The anticipated court approval of the sale of the old Northwest Elementary School has been delayed due to a dispute over a pedestrian overpass serving the school. The disagreement between the Lebanon School District and the City of Lebanon came to light less than 24 hours before a scheduled hearing on March 2.
The school district had agreed to sell the property to Quartz Creek Holdings, LLC, for $900,000. Quartz Creek had announced plans to “reconstruct” the building, which has been vacant since 2018, into commercial office space and a parking garage.
The objection filed by the City of Lebanon claims that the school district, and not Quartz Creek, should remain responsible for the steel structure spanning North 10th Street. It had been used by the school to cross above the busy highway, which is Pennsylvania Route 72.
In papers filed with the Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas on Mar. 1, the city claims that the school district agreed in an August, 1977 letter to be responsible for maintaining the bridge, controlling who has access to it, and providing liability insurance covering its use.
The city also alleges that the school district leased to the city a 100 foot by 100 foot parcel on the east side of the street, on which that end of the bridge sits. That lease, which is part of the city’s court filing, runs for 99 years from July 1977 for $1.00 annual rent.
The city says it “is unwilling to accept a private concern, Quartz Creek Holdings, LLC, to undertake the responsibility of securing, insuring, and maintaining the aforementioned pedestrian bridge.” It asks the court to condition any sale on the school district’s continuing to assume those responsibilities “until August 12, 2076, or until removal of the bridge by the Lebanon School District.”
Judge Bradford Charles has postponed the hearing on the sale until May 6.
It is unknown whether the parties had been trying to reach an agreement on what to do about the bridge before the city filed its objection, or whether they intend to explore a settlement between now and May.
Calls to Donna Brightbill, attorney for the city, and Michael Bechtold, attorney for the school district, had not been returned by publication time.
Aaron Camara, a partner in Quartz Creek Holdings, told LebTown on the morning of Mar. 2 that he hoped to secure government approvals to begin converting the old school to commercial space by late summer, and to start the project by the fall. Camara declined to comment on any aspect of the bridge or its future.
According to Camara, Quartz Creek hopes to have the project completed by the summer of 2022.
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