SP Primary School 18.jpeg

Southern Pines Primary School July 8, 2021. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

An offer from a private builder is putting pressure on the Moore County Board of Education to move away from selling the old Southern Pines Primary campus in West Southern Pines to a nonprofit organization that hopes to use it as a community and cultural center.

The Southern Pines Land and Housing Trust has pursued the school site for the last year and a half, since the school board declared the property surplus in anticipation of the new elementary school opening down Carlisle Street in Morganton Park North. For most of that time, the trust has been the only potential buyer interested in the 17-acre site.

But now the board has two competing offers on the table –– despite never moving to a formal bidding process. Within the last two weeks, the land trust has upped its offer to $685,000 to reflect the school board’s most recent appraisal of the site. But the district has a standing offer of $900,000 from homebuilder Ron Jackson and Drain the Swamp, LLC.

Weighing those offers and how to proceed will be on the agenda for the school board’s regular work session this Monday. Should the board decide to pursue a sale to Jackson or any other private buyer, it would be legally obligated to advertise that potential sale and open the field to upset bids from competing buyers.

But the historic significance of part of the campus would allow the schools to sell directly to the land trust and bypass a competitive bidding process. The four acres at the corner of Carlisle and New York Avenue were once home to a Rosenwald school serving the Black community from the 1920s through the 1940s.

A restrictive deed on file with Moore County since 1924 still limits that specific parcel, or any profits generated there, to “the use of Negro education.”

Appraisal Discrepancies

The previous school board resolved early on to work with the land trust, but a $430,000 discrepancy between the school board’s and land trust’s independent appraisals of the property stalled negotiations.

The trust initially offered $200,000, plus other considerations for future use of the property, then decided to wait out the ongoing bidding process for the old Aberdeen Primary School campus. Both the Aberdeen and Southern Pines primary campuses were appraised at similar values in 2019.

After a lengthy process with more than a dozen bids –– several entered by Jackson on that property as well –– a $473,100 bid from the Network Commerce Association of Raleigh stood unchallenged. That was about $160,000 below the appraised value, but that value was based on the potential for development as affordable housing. The six-acre Aberdeen campus is sited too far from amenities like grocery shopping to qualify for federal subsidies.

So the school board voted last month to proceed with the sale of Aberdeen Primary.

Earlier this year the school board went to yet another appraiser for an updated estimate of the old Southern Pines Primary school’s value. The resulting report breaks the property into several smaller parcels valued at a total of $685,000.

Last month, the school board reviewed the updated appraisal report and moved to offer the land trust a five-acre parcel, that includes the original Rosenwald site and all buildings now occupying it, at the appraised value of $300,000.

On the same day, a representative of Jackson’s Quality Built Homes emailed school officials to express interest in purchasing the entire campus for $600,000. A week later, he increased that offer to $900,000.

Trust Raises Money, Ups Offer

The trust has continued to raise funds from donations from the West Southern Pines and broader Moore County communities, and earlier this week appealed to the Southern Pines Town Council for support. On Thursday the trust responded to the board’s proposal with a $685,000 offer for the full 17 acres.

That offer reflects an earlier agreement by the school board to sell the old campus to the land trust at the appraised value. But that resolution expired after the school board extended it twice.

In his offer, land trust Chairman Vincent Gordon said that the trust is working with the town of Southern Pines, the early childhood education program at Sandhills Community College, and an N.C. State University Natural Learning Initiative to develop a “Farm to Fork” STEM education program for preschoolers in the Blanchie Carter Discovery Park.

“What our offer contains as part of a non-cash incentive is affordable housing for minority teachers, an outdoor learning lab for all Pre-K kids of Moore County, entrepreneurial opportunities, community services, and most important: to restore cultural and historical significance through arts and entertainment with a museum that leads to an impact on tourism,” Gordon said in an email to The Pilot.

On Monday the school board will have two options: to either proceed with a sale to the land trust or to open a competitive bid process with the trust’s $685,000 bid as the starting offer.

(25) comments

Damon Clark

Sell the land to the SP Land Trust. The board should CLEARLY see this is the best option.

Stephen Woodward

The school board must sell the property to the highest bid the market will bear and commit the proceeds of the sale to infrastructure improvements to existing schools. The Land Trust is a land grab.

