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What does the district consider when buying land?

May 21 2018

The purchase of property for a school site is a very specialized and intricate process. There are many South Carolina Department of Education, South Carolina Department of Transportation and Lexington County guidelines that impact the purchase of land for a school site.

Location
The first thing we do when we look at a piece of land is determine the location of the land. Does the location of the property meet the district’s current and future needs for property in that area?

Is the property the size we need? Typical site sizes run roughly 20-30 acres for an elementary school, 30-50 acres for a middle school and 75+ for a high school (depending on the size of the high school).

What are the results of our traffic impact study? Would the property be approved by the South Carolina Department of Transportation in terms of available road frontage, the depth of the property and the ability to provide necessary traffic circulation on site for the stacking of automobiles during peak student drop-off and pick-up times? Is there enough road frontage? Are the sightlines good and do you have enough distance to safely enter and exit the property from the road?

The Pelion property is ideally suited for a new middle school. It is directly across from the high school allowing students to share educational and extracurricular opportunities, as well as to maneuver back and forth between the middle school and high school for those opportunities.

It is directly off Highway 178, will provide good sightlines and safe travels in and out of the new school, and minimize costs associated with road development.

This site will minimize traffic issues in the area by providing plenty of area for stacking cars during morning drop off and afternoon pick up.

Overall site development
Are utilities (electricity, water, sewer, internet) available in the area? If not, how far away are they from the location? The Pelion property is a perfect site with all major utilities readily available or on their way to this location. If the utilities were not readily available, this could significantly impact the overall cost for site development per acre. Thankfully, this site will minimize any utility development costs.

What site work would the district need to do to a piece of property in order to make it build ready? What does a topographic survey indicate? The Pelion property’s topographic survey shows that it is an ideal site with minimal elevation changes. This will keep the cost of site development low and be a cost savings for our taxpayers.

Other site development questions
How much vegetation is on the site, what types of vegetation are on the site and what age is the vegetation on the site? The vegetation on the site consists of small scrub trees that can be easily removed in the areas of construction. This is another example of cost savings.

What does the geotechnical study of the soil indicate? The geotechnical study of the soil shows good sandy, well-draining soil that is ideal for construction.

Are there any wetlands on the property? There are no wetlands.

What do environmental studies show? Has the site ever had any environmental hazards placed on the site?
There are no environmental hazards on this site.

Summary
As you can see, the property search process is very involved. You have to look at what piece of land meets these overall guidelines best — keeping in mind that it is hard to find a large piece of land that does all of them equally well.

The Pelion property is a rare piece of property that matches all of these needs and guidelines exceptionally well. While we know that some people in the community feel that the initial per acre cost was higher than anticipated, we know that the property is a bargain when you consider all factors of site development (access to utilities, road frontage and development, topography, etc.). Because it not only meets but exceeds our expectations for a site, it will keep the cost per acre low throughout the development and construction process. Just because the cost of land is cheaper up front does not mean that the final cost per acre will remain cheaper if the site requires excessive site development.

The district prides itself on being good stewards of tax dollars and keeps site development costs in mind because it directly impacts the bottom line and the final per acre cost of the project.

When the district locates a piece of property that fits its needs, it reaches out to the landowners to see if they would be willing to sell.

Who owns the property has nothing to do with the land purchase. Some people have expressed a belief that the district purchased this site because of its past relationship with the owners. This is not true.

With more than 4,000 employees, Lexington County School District One is the second largest employer in Lexington County. Obviously, then there are thousands more family members, past employees, retired employees, past board members, etc., who still live in Lexington County.

It would be very difficult for the district to purchase land or to do business for that matter, if the district had to exclude all landowners or businessmen with either past or current relationships of some kind to the district or its employees.

We are excited about the potential of the Pelion property and the construction of a long overdue middle school that will be the world-class school the children of Pelion deserve.