The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

December 5, 2013

Stanly County Board of Education to sell old Central school building to city of Albemarle

By Ritchie Starnes, News Editor

Thursday, December 5, 2013 — The Stanly County Board of Education voted to accept the city of Albemarle’s $150,000 bid for the Old Central School property, nixing an earlier offer by a local ministry.

One day after Albemarle City Council unanimously decided to buy the former Central School property, school leaders met in closed session to discuss the deal before emerging with a 6-2 vote to accept.

The $25,000 more than the competing bid and the overall financial impact on the local economy proved to be a factor in the decision.

“With the current budget constraints of our and all school districts and the city's offer of the full asking price along with their plans to revitalize the property were my reasons for choosing their offer,” said Jeff Chance, board chairman.

“Eventually as the project proceeds there will be tax dollars generated and put back into the economy of our city and county which help all of us.”

Not all of the board members supported the decision. Melvin Poole and Mike Barbee cast dissenting votes, but for different reasons.

“I hate to see tax dollars used over the private sector,” said Poole, referring to his conservative philosophy about the use of tax credits and the city financially backing the development.

Barbee, however, said his church ties lean him toward the earlier pitch presented by Spirit and Truth United Church of Worship.

“I have a connection with the church,” Barbee said.

“I felt they would have been a good neighbor, not that the city’s project won’t be.”

Earlier in the day newly-elected Albemarle Mayor Ronnie Michael hand delivered a letter that was also sent to realtor Cavin Holbrook, who is facilitating the sell.

“Last night, the City Council took a major step toward redevelopment of Old Central School by voting unanimously to offer the Stanly County Board of Education its full asking price of $150,000 in cash, to purchase the 2.43-acre property and improvements outright, to close within 30 days,” Michael wrote.  

“As you know we assisted the Board of Education in subdividing the 8.15-acre parcel on North Third Street to help reposition the new parcel.

“We further adopted a resolution initiating its official redevelopment to appeal to appropriate funding sources that promote historic preservation, affordable housing and downtown revitalization. Last night’s offer is another strategic step in that direction.”

Michael also requested that a prompt decision be made regarding the matter.

“The city really believes in this project up to $450,000 worth,” said Rex Todd of The Landmark Group, referring to the city’s partnership with the developer to complete a mixed-use development with the use of tax credits.

“We believe 2014 is the year to return Old Central School back to the tax roll and bring a centerpiece to the city of Albemarle,” Todd said.

Plans call for a renovation of the site, dependent on $7 million from tax credits. Estimates suggest the project could bring $5 million into the community through construction.

The project also calls for a component of affordable housing for senior citizens.

If the developer is unable to secure tax credits, they’ll try again next year. If continued efforts fail, the city would retain ownership of the property for future consideration.

Last week, the Board of Education conducted a special-called meeting to allow the Rev. Darryl Medley to make an offer on behalf of Spirit and Truth at a price of $125,000, or $25,000 less than the school’s asking price.

The church wanted to expand its ministry downtown to accommodate those with limited transportation.

That pitch forced the city and Landmark to hasten its buying efforts with the schools.

Efforts to reach Medley for a comment for this story were unsuccessful.

Completion of the deal is contingent on the county’s first right of refusal, according to Stanly County Schools’ attorney Mark Lowder. County leaders previously waived that right in an earlier offer that was later rescinded.   

Call Ritchie Starnes at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28 or email ritchie@stanlynews