School District, Township, Discussing Land Swap For Some Consolata Property

Mayor Phil Kramer said a potential land swap deal between the township and school district would be a “win-win-win.” (File photo.)

A deal through which the school district and township would swap land – leading to a new home for the district’s administration – could soon come to fruition.

Under the deal’s terms, the township would be given the building and property at 1755 Amwell Road – the old Middlebush School – in return for giving the school district three buildings on about 13 acres of the Consolata property off Route 27.

A school board official said the deal could be accepted by the BOE by the end of the year.

The township purchased the Consolata property earlier this year for about $14 million. Part of the property is reportedly being eyed by the Somerset County YMCA for a new facility.

Two of the three buildings the school district would acquire could be used by the district for its administrative offices, said Ed Potosnak, the Board of Education president. The third, he said, would be used as a community center.

Potosnak said discussions about the property have been ongoing between the township and school board for about six months.

“Part of it was exploratory, was the school district interested in the facility?” he said. “We don’t know until we look, so we took a field trip and examined the facility. The administration put together what their current facility usage is and how that might apply in the new building.”

The Middlebush School building, he said, “is not really a good fit” for the district.

“The Middlebush School building is an historic building, it’s very old, it’s not made for administration, it’s not handicap-compliant,” he said.

Potosnak said the deal would give the district a little more land – the current building is housed on 11 acres – would be handicapped-compliant without the expense of retro-fitting the Middlebush building, and could serve as a home for professional development programs.

There will be a little cost, he said, in planning for and refurbishing the buildings, mainly because there are apartments in them from the missionaries’ use. Those would have to be renovated into office space, he said.

“The expenses are very minimal,” he said. “Certainly less than if we’d have to invest in Middlebush.”

But the cost would be less than making the Middlebush building handicapped-accessible, he said, a project which is included in the district’s long-range Facility Master Plan.

“It just makes sense for everyone,” Potosnak said. “For the township, they are getting a key strategic piece of property close by to the municipal building and other facilities that they have.”

The third building, which was the missionaries’ visitor center, would be renovated into a community center, Potosnak said.

Now the building houses a multipurpose room, a kitchen, a small chapel, a gift shop and some offices, he said.

“That would be need to be re-tooled and our hope is that we make that available to the public as a community center on that side of town,” he said.

Mayor Phil Kramer said the deal is a “win-win-win” for everyone.

The township, he said, bought the land for less than it was really worth, “so we saved some money.”

He said he had no problem with letting the school district enjoy the fruits of that savings.

“It’s a good thing for the school district, and we want to help the district out,” Kramer said. “We may keep the building and use it as a storage facility,” he said, or the township could subdivide the 11-acre parcel and sell a portion of the land.

Potosnak said the proposal is scheduled to be voted on by the school board at its December meeting.

“I think it’s exciting for our staff to be able to have the professional development space and be handicap accessible,” he said. “It’s exciting for the township because they have this property they purchased to preserve the open spaces and they have a user of that that keeps it in the family of the township and makes it accessible for community events and functions.”


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