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School property sold to developer

| Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2001

The site originally earmarked for Bower Hill Elementary School in Peters Township will be subdivided into homes.

School board members on Monday unanimously approved the sale of the 77 acres to Woodrow Welsch, a Peters Township resident. Welsch was the high bidder among five bidders, offering $1,025,000.

Welsch said he plans to build single-family homes on the property, and since he is currently in the preliminary planning stage, he could not say how many homes would be built. He plans to take a proposal to the township within two months.

This was the second time that the property, zoned for residential use, went up for auction. Last fall, the district rejected two bids - $540,000 and $78,000 - for the property.

All five bidders this time bid more than the high bid at the last auction. The lowest bid this time was $576,000. The second highest bid was $755,000, slightly more than the property's original appraised value.

'I think it was in the range we expected,' Dan Solomon, business manager for the district, said about the high bid.

Solomon said the district actively sought more bids, with advertising, and sending notices out to everyone who previously had developed land in the township. He said that all five bids were from developers, but said that any development plans would face topographic obstacles.

The district bought the land to construct Bower Hill Elementary School, but later bought an adjoining piece of land where it was easier to build the school. The school opened in 1999, and the district had until next month to sell the site originally intended for the school.

The sale price was about $250,000 more than the appraised value. Commonwealth Appraisals estimated the value of the land at $750,000 last fall, but school district officials feared the value of the land could drop if the township made the land a woodlands protection area.

Welsch said he bid on the land because of the area it was in in the township and the school district, and expected more bids in the range in which he bid.

Three of the five bids were below the appraised value, and Solomon suggested that the woodlands designation could have been a factor.

Commonwealth Appraisals had suggested that the value of the land could drop by as much as $200,000 if the designation went through. Woodlands protection designation protects trees on a land parcel by forcing developers to make lots closer together with common green areas.

Welsch said he didn't necessarily consider the woodlands designation a negative one, and that it could enhance the aesthetic quality of the development.

Welsch said Heartland Homes of Upper St. Clair would be the builder for the project, and that any public inquiries should be directed to them.

Vince Guerrieri can be reached at vguerrieri@tribweb.com or (412) 306-4533.

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