The Orem City Council, by resolution, declared its intent to purchase the old Hillcrest Elementary School surplus property from the Alpine School District on Tuesday.
At its regular meeting, the council voted 5 to 1 declaring its intent and to immediately research the purchase possibilities. Mayor Richard Brunst was the lone no vote. Councilwoman Debby Lauret was out of town.
In a letter dated March 11, the school district declared the former school property to be surplus.
The Utah State Code section 53G-4-902 gives cities the first right of refusal to purchase surplus school district real property within their jurisdictions.
The city council has 90 days to offer earnest money on the property.
Alpine School District received an appraisal estimating the value of the Hillcrest Elementary School property at $6 million as is, or $8.5 million if rezoned to commercial.
The Utah Code indicates the purchase of school district surplus property “shall be the average of the school district’s appraisal and the city’s appraisal, based on the predominant zone in the surrounding area, according to the city’s resolution.”
The property is currently zoned residential. The city, has selected to get another appraisal on the property and expects those numbers by the end of the week. The council felt with the condition of the school and it being zoned residential the appraisals were too high.
Brunst was not in favor of a purchase because of the impact COVID-19 has had on the city.
“It is too expensive to purchase right now with lower sales tax revenues,” Brunst said.
Councilman Terry Peterson, who lives in the Hillcrest area, disagrees and would like the city to consider the land for use as a park.
“The school district is ridiculous with the appraisal, but this is an important step to make a park,” Peterson said.
The property already has a park adjacent to the school with ball fields and eating pavilion. The council believes it is an important move for the neighborhood and recognized the community attachment to the school and current ball fields. There is no other property in that area of Orem for a park for families and individuals to gather.
Councilman Tom Macdonald noted that the city is not required to purchase the land, but that it gives them an opportunity to investigate the potential.
The City Council authorized Jamie Davidson, the city manager to negotiate terms for the purchase.
At the March 11 School Board meeting, Board Vice President Mark Clement made the initial motion.
Other board members shared their approval.
“It’s always difficult to try to predict what’s going to happen in the future, but I think with today’s economic tides and some of the challenges we’ve had recently over construction projects, it really makes good sense to try to dispose of property we’re not going to immediately use,” Clement said during a discussion on the proposal.
Board member Julie King said this decision was made to fulfill the promise each member of the board of education made to be good stewards with the taxpayer dollars they are trusted with.
Member Ada Wilson acknowledged the sentimental value of the Hillcrest property, specifically.
The Alpine School District Board of Education voted to consolidate Hillcrest Elementary School with SCERA Park Elementary School in 2017. The two schools merged in August to become Centennial Elementary School.
While Scera Park Elementary School has since been demolished, Hillcrest Elementary School was hosting Cascade Elementary School students through the 2019-20 school year, until the COVID-19 closure, while the new Cascade Elementary School building is completed.