In an unexpected move, the city's Planning Commission unanimously rejected a proposal this week for the city to buy one of two Matthews Street houses adjoining the parcel where it plans to put a new 900-student school.
School officials are seeking to buy the house at 735 Matthews St. and knock it down as part of the proposed $130 million plan to construct two new kindergarten to eighth grade schools by 2015.
Since the school on Matthews Street wouldn't necessarily use the slightly less than an acre lot in its design -- leaving most or all of it as meadow or perhaps someday ball fields -- the planners said it made more sense to leave it in private hands.
On the other hand, the board agreed 3-2 to support the purchase of the Starlite Market beside Greene-Hills School for inclusion in the Forestville school project.
They said the $350,000 price tag was worth it to beautify the new school site and provide more room for buses and cars.
The planning rejection of the idea of buying the house on Matthews Street -- buying about 27 acres beside it already has its approval as well as the City Council's -- doesn't necessarily derail the idea. Councilors can overrule it as long as they can muster five votes for the purchase.
But planners said they didn't see the rationale for spending city tax dollars to create a meadow where a house now stands, particularly in such tough economic times.
City Planner Alan Weiner said Friday that because the lot wouldn’t qualify for state reimbursement of almost 74 percent of the cost, the city would wind up paying for the house and its demolition in order to create a little extra buffer for the school.
He said planners believed that buying the house simply wasn’t worth it.
Officials had also eyed the purchase of another house, at 747 Matthews St., but have agreed to let it remain in private hands. Planners didn’t weigh in on that one.
It's likely the issue will be taken up by councilors at their next regular meeting, on Tuesday, March 10.
The Board of Education plans to build two new schools and to close four aging ones: Memorial Boulevard Middle School and three primary schools – O’Connell, Bingham and Greene-Hills.
The other proposed site is next door to Greene-Hills School on Pine Street.
The Starlite Market purchase would be reimbursed by the state as part of the project there.
Note: This updates an earlier blog post, since removed, that erred about the property rejected by planners. I'm sorry for the previous mistake.
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