Sunday, August 2, 2009

Is this REALLY the lot we should purchase?

Okay...three orders of business to dispense with right from the get go.

1. We sincerely appreciate the work that Nick Conrad has done for the school district in identifying lots to purchase for the high school's Home Building Program. Mr. Conrad is certainly one of the "builders" of whom, Dr. Culver frequently speaks.

2. We think that the Home Building Program has been an incredible addition to the high school curriculum offerings. Not every kid goes off to college after high school. The mission of the district is to provide an education that will prepare ALL students for life beyond high school. And, for those who are blessed with construction skills, this is an outstanding program. There are many of us that were born to be dangerous with a tool in our hands. We salute those whose special talent for working with tools and materials can be honed to designing and building beautiful homes.

3. By our count (and we could be in error), the Home Building Program is about to being work on its 6th home. The 5 built to-date have been beautiful homes. In fact, this year's home was certified as a "green" home. These homes all sold relatively quickly after construction, and the district has more than covered the cost of the program. Many such programs cannot make that claim.

This leads us to the topic du jour: selection of the lot to purchase for NEXT year's (2010-11 school year) home construction class. Mr. Conrad and the district have looked at a number of lots and one was selected and presented to the Finance Committee for initial approval last Monday. The recommendation to purchase was approved to be forwarded to the full school board on a vote of 3-2, with the three board members (Diedrich, McCourt, and Shimek) voting in favor, while the two citizen representatives voted against. Hmmm. The citizens didn't like the lot selection, the school board did. Sounding familiar?

Why this may not be the best lot
The mantra of real estate professionals everywhere is: "Location. Location. Location." That's because three most important things to consider when buying or selling real estate are all the same: location.

So...why is this perhaps not the best location? We'll give you four reasons that the school board seems to be ignoring. And what magnifies these concerns is that they all come within 1/8 to 1/4 of a mile tops from the proposed lot.

1. Sun Prairie Memory Gardens cemetery to the north. The good thing? At least these neighbors should be quiet. [bah DUM! OK...we couldn't resist that one] But who chooses to live this close to a cemetery?

2. Proximity of the Wisconsin Cheeseman warehouse just a stone's throw to the southwest. With all operations being moved here from the Broadway drive site, traffic--especially truck traffic--is a growing concern. Again, how many choose to locate their house so close to a commercial enterprise of that size?

3. Whooo! Whoooo! No...that's not a cheer for this lot location...that would be whistl;e comming from the railroad line another stone's throw due south that runs northeast from there. Just as you're listening to the morning birds' calls, you'll get THAT little wake up.

4. Landlocked. There's only one way out, folks...and that is Clarmar drive heading north.

For these reasons, we do not believe this is the best place to showcase the talents of the students in the Home Building Program.

The case for the purchase of this lot
The ONLY substantive thing we heard to support this purchase was the price. The district can purchase this lot for $56,000, just $1,000 over the 2009 assessed value. Yes, the price is good. We've paid typically between $60,000 and $70,000 for previous lots, and lot cost goes a long way into the eventual market price.

The only other rationale was that it is hard to find a seller who's willing to wait one year to close on the sale (because that's how long it takes....although we're not sure we understand that because the option to purchase the lot can be done at the fall elector's meeting (and in fact will be up for discussion at this year's meeting). And since we get our initial outlay for the lot once we sell the house, it's not really a financial it?

We just think that this is an interesting time for board members to start getting concerned about costs. There was no such concern expressed by the vote when the board voted to approve 3.8% increases for teachers and administrators. And we KNOW that their intent is to extend that 3.8% increase to an across the board increase for all contracts...oh yeah...except for Local 60.