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Woodland Hills Board Votes to Sell Churchill Building, Move to Braddock

The school board voted Monday night to enter a sales and lease agreement with TREK Development Group.

Woodland Hills School Board, by a 5-4 vote, decided to enter an option agreement to sell the current administration building on Greensburg Pike for $625,000 to TREK Development Group and lease office space in TREK's Braddock Overlook Development at a cost of $125,000 a year.

The lease will be for three years with a no-penalty, opt-out clause in favor of the district and contingent upon TREK taking ownership of the property at 2430 Greensburg Pike. The terms of the sale and lease are subject to negotiation, approval and execution of a lease agreement and option agreement acceptable to the board within 45 days of Jan. 28.

Those agreements would have to come back to the board and be approved before the sale and lease agreements are finalized, said Solicitor Donald Palmer at Monday's reconvened school board meeting.

Ultimately, the sale must be approved in Allegheny Common Pleas Court, Palmer said. Public notice will be given notice of court filings, he said.

School directors Robert Clanagan, Brian Estocin, Colleen Filiak, Jeff Hanchett and Marilyn Messina voted in favor of the sale of the current 24,000-square-foot building and leasing 9,000 square feet of office space in the new building being constructed in Braddock. Opposed were Fred Kuhn, Tara Reis, Bob Tomasic and Regis Driscoll.

TREK plans to develop senior citizen housing on the site that would include income restricted units for those with incomes less than $32,000 and market-rate units. However, that plan would have to be approved by Churchill Borough Council.

Prior to the vote, a number of residents voiced their support and objections to the sale/lease agreement. Lawrence Lapidi, a Churchill councilman, called for an independent analysis of whether the transaction was in the district's best financial interest.

Karen Lamoureux, CEO of Pace School, which adjoins the administration building property, reiterated the school's interest in the purchasing property. Pace School serves K-9 students with emotional challenges or autism. However, the board had already rejected a previous offer from Pace to purchase the building.

Filiak said that Pace's offer was rejected last summer because the board was looking for economic value in the property. The non-profit Pace School would not produce that tax revenue.

Linda Esposto of Forest Hills said the district must be prepared for hard decisions. She called for the board to sell the building.

"The district simply cannot afford to keep it," she said.

Prior to voting, the school board members spoke about the considerations.

"Everyone knows this building is in terrible condition," said Kuhn, who added he has no problems selling the building—but not the property.

Filiak said pointed to the district's property assets, noting that the district is looking a repurposing Fairless Elementary next school year and closing Shaffer and Dickson schools in the 2014-15 school year.

The school board's vote drew praise from Braddock's leaders, including Mayor John Fetterman, who thanked the board members for being willing to consider the facts.

"You have my commitment that I will let every youth and resident know that Woodland Hills School District has made a major show of support and commitment to Braddock," said Tina Doose, Braddock Council president.

She said that she will expect the community's youths to show their appreciation by being the best students they can be.

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LHughes January 29, 2013 at 04:49 PM
Zandy, don't you write for The Patch? Why are you weighing in? Do you get paid to check facts because if you do there is plenty of other things said wrong on here. Steve, her numbers come from Trek, the people who want the deal. Obviously Zandy is smart enough to know that those numbers are the dream scenario with all properties Braddock and Churchill being fully developed. Zandy is also smart enought to know that every other boro had reservations about this deal, except Braddock.
Zandy Dudiak January 29, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Steve and LHughes, If someone asks for a clarification of something in a story, I try to respond. Online news has that advantage over print in that we can have a conversation with our readers—and also correct any errors. I stand corrected on my previous post, which I have since removed. The tax revenue figures are 10-year projections given by William Gatti of TREK during a presentation at last week's school board meeting, not annual projections as I mistakenly posted earlier. I appreciate you bringing that to my attention. The annual school district tax revenue from the new development would be a projected $676,059 over 10 years—and the development would also yield county and borough tax revenues. Those numbers are based on the school district's projected millage and the estimated value of the property if developed with the senior housing as discussed. They were contained in this story last week: http://patch.com/A-1xl3 Again, I apologize for my error.
Merlyn Trilli January 29, 2013 at 05:11 PM
Merlyn Trilli This arrangement is totally stupid. I hope that the judge understands that this does not benefit the school district financially, and the combined communities are opposed to the judges' approving it.
LHughes January 29, 2013 at 05:22 PM
Do you realize Woodland Hill might be the first traditional, non charter, public school in PA to rent space for administration office? WH board voted to screw over kids going to Boyce school to have nicer offices? Its supposed to be about the kids, Mr. Estocin, Mr Handhet, Ms Filiak, Mr Clanigan and Ms Messina.
LHughes February 01, 2013 at 01:16 PM
Where is the "Braddock Mayor is hunting joggers" story?

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