developers of the property.”

Mr. Fleet says sisters Imogene and Carol Kelly made seven suggestions to be included in a potential bid. OWCC maintains of those suggestions, only a request for lots on the property for the sisters was not met.

But Mr. Fleet says soon after buyers for the property were identified Carol soon her changed her mind about the sale.

“An interesting twist in this episode. Monday Carol Kelly took out a full page ad in the Northwest Florida Daily News protesting the sale of the property asking ‘is it too late to save a travesty?’”

At this point Carol has little recourse. Her sister Imogene Kelley, and Paul Sims, the second husband of Mattie Kelly, have signed letters approving the sale.

Mr. Fleet believes Carol Kelly's emotional attachment to the property led to her change of heart. However, OWCC President James Richburg disagrees with her interpretation of the will of Mattie Kelly.

“I think people think that perhaps Mattie never intended this be sold, she did not write that in her will. She did not communicate in early 1990, 91 and 92 when she and I sat and worked on this.”

By phone Carol Kelly did say she never approved the sale in the first place. She’s not sure if she can stop the sale but she hopes to persuade the Destin City Council to designate the estate as a historical landmark, temporarily delaying the sale.

State money from the sale would boost the OWCC’s profit to around $13 million. They plan to use the money to fund scholarships and endow teaching positions among other things, all in keeping, they say, with the wishes of Mattie Kelly.


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