Montgomery County has rejected Blacksburg’s latest offer to purchase the former Blacksburg High School property located off of Patrick Henry Drive.
In a Jan. 6 letter to Montgomery County Board of Supervisors Chair Chris Tuck, Mayor Ron Rordam increased the town’s previous offer of $2 million to $2.75 million, with the additional $750,000 to go towards paying approximately half of the site’s projected demolition costs.
Rordam wrote that keeping the property for public use was a big enough priority for the council that it was willing to increase the offer, even though the town’s appraisal ($1.9 million) does not justify it.
“We believe this is a very fair offer, given the additional grading this rocky site will need for any use and tremendous public benefit that will be provided to all county residents,” Rordam wrote in the letter. “As part of this, we are also willing to discuss eliminating the additional fee on Town Parks and Recreation programs currently charged to non-residents.”
Tuck sent Rordam a written response late last week to say that the county would not be accepting the town’s offer. Tuck wrote that after a November joint meeting in which the two sides discussed the property at length, a private developer made an offer to the county that, based on the property’s residential zoning and factoring in the cost of demolition, was significantly more that what the town has offered.
According to Tuck, the county has received additional inquiries since the “for sale” sign was placed on the property in early January.
“Regardless of other offers, the County is still willing to work with the Town in facilitating a possible purchase. Our asking price remains at $3 million ‘as is.’ We will consider all offers received; however, the Town’s offer of Jan. 6, 2017 is not competitive with other offers received to date,” Tuck wrote.
The county has the property valued at $4.5 million, but is willing to sell the site for $3 million if the buyer covers the cost of demolition.
Tuck has stated on numerous occasions that the county’s main priority is to get a fair price for the school system, so that it can spend the money on much needed capital projects in other parts of the county.
Rordam has said that using the site for public recreation and a future elementary school would do just that, while Tuck has said that taxes collected from a residential development would prove to be a more immediate benefit to the school system than a future site for a school that the county believes will not need to be built for another “20-30 years,” a figure the town has said is closer to 10-20.
Rordam has cited a study on the cost of community resources by the University of Illinois Extension as another reason why housing may not be in the county’s best interest.
According to the report, residential land often requires more taxpayer money than it generates.
“The COCS (cost of community services) ratio is substantially above 1 for residential land, demonstrating that residential land is a net drain on local government budgets. The average estimate ranges from about 1.15 to 1.50, which means that for every dollar collected in taxes and non-tax revenue, between $1.15 and $1.50 gets returned in the form of local government and school district services. On the other hand, the COCS ratios for the other two land use categories are both substantially below 1. For commercial/industrial, the ratio usually ranges from 0.35 to 0.65, indicating that for every dollar collected, the local government provides only about 35 to 65 cents worth of services. For agriculture and open space, the ratios are only slightly smaller, usually ranging from 0.30 to 0.50.”
Rordam said that the county should take into account the COCS before selling to a private developer.
“Residential developments provide services, such as schools, and these cost money,” wrote Rordam in an email. “So, selling to a developer could, in fact, cost the county money.”
Tuck said that the study Rordam is referring to is typically accurate, but the property values in Blacksburg are high enough where that would not be the case this time.
“Blacksburg provided us numbers that said that we could generate more tax money than it would cost to educate children that typically live in that size development,” Tuck said.
The town council discussed the county’s rejection of its latest offer in the closed session portion of yesterday’s work session meeting, and has not issued a formal response.