District 26 weighs splitting cost of study with Cary

CARY – Whether District 26 will help pay for a study on the future of the closed Maplewood School property is uncertain.

The village of Cary wants District 26 to help pay for a planning study on Maplewood School, which is expected to cost $38,000 and would be performed by Houseal Lavigne Associates if approved. The village wants the district to pay for half of the cost after the property is sold.

The study’s purpose is to provide recommendations regarding the redevelopment of the school. The property is 16 acres and includes the 42,000-square-foot vacant school, ball fields, parking and the district’s transportation department.

The study would include community outreach and engagement, including a community workshop, an analysis of existing conditions and a market analysis. The study would include a redevelopment plan and a public improvement plan for infrastructure needs.

Houseal would add U.S. Equities to provide real estate expertise. The village estimates the study would take three months.

“The addition of U.S. Equities to their team will help ensure a realistic plan is developed that offers the greatest return to both the village and District 26,” according to a staff memo to the Village Board.

School board President Jason Larry said the district would contribute if the district and potential developer are involved in the process, the study is done in 45 days, the property sells within six months of the study being completed for what the study revealed and that the property sells for at least $2.2 million, which is the minimum asking price set by the district.

Superintendent Brian Coleman helped interview consultants who applied to perform the study.
Larry said there is an interested buyer, but the developer would require a zoning change from the residential special use.

That would require going through the planning and zoning process, which includes public hearings. The developer would like to start that process, Larry said; however, if a study was approved, the developer would like to be involved.

Larry and Coleman would not disclose who the interested buyer is, nor say what the proposed development would be.

“We can argue [that] we have an attracted buyer, why do we need a study?” Larry said.

Coleman said the developer came to the district in the last couple of months.

Performing studies is meant to attract developers and tell them exactly what a municipality wants to see. It takes the risk off of the buyer in going through the zoning process, Larry said.

“What we don’t want to happen is pay for a study that involves the community that dreams big and puts something on paper ... that we can’t sell,” Larry said.

School board member Jennifer Crick questioned whether the school district should pay $19,000.

“From the community standpoint, we’ve funded a lot of studies,” Crick said. “I don’t know if that is the most fiscally responsible thing to do. Maybe we can negotiate the price down a bit.”

In other action

The school board approved adding a first-grade teacher at Deer Path School for the 2013-14 school year. Seventy-eight first-graders are expected to be at Deer Path next year, but only two sections are planned. To bring class sizes down from 39 students to 26 students, the district decided to add a teacher.

All three elementary schools in the district then would have average first-grade class sizes in the lower to mid-20s.

Superintendent Brian Coleman said there are more people coming back to the district because it is bringing back art and music.

The additional teacher was already included in the draft 2014 budget. The cost of the teacher is expected to be $46,000.

The district also plans to spend $94,890 on security upgrades. The security upgrades will require people to buzz in when entering buildings during the school day.

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