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Issues holding up sale of Weaver School site

Rick Wagner • Aug 11, 2018 at 12:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — If the disposition of the former Weaver Elementary School is any indication, the Sullivan County school board might be in for lots of unexpected issues, delays and some closed-door, attorney-client meetings when disposing of surplus school property in the future.

For now, it’s just another verse in the Ballad of Old Weaver School, a song started in February and still not done.

The Board of Education during a work session Tuesday before its regular meeting discussed two issues with the Weaver sale.

Disposing of the site, which will set a precedent for the disposal of a series of surplus school buildings after a new middle school and new high school open, has sparked controversy about selling all property to one bidder rather than splitting it, as was done with the Weaver site. The BOE is not bound by law to sell to the highest bidder or to any bidder if it chooses not to do so.

ISSUE NO. 1

One issue is that an adjoining owner of the property being sold to A & B Holdings LLC for a bakery and to a cemetery says a chain link fence is the correct boundary between his land and the site of the would-be bakery operation. Otherwise, school board attorney Pat Hull said about 8.4 inches of a garage building overhang are on the future bakery property, and board Chairman Michael Hughes said the septic tank and fill beds for the Earl and Brenda Pearce property would be on the future bakery site, too.

The BOE voted to delay transferring the property to A & B until at least its next meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 4, to allow a possible resolution of the issue. Hughes said one option is to reduce the price on the per-acre bid of A & B by deducting a sliver of land from the acreage for the bakery and cemetery. Hughes said he believed all along the property line would follow the chain link fence, which school officials said was to keep children off a steep embankment leading to the garage, the old Rader’s Store and another building.

However, Hull said that an old iron pin was found in line with where the surveyor marked the boundary. Part of the school site dates back to a deed from more than 200 years ago, Hull said.

ISSUE NO. 2 

Since the agreement to sell the property was reached, Hughes said he has learned that in addition to a bakery, the purchaser is considering locating an assisted-living facility on the property, which includes the school building. The board put in the agreement that the property could never be used as a school or education facility again, but it included no other deed restrictions. The property would have to be rezoned to allow either a bakery and/or assisted living.

Hughes said M-1 zoning would allow a bakery and/or assisted living. He also said he had considered a restriction prohibiting a medical facility, including assisted living or a methadone clinic, but the board did not do that.

“I think the neighborhood will hold us accountable, as well they should,” Hughes said in the work session.

In the meeting, he said: “I felt like it was important you knew everything I knew before we moved forward.”

RESOLUTION?

Between its work session and regular meeting, the BOE met in closed or executive session with Hull to get his opinion on the matter, as suggested by board member and private attorney Matthew Spivey. Normally such executive sessions are held during a regular meeting when the board or general public and media leave the room. However, Vice Chairman Randall Jones said the board did not have to give notice of such sessions.

By Tennessee law, the board is allowed to receive legal advice but must open the meeting back up to the public when any debate or discussion about the legal issue is finished. Formulating opinions is also not legal in executive sessions. 

In the regular meeting, Hull said that the sale delay shouldn’t be a problem since the vote was in July and the purchase and sale agreement, signed July 23, did not include a deadline for the transfer to be completed. The board voted for the transfer July 11.

Tuesday’s vote was 4-2 with one absent. Jerry Greene, Hughes, Mark Ireson and Jane Thomas voted to delay the transfer to A & B, while Spivey and Jones voted no and Dan Wells was absent.

  

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