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Site selection committee ranks properties for new school in south WaltonSite selection committee ranks properties for new school in south Walton

Feb 14th, 2014 | 0

By ALICIA LEONARD
Walton County School District(WCSD) Facilities Planner Tom Blackshear presented the Walton County School Board with five properties as possible sites for a new school in the future in south Walton County.
With an eye towards future growth trends, the committee was tasked with finding property for possible school sites in the area. In total, the committee ranked the five sites from the most favorable to least favorable.
The committee is made up of Blackshear, board member Dennis Wallace, Mac Carpenter and an administrator from a south Walton school. Items outlined in inter-local agreements between the site committee and local municipalities help members define the most wanted characteristics when looking at available land.
Criteria that the committee used included, topographical characteristics, supporting infrastructure, compatibility with present and future use, archaeological sensitivity, and environmental concerns, including water table levels, soil consistency, drainage, storm surge and flood zones. The current South Walton High School met similar criteria before being built.
Quite a few of the five had issues with wetlands and flood zones. Through a geographic information system (GIS) mapping program the county made for the committee, the board was able to look at different areas of concerns and help members understand the pros and cons of each parcel.
The two top ranking sites were number one: Forest View, a parcel of 33.75 acres close to the Bay County line and two miles east of Emerald Coast Middle School (ECMS). The second in line was a parcel of 40 acres with an additional 20 acres for purchase north of ECMS.
Blackshear said of the number one choice, “this is the highest and driest of all the candidates.” The westernmost piece of the property is the one the board is taking notice of with adjoining acreage being discussed as a possible recreational facility by the county. Even being the driest of properties seen by the committee the number one pick still has three acres of wetlands that cuts down on space to build. If the board looks at the second choice there is a total of 33 usable acres out of the 60 acres if both parcels were purchased together, according to Blackshear. The cost of either choice would likely total close to the same amount; around $3 million, even though they are priced differently. The first parcel is priced at $100,000 per acre and the second at $50,000 per acre.
WCSD Attorney Ben Holley told the board that two appraisals on the highest rated property would have to be done and the board needed a thorough environmental study done as part of any contract they may entertain in the future, as well as title insurance to protect the district.
A spokesman, John King, speaking for the Foreman/Sneed family told the board there were 46 usable acres from the property that was rated second in line (if purchased with the additional 20 for $900,000, it already had access and infrastructure in place and the 40 acres could be purchased for $2 million.
In the regular board meeting held after the site selection committee meeting, the board moved 5-0 to have two appraisals done on the first choice by the committee.

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