Maplewood development in Cary on hold while village mulls buying property

CARY – Development of the long-vacant Maplewood property is in a holding pattern as Cary School District 26 officials wait to hear from the village about how to proceed.

Village Administrator Chris Clark said there has been discussion about the possibility of the village buying the property from the school district for about four months. He added that no offer has been made.

“It’s only one of the possibilities,” Clark said. “Certainly, there’s some desire to understand and control the development of the site for the future of that neighborhood and Cary. One of the options is public acquisition.”

There has been little formal discussion about Maplewood since the last joint committee meeting in November – the committee is made up of two Village Board members and two school board members. However, school officials have said communication has continued between the two administrations, and there has been some contact with developers interested in the site.

“We’re giving the village the first opportunity to get involved and to decide what their level of involvement is,” school board President Scott Coffey said.

The school district carried out an appraisal process toward the end of last year, but Coffey said the school board has yet to determine a sale price. Meanwhile, he and Superintendent Brian Coleman said the village expressed interest in conducting its own evaluation of the property.

“The village has been busy,” Coleman said. “But we’re waiting to see what we can do together.”

Maplewood is far from the only item on the village’s docket.

Cary’s zoning and village boards have heard several residential development proposals over the past year, most recently a divisive proposal for a senior housing complex on a piece of property zoned for commercial use that was heard by the zoning board twice with differing results. The board also held multiple hearings on the controversial Pedcor affordable housing complex and a housing development on Haber Road.

Trustee Ellen McAlpine, who was part of the Joint Maplewood Committee, said she viewed the Maplewood property as a top priority. She said she expects activity regarding the property to start picking up soon.

“I know there have been a couple of developers showing a little bit of interest,” McAlpine said. “Nothing has come directly to the board at this point, but we’re kind of keeping all options open to see what is going to be the best utilization of that property. We want to make sure it’s a viable property that’s self-sustaining.”

The former school building has sat vacant now for more than five years. As the property owner, the school district is responsible for selling the land while land use and zoning matters have to be handled through the village. This dynamic has been a concern in past discussions about how to address Maplewood.

It costs District 26 about $70,000 a year to operate the vacant building, Director of Finance and Operations Jeff Schubert said, adding utilities run through the building also power the transportation center on the property.

“It’s a fraction of what an operational school costs, but it’s still $70,000,” he said. “And I’m getting no return on it.”

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