Franklin school land off market: Appraisal of 60 acres near high school comes in lower than expected

Franklin school leaders had considered selling part of the high school campus if the price was right and the future neighbor was a good fit, but no sale is planned — for now.

The idea was nixed because of what two appraisers said the land would be worth, and the amount came in much lower than school officials were expecting, considering the development of a massive Meijer grocery store nearby.

About 60 acres on the east side of campus is worth $32,000 to $35,000 per acre, the appraisal reports said. School officials had expected the land to be worth possibly twice that much or even more, especially based on what Meijer paid for its nearby land on U.S. 31, and the land’s proximity to the highway. Property records show the land that Meijer is building a store on was sold at one time for more than $90,000 per acre.

“In our minds, it was a lot more valuable than that, and we didn’t have to go out and sell it,” Franklin schools superintendent David Clendening said. “So we just went out to see what it was worth.”

To get the appraisal, the school board had to vote to declare the land surplus property. Based on the appraisals and Clendening’s recommendation, the board has now voted to take the land off that list.

Some students, parents and residents who cherish the cross-country course, located on the land that could have been sold, are relieved. Clendening said that when the high school was built, school officials, runners and their families knew that if something developed, the course could eventually be moved. But that was nearly 10 years ago, and today’s active families weren’t aware that it was always a possibility.

“If it were ever to be sold in the future, we will have just as nice or better course than we have now,” Clendening said.

“We love our property, but we can’t predict the future.”

Clendening expects the price of the property to continue to go up, so having a current base value is worthwhile, he said.

The possibility of a land sale came up earlier this summer when a developer asked the school district if it would consider selling about 30 acres on the east side of the campus. Besides housing a portion of the cross-country course, the land is mostly unused by the school district and rented to a farmer. The 62 acres the school district had appraised was about 25 percent of the high school campus.

Another issue for the school district was the future enrollment and if that land would ever be needed. A demographic study is underway.

The 236 acres that the high school sits on was purchased in 2003 for $4.3 million.

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Michele Holtkamp is editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at mholtkamp@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2774.