SOLON– The Solon Community School District (SCSD) was looking for a new building site.
Now it has one.
At a regular meeting Monday, Feb. 10, Solon school board members approved a $450,000 purchase agreement for approximately 11 acres of land owned by Don and Yvonne Epley west of the high school.
Board members also set a March public hearing date for a lease agreement which will allow the Epleys to maintain their current residence for up to two years.
“We’re very grateful for them to be willing to work with us through this process and get this accomplished tonight,” said board member Rick Jedlicka, who indicated the longtime Solon couple had been working with board members behind the scenes for months.
The school board held several closed sessions regarding the possible acquisition of land in connection with a facilities study, which concluded with a report and recommendations last fall.
“It became very clear to us that some additional land would be necessary,” said board president Dick Schwab. The board looked at a number of options around the community, but really wanted an opportunity to maintain a campus setting for the district, he said.
The district took the initiative to meet with the Epleys, whose land is located directly west across Racine Avenue from the existing high school, Schwab said.
“They hadn’t planned on selling the property,” Schwab noted, “but they engaged with us and it’s a very fortuitous evening for the district in my view.”
The land will likely be targeted as the site for a new middle school, one of the larger facility improvements the district is considering for a fall bond issue.
The SCSD has been actively developing conceptual plans for a new middle school, an auditorium addition to the high school, along with a wing to house life skills and an art studio.
“Thank you,” board member Dan Coons said to the Epleys, who were present for the meeting. “Your impact on this district is going to be very great. It’s a legacy you’re going to leave forever.”
A motion to approve the purchase agreement was passed unanimously by the board.
At the March board meeting, a public hearing will be held on the associated lease agreement with the Epleys.
The proposed lease would allow the Epleys to continue living on the Racine Avenue property for up to two years after its sale to the school. The Epleys would rent back the land at a cost of $4,500 a year.
“Part of the discussion with the Epleys was the transition for them out of their property because they’d been there for 50 years,” Jedlicka explained. “One of the biggest challenges was we didn’t want to displace them, and they obviously had this dropped in their lap and weren’t ready to be displaced.”
The lease gives the Epleys extended time at the property and ample time for an eventual relocation, he said.
“And it gives us some time in terms of flexibility on what we want to do with their property,” Jedlicka said. “I think the board has some idea where we’re going, but you know, those things can change.”
Schwab said the district considered a number of options for the Epleys, but purchasing the property and leasing it back turned out to be the best.