Church turns down Duluth school district’s final offer for landAfter more than three years of negotiations, Christ Lutheran Church in Piedmont Heights has turned down the Duluth school district’s final offer to pay $150,000 for about 2 1/2 acres of land to use as a recreation field for Piedmont Elementary School students.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
After more than three years of negotiations, Christ Lutheran Church in Piedmont Heights has turned down the Duluth school district’s final offer to pay $150,000 for about 2 1/2 acres of land to use as a recreation field for Piedmont Elementary School students.
Church members voted 78-9 on Wednesday not to sell, said church council president, Tom Ochocki.
“We do fully intend to work with them for limited use,” he said. “We’re not going to say no, that’s for sure.”
The negotiations have a long history. Ochocki revealed that the district approached the church, at 2415 Ensign St., early in 2009 about purchasing its adjacent field to satisfy state green-space guidelines for new urban schools.
“We endorsed that offer of $150,000, with contingencies, and agreed to work with them because we wanted to see the school built in Piedmont Heights,” Ochocki said, but the offer wasn’t finalized.
In 2011 after talks and appraisals, Ochocki said, the district offered $295,000. The congregation voted to accept the offer, but the Duluth School Board voted to put the matter on hold. The School Board approved a new offer of $150,000 — which was the original offer — last June.
The Minnesota Department of Education has relaxed green-space guidelines since the 2011 offer.
The church turned down the offer because the district has indicated its need isn’t as great, Ochocki said. Other reasons include not wanting to increase the financial burden of the district and no need to sell the property, he said. Control over future ownership is another reason.
“If we sold to the school district and they decided to sell it, we would have no input into the new owners,” Ochocki said.
The district’s plan is to continue to work with the church on a long-term agreement for using the field and to share parking facilities for events that both the church and the school put on, said Kerry Leider, property and risk manager for the Duluth school district.
“The church has allowed the school to use the field over the years, prior to the new school,” he said. “We’re working on a new arrangement and confirming that relationship.”
School Board Chairwoman Ann Wasson said she appreciates the partnership between the school and the church.
“We want to continue to be good neighbors to Christ Lutheran,” she said. “We hope to work something out to where we can use the field and possibly have them use our facilities as well.”
The land is reached from the school by crossing Ensign Street and the church’s parking lot. District officials have said crossing guards and adult supervision would be used to help students cross safely during times when the field would be used.
Superintendent Bill Gronseth has said that not every district elementary school has its own green space for play or physical education, but each has access to space nearby through agreements with entities such as recreation centers.