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Future of old Southside Elementary property discussed

A mixture of concern and interest was expressed over the potential fate of the old Southside Elementary building at a Park County School District No. 1 input hearing Tuesday night.

The hearing was held so the district could explain its plan to the public, and the public could give comment before the disposal of school district property.

John Williams of Powell was the only person in attendance to openly express a desire to purchase the property as is.

Many other residents who live near the old school asked what the property could become if it were to change hands.

Heath Streeter said he doesn’t want to see any drastic changes in his community.

“That’s across the street from my home. I have children (that) go across and enjoy that playground,” Streeter told the board.

Debbie Logan said she, too, worried of the neighborhood in which she’s lived for 28 years.

“All of our boys went there, and I would like to continue seeing the neighborhood…stay as a nice neighborhood,” she said.

John Sides spoke to the board and said he worried about the potential, but unknown, changes to his neighborhood.

After hearing the unrest of others, Williams expanded on his plans.

“If I get it, it’ll basically stay the same,” he said. “The land that’s still vacant will be a public park. It will be used by whoever wants to use it. The rest of the building will be exactly the same.”

Williams said he did not yet want to disclose the entirety of his plan but did ensure the public that if he were to purchase the property it would be of no disruption to the surrounding neighborhood.

“It will be a pleasant transition, nobody will even hardly notice anything’s changed,” he said.

Vacant since January, 2011, the old Southside building and the land it sits on is up for sale by the school district. The building at 532 E. Madison St., is 29,130 square feet and sits on 3.07 acres of land, according to coordinator of support services Todd Wilder.

The district has three options to dispose of the property.

The district would prefer to sell the property as is, through sealed bids, but could also sell the building via auction or through a realtor, said Park County School District No. 1 Superintendent Kevin Mitchell.

“It’s certainly a building that could be functional for a lot of different things, so we would like to see it be utilized (as is),” said school board chairman Rob McCray.

Selling the property in its current state would also be the most financially viable option for the district.

“The best interest of students of Park 1 is to get the funding that should come from a facility like that,” McCray said.

McCray said any prospective buyers would be afforded the opportunity to visit the property and tour the building.

If the district can’t sell as is for a reasonable price, it will move to demolish the building and then sell the land.

Demolition is not as desirable to the district because the sale of the land would not bring in as much money as sale of the land and building.

McCray said demolition is a longer and less fruitful process. In order to demolish the building the district would have to get funding from the Wyoming School Facilities Department. The demolition would then go to bid, and once the building came down the district would go back to accepting sealed bids for the land.

Former Powell High School teacher John Wasden addressed the board and asked what would happen to the land should the building be demolished.

The land is currently zoned for residential development of single- or multi-family dwellings. Mobile homes are not allowed on residential-general lots, and the lot cannot be used for commercial purposes, except for home-businesses.

“It would not support a business or commercial use unless that use was accessory to a residence,” said City of Powell building official William Petersen.

Besides homes, residential general lots can be developed with schools, churches, universities, dorms, hospitals, nursing homes, and medical, dental and optometry buildings, according to City of Powell Public Services Manager Gary Butts.

In order to change the lot’s zoning, a developer would have to submit a plan to the city’s planning and zoning commission. If approved, the planning and zoning department would recommend a zoning change which would have to be approved by the City Council.

Butts said the process takes two to three months, but a potential buyer of the property would be wise to get the zoning change pre-approved if he or she has plans to develop the land for non-residential purposes.

“Personally, we’ve torn down enough buildings around Powell,” Williams said, to which McCray agreed.

The last option would be to gift the property to a political subdivision of the state that is run with public funds and by an elected board.

The money earned from selling the property (as is, or after demolition) would come back to the district.

An appraisal of the property has been done but the board has not yet seen or discussed it. The board plans to discuss the appraisal by the end of December.

Mitchell, in an interview with the Tribune last week, said the board will use the appraisal as the lowest acceptable bid.

McCray said he hopes to begin the official process of advertising and attempting to sell the property in January.

The district is selling the building because it no longer has any use for it. The building is too small to house a school, and the land isn’t big enough to allow for the building to be expanded.

Surplus furniture has been stored in the building, but it has otherwise been vacant. The building was brought up to code in 2007 while Southside students continued to use the building and as it was being prepared to house students as a temporary school during the construction of the new Westside building.

Wilder said the building has information technology infrastructure, a new bell system, lighting upgrades and a new kitchen equipped with stoves and a dishwasher.

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1 comment

  • posted by Bob Brewer

    November 17, 2012 4:19 pm

    typical government waste, fix it up in 2007 with taxpayer money, tear it down in 2012, with our money again.

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