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PENN VALLEY, Calif. February 6, 2018 – “Western Gateway Recreation & Park District regrets that the Penn Valley Union Elementary School District prematurely walked away from the negotiating table, and in the process flouted the law, in order to get the former Pleasant Valley School site onto the open real estate market. We believe their ultimate goal is to get the property into the hands of a private developer, who we understand already offered them $1.1 million. PVUESD had no intention of negotiating in good faith. Examples of their bad faith maneuvers include the lack of a completed appraisal of the property 60-days into the 90-day negotiating period, well over 120 days after the school closed, and 10 months after the closure decision. Moreover, PVUESD left the negotiating table before a business plan or financing could even be discussed.

The result of their delays wound down the negotiating clock with the goal of achieving a problematic $1.2 million valuation less $100,000 in deferred maintenance, as stated in their official appraisal report. Oddly, though, their own findings upon which they based their closure decision states the deferred maintenance at well over $400,000, with the total cost of a complete modernization at $12 million. Additionally, PVUESD refused to obtain the necessary zoning changes that their inflated price tag hinges upon, despite the nudging of Supervisor Hank Weston. Based on this fact alone, any real estate amateur would recognize that PVUESD is ambitious in its quest to demand $1.1 million for a school site with a residential zoning designation it does not presently maintain. To be clear, the property is currently zoned “Public”. Further, and something PVUESD conveniently omits, is that state law requires any former school site that is sold and then developed into residential housing contain 25% low-income units for a period of 55 years.

State law is explicit under the Naylor Act, that when school districts declare a former school site to be “surplus property,” the school district must work with any Recreation & Park District that has jurisdiction over the surplus property to ensure that any portion of the property that was used for open space and recreation is preserved. In this spirit, the Naylor Act subsequently provides for the sale of such land to occur at a significant discount. Realizing this, the school district, their Folsom-based Superintendent, and their Sacramento-based attorney all knew that this law would prevent them from realizing their $1.1 million dream valuation.

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While Western Gateway realizes that years of difficult financial climates created a chronic budget hole to the tune of (surprise!) $1.1 million for PVUESD, no one of sound mind should think that a quick land deal is a prudent way to solve their ongoing fiscal woes. In fact, such a solution simply rewards poor decision-making. Additionally, the scenario is even more absurd when one considers that they were given the land by the same entity that gave the Park its land: Boise Cascade. To consider this another way, would anyone think it reasonable for Western Gateway to begin selling off its real estate if it were in dire financial straits?

Western Gateway sought the input of the community and the advice of County Counsel on how to resolve this issue in a cost-effective and collaborative manner. We were encouraged to seek mediation with the school district to identify a win-win for both parties. Regrettably, the Governing Board of PVUESD decided to decline mediation, move on from negotiating with Western Gateway, and in so doing invited Western Gateway to file a lawsuit in order to stop them. Realizing that getting PVUESD back to the negotiating table through the courts would cost the Penn Valley community upwards of $100,000 (through the combined legal fees of both public entities), Western Gateway decided that financial prudence must reign the day. In other words, Western Gateway decided it would not commit the funds to stop PVUESD from squandering a public asset in order to save PVUESD from itself.

During the process, PVUESD incorrectly argued that the Williams Ranch School campus suffices as recreational space. Interestingly, though, their own school closure reports detail that they plan to close this campus as well in three years’ time. In other words, we’ll be back at this again soon. To be sure, Western Gateway fought the good fight, and appreciates the interest and outpouring of community support in the attempt to keep public property open for public use. Sadly, and in the end, the Penn Valley community is the loser here.

– The Board of Directors of the Western Gateway Recreation and Park District”