After four years of negotiations, the Santa Rosa County School District on Tuesday finally approved purchasing 45 acres of land on the Tiger Point Golf Course to build a new school.
With both the school board and the city of Gulf Breeze's approval, the two parties will now enter a due diligence phase before signing on the dotted line.
The school district has been eyeing the parcel on the old golf course for years to help alleviate school overcrowding in the southern part of the district. But the purchase hasn't been without controversy — some neighboring homeowners' associations oppose the building of a new school on that particular piece of property, saying it will cause traffic issues in the residential neighborhood.
Still, at Tuesday morning's school board meeting, the board members unanimously approved the purchase. The district will shell out $1.5 million for the property, or $2 million less than the property's $3.5 million appraised value.
“There has been three and a half, almost four years worth of work relative to purchasing this property,” Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick told the school board on Tuesday. “We’ve coordinated significantly with the city of Gulf Breeze, and we’ve had multiple, multiple appraisals, multiple surveys, multiple easements. There are 22 pieces to this very complicated purchase recommendation.”
One of the "pieces" to which Wyrosdick referred was the continuing use of part of the 45-acre parcel as a spray field for South Santa Rosa Utility, the water utility owned by the city of Gulf Breeze. The city has long used the golf course property to discharge its treated wastewater.
Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Joey Harrell said the district had undergone several years' of environmental studies and toxicology testing to ensure that the school site would be appropriate for students and teachers.
“We’ve been assured that this is a safe practice and that our children will be safe in regard to that effluent,” said Buddy Hinote, chairman of the school board. “It’s a fairly large magnitude, 250,000 gallons a day.”
Earlier this year, construction began on a 222-unit apartment complex also located on the Tiger Point Golf Course, the second development that has riled up nearby neighbors. The apartments will be located on the old St. Sylvester school site, and the school will be located on the south end of College Parkway, on the east side of the pond, on former holes four through seven. The back nine holes of the golf course, unused since Hurricane Ivan in 2004, are for sale by the city and will likely remain a golf course.
Wyrosdick told the News Journal on Wednesday that he hopes there will be a new school on the Tiger Point land within the next five to eight years.
The Tiger Point parcel is the latest piece of land the district has scooped up in an attempt to have space to build more schools, solving the critical school overcrowding crisis faced by more than half of the county's schools.
The district has set aside $11 million over the past two years specifically for the purchase of new school land, money which the board has re-allocated from funds that would have gone to repairing existing schools.
Annie Blanks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8632.