School system looking at selling land for mitigation

Tue, 09/11/2007 - 3:44pm
By: John Thompson

The Fayette County Board of Education learned Monday night that surplus land located next to Whitewater High School could be a boon for a developer or government looking for mitigation property.

In February, Superintendent John DeCotis explained that a developer was interested in purchasing the property and wanted to get feedback from the board about the 33.5-acre site.

One of the options would be to sell the property, but stipulate in the sales contract certain conditions, such as allowing science classes to use the wetlands area as an outside classroom. If the property were sold, the school system would have to build new detention ponds, since the current ones are on the surplus property, he explained.

Another more creative option would be to place the land in a wetlands “bank,” retain ownership of the property and sell the wetlands credits to a consulting company.

During Monday’s meeting, the board heard from Integrated Science and Engineering’s Ron Feldner. Feldner told the board that the system could probably be better off expanding stream buffers and restoring streams than trying to obtain wetlands credits on the property.

Feldner said the system could look to receive up to a net of $3.8 million in wetlands credits based on the current market value of credits. The system would have to drain the existing lake on the property and build a detention pond that would cost $150,000, he added. Additionally, the system could have to fund up to $1.087 million in stream restoration and mitigation monitoring expenses.

Because the system would have to initially fund the restoration costs and would not be guaranteed a return on its investment for maybe 10 years, Feldner recommended the system look to selling the property to a single buyer. He recommended agencies such as the DOT or possibly Fayette County, who could be looking for mitigation property when building large transportation projects.

The property would carry heavy restriction, such as no residential building, and access to the schools for science education.

“That will narrow the number of folks who want the property,” he said.

Retired biologist Dennis Chase, who helped the school system on this issue, applauded the results of the study.

“These are big numbers for credits, and it’s probably not a good idea for the system to run a mitigation bank,” he said.

Chase added that he hoped the system would work on setting education sites near the school to provide Fayette’s students a place to learn about the county’s environment.

The board asked Integrated Science to come up with a final plan on how the sale of the property should be done and present it to them at a future meeting.

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