Peoria Unified board approves land donation for future school

By Philip Haldiman
Independent Newsmedia

The Peoria Unified School District Governing Board approved a land donation for a future elementary school at the Meadows community within the Camino a Lago development at Williams Road and 95th Avenue.

The deal comes after a decade’s long agreement with landowner land owner Camino A Lago LLC that experienced a number of contractual changes over the years.

Chief Financial Officer Michelle Myers said the land will fill a property void in the northern part of town that is expected to see more growth in the coming years and a need for more schools.

“More than 10,000 students could be moving into the northern part of the district in next the 10 years. And if a school is not built in this location, there could be a 10 square-mile area in the middle of the district that does not have a PUSD school,” she said. “These factors become considerations as the district uses a 10-year planning horizon to consider this location for an elementary school.”

The approval will being 15 acres of land into the district’s ownership in exchange for the donation, and the district must reimburse $527,448 to the owner for easement infrastructure already installed on the property.

Initially, a study to determine the feasibility of a school at the site was required by Dec. 14, as well as a contractual agreement to close the deal by a Jan. 10 deadline, according to an agreement between the district and Camino A Lago LLC.

However the deadlines were extended after excess soil of about 148,000 cubic yards was deposited on the property by nearby homebuilders.

Ms. Myers said based on the agreement, the owner is not required to remove the soil.

“But the district negotiated and a (nearby) builder knows a buyer that wants to buy the soil for a construction project. So they want 80,000 cubic yards,” Ms. Myers said.

Under the new contract the landowner agreed to coordinate removal of a percentage of the excess stockpiled soil by Dec. 31, paying for  53 percent of the removal with the cost not to exceed $220,000.

She said this amounts to an estimated savings for the district of at least 60 percent compared to the outright cost to pay to remove the soil.

Also under the new agreement, if a school is not built within 10 years, then property reverts back to the owner.

The sale must be completed by Feb. 28.

The initial donation agreement between the district and Camino A Lago LLC was dated March 25, 2009, and contained the stipulations that the adjacent right-of-way improvements be reimbursed, and if a school site was not built within 18 months following the deed recording date, a reversion of the property to the owner could occur.

The original contract expiration date was Feb. 15, 2014.

However, an amendment was added to the agreement in 2013, changing the deadline for the school to be built from 18 months to 10 years.

President Monica Ceja Martinez said this was definitely a unified effort.

“When we started this process I had my reservations because Peoria Unified was baring all the risk … As we know there is a lot of land going forward, so we should let this experience be the guidepost for future acquisitions and we continue to ask what risks Peoria Unified would be baring going forward,” Ms. Ceja Martinez said. “All the facts brought forward and amendments to the contract now release Peoria Unified from all the liability, and we have the ability to now recoup 100 percent of the funds from the top soil issue that was an unforeseen issue back in 2008 and 2013.”

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