Last Saturday, many Blacksburg resident made it abundantly clear that they would like the old Blacksburg High School property to remain open for public use, and preferably owned by the town rather than a private buyer.
Montgomery County Board of Supervisors (District G) representative April DeMotts hosted a meeting at the Blacksburg Rec Center to give residents a chance to talk about the property’s future. Supervisors Annette Perkins (District A) and Mary Biggs (District F) were also in attendance.
Approximately 70 people showed up for the two-hour forum, and around 20 of them spoke about their desire for the property to remain a public facility.
The county currently has an agreement with David Hagan and Larry Shelor to sell the property for the current asking price of $3 million, with the developers responsible for demolition costs.
The county has remained steadfast thus far in its commitment to getting what it deems to be “fair market value” for the property, with the proceeds going to the school system for future capital projects.
What exactly constitutes a fair price has been the main source of contention between the town and county, who have gone back and forth over the value of the 36.3-acre parcel.
Blacksburg’s most recent offer was $2.3 million, plus footing any demolition costs; however, the county had already come to an agreement with Hagan and Shelor a few days prior.
Many of those who spoke at the forum said that Blacksburg’s offer was fair and that the difference in price was made up for with the town’s plan to use the lot for public recreation purposes as well as saving a portion for the county to build a new school on in the future.
“We need another school and there will be nowhere to put it,” Blacksburg resident Ron Jarrell said.
Supervisors in favor of selling to private buyers say that a school will not be needed in Blacksburg for two or more decades, making the money more valuable than saving the land.
Many other speakers brought up the fact that the track and field on the property are widely used by residents from all over town and even by county residents outside of Blacksburg.
Another point that was often brought up was the fact that recreational facilities and green space attract people to the area or can even persuade them to stay on the area after graduating from Virginia Tech.
“As a young professional, those types of facilities, it keeps young people here,” Lia Kelinksy said. “The north side of the county has nothing else.”
Hagan previously told the News Messenger that they were not ready to release any formal plans for the property, but that residential housing (which the land is currently zoned for) are not the top priorities for the land, making it a possibility that people on both sides of the issue could get what they want.
Still though, many residents were not open to the idea of adding houses to the area because of the strain it would put on Harding Avenue Elementary School, which school officials have already said is overcrowded.
Board Chair Chris Tuck “District B” has said that residential housing would increase property tax revenue for the county, which would also helps the schools, but Blacksburg has argued that the cost of educating new students from the area would be more than is generated.
DeMotts and Biggs said that they were happy with the turnout, especially for a Saturday.
“I thought the citizens really expressed the cost of not selling the town,” Biggs said. “
Biggs also said that when looking at what the county would be giving up if the property were sold to private developers, the town’s offer is actually pretty reasonable.
“It is important to remember that the town isn’t a small business or a developer. It is the citizens and there tax money paying for the property,” DeMotts said about the town’s offer. “There taxes would be raised to pay for it (with the $2.3 million offer).”
Tuck said that he had not yet seen the video in time for publication, but that he planned to watch it Friday evening. He also said that he did not see it changing his mind, and has previously stated that reneging on the deal with Hagan and Shelor would set a bad precedent for the county in future deals.
Citizens are encouraged to attend the public hearing on the property at 7:15 p.m. Monday at the Montgomery County Government center, 755 Roanoke St., Christiansburg.