Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board members have rejected a site proposed for a future school at Obey Creek but are open to other options, according to a letter sent to town leaders this week.
The town’s Land-Use Plan has designated the Obey Creek property for years as a future school site, however, the Town Council is negotiating a development agreement with East West Partners for a 1.6 million retail, office and residential project on 35 acres of the 120-acre tract.
Roughly 80 acres could be set aside as a conservation area meant for public and recreational use. Developer East West Partners offered to donate 15 acres of that conservation land for a new school. The council sent the school board a letter in November asking for a decision by March.
Building a school on the site would be difficult because of the sloping terrain. A bridge estimated to cost $1.2 million would also have to be built across Wilson Creek so buses and cars could get to and from the school.
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The best site, according to a school board report, would be closer to U.S. 15-501, where the actual Obey Creek mixed-use development is planned. The district is not in a position to buy or condemn that land for a school, officials said.
The school board approved a resolution March 10 rejecting the proposed school site and asking the council to forgo negotiating “for such a designation or consider such an offer as any positive contribution or benefit to the school district.”
Board members said they would be interested in talking with the town and East West Partners about a contribution of money or another parcel of land.
The district needs money to help pay for up to $170 million in renovations to 10 older schools suffering from deferred maintenance and age-related issues. Some renovations could be done in a way that allows more students to attend existing schools, officials have said.
Newer schools, such as Rashkis in East West Partners’ Meadowmont community and McDougle, are still about 20 years old and will need new roofs, heating, air and ventilation systems, handicapped access, and electrical and plumbing systems, said Todd LoFrese, assistant superintendent for support services.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners could ask voters to approve a bond referendum in 2016 to help pay for some of the $330 million in repairs and renovations identified by the city and county district schools.