Just when it appeared the $120 million school project would win final approval, a last-minute hitch Tuesday threatens to block the whole deal.
Dale Clift, the city attorney, said that before councilors could act on the purchase of two proposed school sites, they need to get a recommendation from the Planning Commission.
What makes the change particularly meaningful is that should the planners urge the council to reject one or both sites, the council would have to muster a two-thirds vote to move forward anyway.
Since support for buying the former Crowley dealership on Pine Street is solid, that’s unlikely to pose a problem.
But the 4-3 vote to secure the Scalia sand pit on Barlow Street for a second kindergarten to eighth grade school during Monday’s session would fall short of the two-thirds requirement..
The Planning Committee meets next on Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m., when it would likely take up the school project request.
Since “time is of the essence,” city Councilor Cliff Block said, he hopes it will move ahead quickly.
Mayor Art Ward said that a special council session can be held as soon as the planning panel makes its recommendations.
The city is eyeing a $2.1 million deal to buy the former Crowley dealership for one of the two 900-student schools.
The Scalia site would likely have to be taken through condemnation because its owner is seeking $2 million more than the $1.5 million appraisal price that the city is willing to cough up for the 36-acre property.
Michael Dudko, whose family’s Middle Street land was taken by eminent domain for an industrial park, told councilors they ought to “walk away” from the site.
He called it “heavy-handed government” that was attempting to steal the land from the Scalias for a lowball price.
The Board of Education is eager to push ahead with the plan to have the two schools under construction by June 2010.
It intends to close four older schools when the new ones open. Targeted for closure are Memorial Boulevard Middle School and three older primary schools – O’Connell, Bingham and Greene-Hills.
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