A 3-way agreement that clears the way for the sale and commercial development of the old Northwest Elementary School on Lebanon’s north side was approved by Judge Bradford H. Charles at a court hearing Thursday.

The sale had been blocked for months by a dispute over who owns a pedestrian bridge over North 10th Street (Route 72) that had served the school. The disagreement resulted in the city filing a lawsuit against the school district.

Standing before the judge, school district attorney Michael Bechtold summarized the eight-page agreement, which was signed last week by the city, the Lebanon School District, and buyer/developer Quartz Creek Holdings, LLC.

The sale price will be $900,000, subject to adjustments for the cost of removing the bridge, which will be shared in varying amounts by the three parties.

No one from Quartz Creek was present, but Bechtold and city attorney Donna Long Brightbill told Charles that all three parties agreed to the deal.

Pennsylvania law requires court approval to sell school property to private parties, to assure that full market value is paid. Bechtold said that the property had been appraised and that, despite its being listed for sale since 2018, there were no offers to buy it other than Quartz Creek’s.

Bechtold said the school district and Quartz Creek want to close the sale by Oct. 1.

The old school at 9th and Maple streets opened in 1976 and was replaced at the end of the 2017-18 school year by a new Northwest Elementary at 1315 Old Forge Road. It has been empty since then, and Bechtold said that the slowly-deteriorating structure costs the school district at least $50,000 per year to maintain.

After asking a few questions, Charles signed a court order approving the sale.

Pedestrian bridge over North 10th Street that had delayed sale of old Northwest School, background, will be demolished. (LebTown)

Once the sale is completed, the property will go back on the city, county, and school district tax rolls for the first time in over 40 years, although the city has extended a partial tax break on the value of improvements Quartz Creek makes to the property for an additional year under Pennsylvania’s Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act (“LERTA”).

Charles commended the parties for resolving their dispute, saying that they had “done a service to the people of the city.”

Bridge could be down by Dec. 1

Quartz Creek has the responsibility under the agreement for hiring a “qualified expert” to remove the bridge over North 10th Street by Dec. 1.

The estimated demolition cost is $200,000. If Quartz Creek meets the deadline, the school district “will agree to reduce the originally agreed upon purchase price from $900,000 to $725,000, a flat reduction of $175,000,” and the city will contribute $20,000.

As an incentive to complete demolition by that date, the $195,000 will be held in escrow until the bridge has been removed. If Quartz Creek misses the deadline, the city will be able to use the money to hire a contractor.

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Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...