Cary, N.C. — As development increases the need for new schools, Cary is exploring ways to prevent potential school sites from being bulldozed by development.
Cary Councilman Nels Roseland has proposed a land banking program to preserve land for schools amid development that consumes as much as 1,000 acres a year in the town.
"To approve thousands of new houses and developments in Cary without taking responsibility, or some responsibility, to provide school resources would be irresponsible on our part," Roseland said.
The town would buy suitable school sites and hold them until the Wake County Board of Education is ready to buy them at a similar price. The town and school board would work together to chose the sites.
Town leaders said the program could be funded by $2.5 million from school impact fees levied on some developers in fast-growing west Cary. Another $2.5 million could come from the general fund.
"We feel like this is an appropriate use of our funds to address school capacity issues that are facing the community," Cary Mayor Ernie McAlister said.
Cary must act to keep new development from further straining schools in the town, Roseland said.
As much as eight years can pass from when the town council approves a new neighborhood to when a school is built to serve the area, according to research by town planners.
The land banking program could cut that time in half, town leaders said.
Cary currently asks developers to set aside land for schools, McAlister said. However, state law allows developers to ask for money or the land back if school are not built within 18 months.
Ron Margiotta, a school board member, indicated initial receptivity to the program concept.
"It sounds great, if they in fact do so," Margiotta.
Roseland will urge the Cary Town Council to adopt the proposed land banking program at a meeting on Thursday.
"We have to think outside of the box to address the school crisis," Roseland said.