Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Montgomery Co. ponders old school's future
"It may be that in a couple of years, we need this space," an official said.
Several Montgomery County School Board members say they want to get out of the "economic development business" in matters related to the old Blacksburg Middle School, but the board does not seem ready to do that.
During its meeting Tuesday, the board discussed a resolution to relinquish control of the school and 20-acre property if the county board of supervisors meets certain conditions, but several members insisted that the resolution would not automatically authorize the building to be released.
"It may be that in a couple of years, we need this space," board member Mary Hayne North said.
The school board owns the property and must declare it as surplus before any sale or development can go forward.
Several developers have been courting Blacksburg Town Council members, county supervisors, and more recently, the school board chairwoman, to buy the property.
Branwick Associates of Virginia Beach has proposed a 620,000-square-foot shopping mall, and Eastern Shore developer John Lawson has pitched a luxury housing project. Officials at the YMCA at Virginia Tech have talked about buying the building and part of the property for their operations.
The school board has sought an educational or civic use for the building since it closed to students in 2002. In March 2003, several county supervisors began pressuring the school board to sell the building.
"We have been going around and around with this building since I've been on the board," member Penny Franklin said.
At a meeting Dec. 7, the school board began discussing the resolution because interim superintendent Jim Sellers said he had gotten the impression during a joint meeting between the school board and supervisors that the school board "had a desire to get out of the economic development work."
However, Tuesday's draft leaves the school board to be the "designated initial contact for potential parties interested in the purchase or lease of the property" until supervisors may agree to the resolution's conditions.
Sellers and the school board attorney are finessing the document's language and plan to bring a revised version back to the board at its next meeting, Jan. 18. Caveats may include that the old school's athletic facilities, which are still being used, be replaced and other space be sought for students during future school renovations or construction. They also might include that proceeds from the property's sale be used to reduce school debt or pay for school building projects.