The San Carlos City Council may have indicated a preference at last Monday night’s meeting for selling rather than swapping land for a charter school — but it isn’t necessarily sold on the idea.
The council will meet in a special closed session Monday afternoon at which City Manager Jeff Maltbie is expected to present a revised or different proposal for an arrangement with the San Carlos Elementary School District to house its Charter Learning Center.
“I have no idea what the details are but it may circle around some ways the district can give cash for Crestview and not accept Tierra Linda,” said Mayor Mark Olbert, referencing the two pieces of city and district-owned property at play.
Maltbie couldn’t be reached for comment on the planned discussion but Olbert said he can’t imagine favoring an option with a large price tag for the district or the city giving up its land.
Councilman Ron Collins said his goal Monday is reaching an answer that aids more than the charter school students.
“I’m looking for a solution that benefits everybody and the swap as proposed would have only benefited the charter school directly because we would have had no ability to develop the field. What I would like to happen is a solution that will result in a field being built so that all the children and everybody in the community will benefit,” Collins said.
Collins declined to share details on where he might propose that field to be.
The district originally proposed swapping its parcel near Tierra Linda Middle School for the city land near North Crestview. But the land value is unequal, Crestview neighbors have come out in strong opposition and the city said it doesn’t have the millions of dollars needed to turn the Tierra Linda land into a full park with athletic fields.
Without the ability to do anything with the land, Collins said the city is no better off in terms of field space and only the charter school students ended up with anything different than the current circumstances.
“We’d be trading a piece of land we don’t use for a piece of land we can’t use,” he said.
The school is pushing for a decision quickly because it is under a time crunch to use 2012 bond money and the city would need to ask voters to rezone the Crestview land as something other than park space to do anything new with it. The council has until August to get the rezoning measure on the ballot and will vote at its next meeting but needs four members on board.
The bigger question is if voters agree to open up the possibility of a new use what exactly that will be — hence last Monday’s leaning toward a sale and the upcoming meeting to continue looking at alternatives.
Collins and Olbert said city staff was directed to focus on a sale because out of the three possibilities — sell, swap or lease — the first was the only one that nabbed a majority of three councilmember votes.
Olbert feels the city would be remiss to sell its land because even if development money isn’t available now that doesn’t preclude the future.
“At least we would have control over some property and that is a big component, not having to buy land somewhere for fields,” he said.
Olbert said some suggested that if the district had to raise money through a bond to purchase the land it is like taxpayers borrowing money to pay themselves.
“It’s sort of a back end way of getting money raised by the school district for the city,” he said.
The City Council meets in closed session 2 p.m. Monday, May 19 at City Hall, 600 Elm St., San Carlos.
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