The city of Noblesville reached a deal with Noblesville Schools to purchase Forest Hill Elementary Tuesday evening.
The Noblesville school board held a special meeting Tuesday night to discuss and eventually approve a memorandum of understanding with the city, effectively selling the school to Noblesville for $833,000. The City Council added the MOU to its agenda and approved the deal 6-1.
The deal gives the city the 15-acre property after the school closes in August. In return, Noblesville Schools would receive $275,000 in cash at closing and the waiving of fees associated with its construction of new facilities. The cash and waived fees total about $833,000. Two appraisals of Forest Hill conducted in April and July, respectively, estimated that the current market value of the property is between $330,000 and $582,000.
“I think this is a good deal for all of the citizens in Noblesville,” Councilman Mark Boice said.
Boice said that, if the impact fees and other fees imposed by the city were not waived for the district, tax increment finance (TIF) dollars collected in that area would have no purpose, meaning they would be sent to the state. He said he was not sure if the TIF money kept within the city equaled the more than the nearly $600,000 in waived fees but reiterated that he thought the deal was good for both sides and an example of government working like it should.
Councilwoman Mary Sue Rowland disagreed, though. She said it seems like the city could be paying too high of a price for the property and added that, while she is not necessarily opposed to the city’s purchasing of the property, she said voting on the deal Tuesday night without first allowing more time and a separate meeting for the public to provide input on the deal is “some of the worst government” she’s seen in 17 years.
“What’s the rush?” she said. “No one can have this place until August.”
Rowland was the only council member to vote against approving the deal.
Boice said that, during a Sept. 10 strategic planning meeting, the council determined acquiring Forest Hill for the city was a top priority. An executive session was held two weeks ago to work on the city’s proposal, he said.
Last week, Noblesville-based Legacy Christian School announced it had submitted an offer of $330,000 for the school. The school said in a statement that, while Noblesville Schools considers Forest Hill to be outdated, the 55,400-square-foot building would be perfect for LCS. The private school currently rents space at Noblesville Nazarene Church and is seeking a permanent home.
Rowland said she has heard that, if the city were to acquire Forest Hill, it would be used both as a new police station and a programming room for the parks department. Boice said the facility’s potential use has not yet been determined, adding that town hall meetings likely would be held to encourage public input.