T/E school board directors voted unanimously to acquire the 13 acres Doyle-McDonnell nursery site through eminent domain at the special meeting last night. Ray Clarke attended the meeting and provided the following notes:
At a well-attended Board meeting last night, the Board authorized the acquisition of the property, including through the exercise of eminent domain. All present supported the acquisition, but there was much discussion of value. It was noted that a fair price would be set through an independent appraisal.
TESD’s appraisal is the $2.125 million noted in the resolution. The TESD solicitor reported that the owner had submitted an appraisal of $2.922 million, and suggested that the difference could be related to consideration of the expense of improvements necessary to prepare the site for development. The owners suggested that a value of $5 million would in fact be appropriate, based it appeared on a concept plan from Toll Brothers for the 85 townhouses. All seemed to agree that such a development was not permitted by right, and variances were unlikely to be granted and that any feasible development would consist of about 15 houses.
It is good to know that the community will not have to fight the deep pockets of Toll Brothers with regard to the possible development of 85 townhouses. I am also glad to hear that the school board, administration and community support the Doyle &McDonnell nursery owners receive fair market price for the property. The $2.125 million value from the District seems low to me for 13 acres – especially given that the owners submitted an appraisal of nearly $3 million. Apparently there is no document that supports the $5 million Toll Brothers offer otherwise the discussion would have included it.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with the District’s eminent domain purchase of the nursery property (assuming fair market price) my concern is related to the planned $40 million Conestoga High School expansion and parking lot project. I simply do not understand why this additional 13 acre purchase would not warrant a revisit of the overall expansion plans and parking lot. I recognize that the District has moved forward with the high school and parking lot plans but at the time those plans were designed the Doyle-McDonnell property was not a factor.
Wouldn’t it be better to thoroughly review the current high school expansion plans now, especially in light of the stormwater issues and property impact from the proposed parking lot? Maybe the addition of the nursery property presents new opportunities for the District’s development plans that were not previously available to the architects. If the nursery property is not incorporated into the development of the high school expansion plan, what exactly is the District’s plan for the 13 acres? Playing fields?
I recognize that the school board and administration want to move forward with the expansion plans – and who knows, maybe I am in the minority and most of the community shares that same sentiment that the acquisition of the additional 13 acres has no impact on those plans.
From my vantage point, $40 million of taxpayer money warrants a thorough review of the proposed high school expansion and parking lot plan, in light of the District acquiring 13 adjacent acres. Perhaps I am in the minority with my concern.