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D-428 moving forward with land swap

DeKALB – DeKalb School District 428 might trade land used by youth soccer leagues for land near DeKalb High School that is owned by ShoDeen Construction for a future expansion.

The district’s board gave Superintendent Jim Briscoe consent to start formulating a formal agreement with the developer in a land swap that board President Tom Matya described as inevitable.

“I feel like we’re doing the right thing for the future,” Matya said in an interview before the meeting. “We’re taking an asset right now that has no value to us.”

The district would exchange 33.46 acres of land adjacent to DeKalb High School for 41.68 acres the district owns near Huntley Middle School and Fairview Cemetery. But the proposed deal also would free the district from paying $42,000 a year on a $1.05 million credit the district issued years ago.

Instead of paying $40,000 an acre for the land that was developed for DHS, the district made a deal with Macon Development to pay a lower rate in exchange for an impact fee credit.

However, the two parties also agreed that if Macon does not develop there, the district has to pay 4 percent – or $42,000 – a year starting in 2013. Now that ShoDeen has bought the property from Macon, the deal carries over, Briscoe added.

In addition, ShoDeen will pay the district $654,511 as reimbursements for the public improvements that were made when DHS was built.

As for ShoDeen, it does not have to pay impact fees on its development until the district gets 600 students from the developer’s Fairview or Irongate communities or in seven years, whichever comes first.

David Patzlet, president of ShoDeen Construction, said in an interview after the presentation that this provision was essential for him, as impact fees would drive up the price of the homes.

Development at the Fairview property would mean the destruction of those soccer fields. Briscoe said he has spoken with some of the parents involved with DeKalb AYSO about the school district’s plans. The Fairview field is the only DeKalb field listed as being used by DeKalb AYSO on their website.

Both Briscoe and Matya, during the meeting and an interview before the meeting, said they are offering to help the youth soccer league.

“We would be a working partner with them to help accommodate their needs, and they seemed very receptive,” Matya said at the meeting.

Briscoe said in an interview before the meeting that he would help find alternate fields for DeKalb AYSO to play on, and that they should plan to play at Fairview until at least the summer 2013 season.

The land near the high school offers more promise to the district than the soccer fields near Fairview. Briscoe said DHS has no room to expand in the future. Roughly 1,800 students are enrolled there this year, but Briscoe said there could be 2,500 or 3,000 students in the future.

“There will be all kinds of pending issues, I suspect, in 10 to 15 years none of us will predict,” Briscoe said. “What this does – the concept here – we felt this land, in 10 to 15 years, will be more valuable to the school district than [the Fairview property].”

Briscoe offered no prediction on how the land could be used. He said it could be anywhere from expanded academic and athletic programs to more parking to a new building. There are no long-term plans for the Fairview property.

There was very little discussion and no dissent from the other board members after Briscoe’s presentation.

Only one member of the public, Kerry Mellott, spoke on the topic. Mellott, a retired Fermilab engineer who sits on the district’s finance and facilities advisory committee, said he was concerned by the loss of value in the Fairview property and inequity in the district.

“I think we have to be somewhat mindful of the amount of money spent at the new high school, close to $90 million,” Mellott said. “And none of the rest of the schools in the district, except for Cortland, our newest school, in terms of recent expenses.”

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