That is not correct I don't believe if it's a not for profit seeking to purchase the property. They are required to meet the appraised value,that's it. The Land Trust has done that.

John Misiaszek

ken leary

I've worked on one of Jackson's houses; a wobble box. Rags left in pipes, shutoffs buried, and the ridiculous deck slammed onto the back of the house directly on top of the vinyl siding. What me use flashing? (had the inspector look at the deck because it should not, of course, have passed inspection. The Pinehurst inspector's response was pathetic) All the windows under the deck leaked into the house requiring interior repairs. Is this the guy that sued the town of Pinehurst and then proceeded to buy up building lots? Sell to the SP Land trust.

Margaret Smith

Please Moore County Schools, sell the property to the Southern Pines Land Trust. Do the right thing for the community.

Mary Ellen Cravotta

Sell to the land trust!!@

Carol Lamphier

Blanchie Carter Discovery Park was just established a few years ago with strong support. The Trust will keep it an outdoor hands-on learning lab to train teachers and engage Moore County students. And the Board is considering selling this gem to a builder or Drain the Swamp? What an insult to the memory of Bruce Cunningham! What a slap in the face to beloved principal Blanchie Carter! Use your brains and your heart Board members. Sell to the Trust!

Ronnie McNeill

It is now time for the Town of Southern Pines to act by contributing to the Land Trust financially, and in partnership, to allow the purchase and preservation of this culturally intrinsic property that will be a benefit to both the community, and the Town's posterity.

Jennifer Riley

Do the right thing, please!! Sell to the SP Land Trust!!

Joyce Reehling

Sell to the Land Trust. All of us who support this can also give to the LT to help them make their offer better. Drain the Swamp is not likely to be in the community helping to educated kids or helping the total community understand its history. Sell to the Land Trust and enrich the community as a whole.

Roy Ross

In most circmstances as a taxpayer I would favor the sale of the property for the highest price possible. But in this case, there is more at stake and the entire community stands to gain more "value" from the sale to the group that has broader interests in the property. Jackson's interests are narrower....profit...which is just fine but the Trusts interests line the pockets of the community. Let the Trust and the black community make something of it and quit "jerking" them around on the property value. Frankly commisioners, you look like a bunch of grifters trying to squeeze a sucker.

Monika and Robert Brown

The Board of Education should act now and accept the Trust's offer for purchasing the Primary School property.

What the Trust offers, in addition to the full appraised value, will be far more than a “community and cultural center.” Its leaders and supporters have achievable plans (splandandhousingtrust.org) for gradually transforming each building and space of the Primary School campus for specific uses of value to residents of West Southern Pines, the Town of Southern Pines, and Moore County.

Sell to the Trust. Do we need another housing development? Do what's right for the community.

Susan Thomas

Sell it to the SP Land Trust. There will be many legal challenges if not.

Kent Misegades

Hilarious! “Drain the Swamp”. I love it. The property is owned by us, the taxpayers. The government has an obligation to taxpayers to maximize the return on the sale, otherwise the entire competitive bidding process is a farce. There was already some Tomfoolery in the sale of the old SP elementary school to the lower bidder, Montessori charter.

Sally Larson

"Drain the Swamp" sounds very suspicious. Has this become a political issue? I hope not. The Land Trust has a good plan, not just greedy to use the land to populate with houses and condos.

Conrad Meyer

Sheesh.

Karin Steven Kent

Who is Drain the Swamp , Llc? Wasn’t there an election committee of the same name? Are there any ties between the person or entity and any Board of Ed members that should require recusal?

Jon Craig

The land trust has tried to do everything it can to meet the school boards wants. Sell it to the land trust

Jim / sue Wagner

Do the only right thing for the community, sell it to the Land Trust.

Charlene Rudd

Selling this property to the Land Trust would show faith in our neighbors living in West Southern Pines that we all want some positive things to happen in their community. According to what I have read, the Land Trust appears to hold the key to reviving this community and making it thrive again.

Pamela Fairclough

I agree. Southern Pines and the surrounding area owes this community their support and trust. This is not only a financial decision but one that finally takes into account a some of the externalities associated with property and land development.

Sell the property to the Land Trust.

John Misiaszek

Sell it to Land trust who care

Susan O'Connell

Sell it to the SP Land Trust

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