Cornwall-Lebanon School District is poised to buy 89.5 acres of farmland located across from the Cedar Crest campus in South Lebanon Township.
According to a statement by CLSD, the district was the winning bidder in an auction held Thursday, Oct. 24, to liquidate the former Henry and Sandra Smith Farm.
The district noted that the Administration and Board of School Directors had discussed the potential acquisition at an Oct. 14 public work session. Reasons for acquiring the land provided by the district in the release included safety concerns and additional traffic congestion that could result from further development of the property.
The purchase will go in front of the Board of School Directors at the Nov. 18 regular meeting for ratification.
The farm, located at 1950 S. Lincoln Ave, has an assessed value of $1,219,900 according to county land records. According to school officials, the school district’s winning bid was valued at approximately $1.9 million, or $21,500 per acre. By acquiring the land, the school district would also be removing the property from the tax rolls, although district officials note that the property had been enrolled in the Clean & Green program so its tax generating value was capped to some extent. The district also said that its winning bid was lower than a recent independent appraisal the property had received, although the appraisal has not been independently reviewed by LebTown at this time.
According to county land records, the Cedar Crest campus sits on 122 acres at present. The purchase would increase that amount to 211.5 acres.
“Cornwall-Lebanon School District is pleased to have been able to make this once-in-a-lifetime land acquisition,” said Dr. Philip Domencic, superintendent, in the release. “With almost three thousand students and staff members daily on the Cedar Crest campus, it is critical that we preserve the integrity of our campus.”
“We realize that this purchase may be for a time that we might not be around to see. Ultimately, we believe this is in the best interests of our students, future generations of students, and our community.”
According to county land records, it appears that a portion of the sale will fund an endowment through Wayne-based Capstone Legacy Foundation. It is not yet clear what this endowment may go towards, and Capstone officials had not gotten back to us with more details as of Friday morning. A school district official confirmed that Capstone Legacy Foundation was one of the sellers.
According to district officials, the acquisition will be funded through Capital Reserve funds.
In an article published by Lancaster Newspapers this morning (paywall), Domencic was quoted as saying that the land will remain leased for farm use for now. Domencic also noted that the acquisition was not being made to address campus capacity, which he described as “adequate.”
“This is looking 10, 20, 30 years into the future. It’s a value. There’s certainly a cost, but it’s an asset. We thought it was important, given the proximity of the land to our campus,” Domencic told the Lancaster paper.
In its initial release, the school district noted that it leases 13 acres of land for athletic field use at present, but in the interview with LNP, Domencic said that any specific use of the land would be speculation at this point.
LebTown has an interview scheduled with Domencic next Tuesday. Are there questions you have for the district? Leave them in the contact form below.
This post was updated based on followup from the school district to indicate how the acquisition will be funded. We have also added additional context from the district, namely that the farmland was enrolled in the Clean & Green preferential tax assessment program, which limited its tax-generating value to the district, and that the district’s winning bid was less than the property’s appraised value (other than appraisal documents have not been independently reviewed by LebTown at this time).