PW-S officials unwilling to idle as negotiations for purchase of 54 acres stall
Unable to reach a deal with a prospective buyer it has negotiated with for nearly three months, the Port Washington-Saukville School Board on Monday announced it will entertain other offers for 54.5 acres of farmland on Port’s west side that the district has owned for 47 years.
Supt. Michael Weber said the unnamed prospective buyer, who made an offer to buy the land in September before the property was put on the market, has yet to respond to the district’s counteroffer, although the buyer and administrators are in contact.
“The potential buyer is still very interested, but the board wanted to make it clear that the property is on the market to keep this process moving,” he said. “They (the prospective buyer) are doing their due diligence before considering our counteroffer.
“Sometimes it just takes a little patience.”
It seems, however, the board’s patience is wearing thin. Its announcement that the district will entertain other offers, made after meeting in closed session, means administrators will contact the handful of people who have inquired about the property, Weber said.
The School Board found itself in the real estate business early this year when, in light of the approval of a $49.4 million referendum last year that reflects the board’s commitment to renovating and expanding its current schools rather than building new ones, officials decided it was time to sell the land the district has long owned.
The district purchased the property, which is comprised of two parcels, in January 1969 from Elmer and Myrtle Bley for $149,944.
Located north of Grand Avenue and east of Highway LL, the land is flanked by subdivisions on three sides — Spinnaker West to the south, The Woods at White Pine to the west and Lake Ridge to the east — and bordered by farmland to the north.
The property had long been seen by the district as a future school site, but as the city developed around it and the needs of schools changed, it became less desirable for educational purposes. And with the approval of a referendum that provides $46.5 million to modernize the high school and $3.8 million to expand Dunwiddie Elementary School, officials said it was time to put the property on the market.
The board initially intended to contract with a broker to list the property but shelved those plans in September after receiving the unsolicited offer it has dealt with since then.
At the time, Weber characterized the offer as attractive and said he expected a deal to be reached quickly. But after the board countered the offer, progress slowed.
School officials are eager to take advantage of what they consider to be a relatively strong real estate market and sell land that, given its proximity to other subdivisions and city infrastructure, is presumably a valuable site for residential development.
“There’s a feeling in the community that things are moving forward,” Weber said. “It’s not like it was several years ago when things were stagnant. That wasn’t a good time to have property on the market, but now, with the growth we’re seeing, it is a good time to sell land.”
In addition to putting the land on the tax rolls and paving the way for additional residential development, the sale of the property is likely to net the district a significant amount of money. The district has not made public an appraisal of the property, citing ongoing negotiations.
To avoid a reduction in state aid due to an increase in revenue, the district will have to use the proceeds of the sale for capital improvements. High on the priority list are improvement to outdoor high school athletic facilities, which were not included in the referendum.
Officials envision a fairly sweeping project that would include the replacement of the grass football field with artificial turf, new lighting and sound systems, bleachers and a press box. The project could be expanded to include artificial turf and other improvements to the baseball diamonds and track and field facilities.