Park board, school district end negotiations for Penn Valley school site
February 1, 2018
Months of acrimonious negotiations between Western Gateway Recreation and Park District and Penn Valley Union Elementary School District have ended in a stalemate, with the district rejecting the park board's bid to buy the former Pleasant Valley Elementary School.
The school district had appraised the fair market value of the property in November at $1.1 million. The park board made an offer of less than $300,000, based on its interpretation of the Naylor Act, which allows other government agencies to acquire surplus school property and keep it available for playground, playing field or other outdoor recreational and open-space purposes. The Naylor Act allows those entities to purchase such surplus property at a significant discount.
But, according to the school district, the Naylor Act does not apply to the Pleasant Valley School site because there is publicly owned land right across the street that meets the recreational needs of the community: Williams Ranch School, which has a playground, playing field, and other outdoor recreational open space.
The park board has cried foul over the failed negotiations, which board members say were not conducted in good faith.
For one thing, chairwoman Nancy Peirce said, the park district received the letter inviting them to submit a proposal three weeks late, putting them well behind in the 60-day response time allotted.
Park proponents said the 17-acre property could serve as a "north campus complex," providing baseball and soccer fields along with space indoors for a possible theater, gym and library expansion.
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Once the park board notified the school district that it was interested, the two entities had 90 days to complete negotiations. But Peirce said the school district dragged its feet on providing the written appraisal, which she said they received at the end of October.
Western Gateway presented its offer and was rejected, leading the park board to ask for mediation.
"They declined our offer to mediate and said the negotiations are over, you lost your chance," Peirce said.
Superintendent Torie England said the school district's board of trustees reviewed the park's offer and declined to accept it.
"We were willing to take a new offer and we gave them until Jan. 19," England said, adding that the park board had asked the school district to pay for the mediation.
According to England, the 90-day negotiation period with the park has ended and the district has sent out letters to the next tier of potential bidders, as required by law.
That tier consists of the state Division of General Services, the Regional Housing Authority of Sutter and Nevada Counties, and the University of California and California State University systems, England said.
If no interest is shown by those second tier agencies, or an agreement with any agency listed cannot be reached, it will then be listed for public purchasing at fair market value.
Peirce said the park board has decided against suing the school district, estimating the potential cost to both parties at about $100,000.
"The park tried and made the effort to make this public property available to the public," Peirce said. "We felt the best and highest use would be recreational space."
Peirce noted that if the district plans to sell the property to a developer, the land would need a zoning change from public to residential.
"My belief is that won't be easy," she said. "If they do decide to go forward with a zoning change, we certainly will voice our opposition at that time."
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.