Local News

2 School Sites Put on Hold After Questionable Land Sales

Posted July 10, 2007 12:36 a.m. EDT
Updated July 10, 2007 10:26 a.m. EDT

— Two new school sites in Wake County are on hold for at least a month.

Figures for comparable sales show that an elementary school site in Cary and a middle school site in Rolesville are at or below market price.

However, recent controversy over prices paid for land has prompted the Wake County Board of Commissioners to take a step back before approving money to buy the Cary and Rolesville sites.

Before purchase, the commissioners will require a checklist that includes the ownership history and appraisals.

One site that raised eyebrows was a 32-acre plot in Apex for a new elementary school. The town was also set to buy part of the land from the school system for a future park.

Capstone Development group bought the land for $80,000 an acre and sold it to the school system for $105,000 an acre a year later.

Capstone’s Drew Schenck said that the price reflects a year’s worth of work on the site and claimed the company even turned down a better offer from a national builder in order to sell the site to the school system.

“If anybody doubts that price, let the school system sell it back,” he said. “It would be a quick sale.”

Another Apex site started the debate after it was purchased for $8 million, but later appraised at half the price. The Wake County Board of Education terminated the contract on the site last month.

Commissioners Chairman Tony Gurley said he believes the county should take over responsibility for purchasing and building schools.

“If we’re accountable, we need to be in control, and that’s not the situation right now,” Gurley said.

School officials said they're concerned and also interested in evaluating their process.

One area under consideration is the use of real estate firms. About a year ago, the school system started working with three firms to scout land.

“This is a good time to see if this is effective,” said the schools' Associate Superintendent Don Haydon. “We need to see if we’re getting the most bang for our buck."

School board member Carol Parker said she planned to raise that issue at a Facilities Committee meeting on Tuesday morning.