Affordable housing project dead after failed sale of Kingsbury Middle School | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Affordable housing project dead after failed sale of Kingsbury Middle School

Students head to class Tuesday morning at Kingsbury Middle School.

The sale of the Kingsbury Middle School to a developer with plans for 420 units of affordable housing is off the table after the Douglas County School District Board unanimously voted to deny another extension of the closing date.

Glenbrook-based developer Lake Parkway LLC entered into a purchase agreement for the property back in July 2016 for $3.15 million. In November, trustees approved a five-month due diligence period extension to allow the buyer more time for a traffic study. Another extension was granted after the July 12 deadline was not met.

At the Aug. 8 Douglas County School District Board meeting at the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, however, the board voted to not grant an additional extension and instead prepare the Zephyr Cove property to be put back on the market.

Patrick Taylor, CEO of Lake Parkway LLC, addressed the board at the meeting, suggesting that since the original purchase agreement expired on July 31, that he was prepared to offer four new options, ranging in price and closing date from $2.5 million on Oct. 8, to $3.125 million on Sept. 8, 2018.

Taylor had hoped to rezone the former school into a residential property and erect 420 units of affordable housing. The project got pushback from nearby residents who cited potential impacts to recreation, the environment and the small community.

"I don't have any confidence whatsoever that even if we accept any of these offers that these would ever materialize. I think it is time for the board to re-evaluate the position that we're in," said board president Tom Moore. "I do think that the market has changed, and it would be in our best interest to get another appraisal and put it back on the market."

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Taylor said a change in business partner was to blame for the delays in closing the sale.

Steve Teshara, president of the Tahoe Chamber, addressed the board as a resident of Douglas County in support of the project.

"My observation is you manage schools pretty well, but when it comes to selling property, you don't do that very well. You don't understand the issues that have been involved," said Teshara during public comment. "It is a big risk for somebody to buy the property and undergo the zoning changes that would be necessary to do anything other than a school."

Both Teshara and Taylor pointed out that since the school was closed in 2008 and went on the market in 2012, there have been no other offers.

Though over a dozen Douglas County residents attended the school board meeting, only two spoke out against the sale.

Greg Felton, a Stateline resident and trustee on the Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District Board, said that he believes interest in the property has picked up.

"I have talked to two people in the last week who are very interested, and as far as I can tell have the wherewithal to make a deal with the district," said Felton. "You've got options."

Kingsbury resident Curtis Fields pointed out that an additional 420 units of housing could mean a large number of children that would need placement in the district's schools.

"It was discussed at the last meeting that it is no business of the school board's what is done with the property. [I would argue] that you have a vested interest in what happens with the property especially when that could impact the school district tremendously," said Fields.

MOVING FORWARD

"I knew they would probably make that choice and I'm ok with it," Taylor later told the Tribune. "They made a really poor decision."

As for if he'll make another offer: "We'll see. We'll let them sit on it for a couple of more years and then we will go out and probably offer the appraised value again."

Until then, Douglas County must decide how to proceed with the zoning of the property as they prepare to submit the draft Tahoe-Douglas County Area Plan to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. The county had delayed submitting the plan because they were waiting for Taylor to initiate an environmental study, which would examine the impact of moving from a school use to a residential use.

"We will need to evaluate as we move through the update to the area plan any updates to the land uses that may be appropriate for that site," said Mimi Moss, director of community development for Douglas County. "We may have discussions with the school district again, but we'll need to regroup and work to moving that area plan ahead and onto the TRPA."

But another interested party may be making a move for purchasing the property and rezoning now that Taylor's sales agreement is off the table.

Jenay Aiksnoras, owner of Lake Tahoe Yoga, said she is interested in purchasing the property and turning it into a Health and Wellness Retreat Center.

"I've been working on it for about six months, but I couldn't predict how the school board was going to vote or what was going to happen with the current deal in place, so I wasn't moving very quickly," said Aiksnoras. "Of course now that the doors have opened a little wider, I'm definitely working more quickly toward the goal that I've had in place."

Aiksnoras said she would like to transform the existing building into a space focused on health and wellness, afterschool programming for students, and senior activities. She said there are local businesses and individuals who are interested in collaborating, as well as some from Reno.

But for now, the school will remain vacant.