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Board to compare high school sites

One difference between the two Woodbury sites being considered for a third high school is that one is landlocked and the other could be expanded.

Comparing a 120-acre site that could be expanded at Dale Road and County Road 19 with an 80-acre site that has no expansion at Bailey Road and Pioneer Drive will be the job of the District 833 School Board at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17.

District administrators warned board members at the Oct. 5 board workshop that putting off a decision until November would delay the already tight timeframe for opening the school by the fall of 2009.

The other contrast between the two sites is price. The land at the Bailey Road site is estimated at $120,000 to $135,000 an acre with the Dale Road site at $15,000 to $30,000 an acre.

But the total cost of developing the land at either site, before actual construction of a building, is reasonably close with the Bailey site at about $7 million and the Dale Road site at about $6.8 million.

A third site, in Cottage Grove west of the Cottage Grove Cemetery on 70th Street was withdrawn before the sites under consideration were made public. The property is owned by a number of heirs who could not agree on selling to the district, district officials said. Just before last week's board workshop, an offer to sell part of that 120-acre property was made, but officials decided the price was too high, said Superintendent Tom Nelson.

The district has a signed option agreement to buy the Bailey Road site, under which the property owner agrees to keep the land off the market until the school district makes its final decision.

There are four parcels of land at the Dale Road site. The district has a tentative agreement to sell on one, and is close to reaching agreements on two others. The district has submitted an offer to the New York City owner of the fourth parcel, said Mike Vogel, assistant superintendent for operations.

The Bailey site has 74.5 acres of usable land and a school would be sited on the south half with fields to the north.

Access to the site would be off of a four-lane extension of Pioneer Drive. Four sets of traffic signals would be needed, according to the city of Woodbury. Another road to the school would be built from Radio Drive south of the Bielenberg Sports Center. Existing fields at the center could be used by students during the day, according to the city.

"The goal is to have all fields on the main site," Vogel said.

A conflict between the city and the district as to whether there are wetlands on the site that need to be protected needs to be resolved, according to Vogel. A district environmental evaluation shows no wetlands.

The district could also use city land to the east that is now a gravel pit, for surface water runoff storage. The city plans a regional storage pond on the pit site. There would be a charge to the district for storage, however.

There is another 20 acres on the northern part of the gravel pit site available for playing fields but no permanent structures could be built there. Nelson said it would not be safe for students to cross a four-lane road to a field. Board Member Marsha Adou said the district could consider building a tunnel under the road.

The Dale Road site is "preferred," according to the district's Land Acquisition Site Analysis, while the Bailey site is "acceptable."

The Dale Road site is designated to have a 20-acre pond for storm water runoff. The pond could be made smaller and deeper but must be located somewhere on the property.

"It could be as small as 10 acres," Vogel said. "But it must accommodate a fixed amount of water."

Sewer is available on County Road 19 but water would have to be brought in from Bailey Road, for just under $1 million.

After questions from board members, Vogel said future land developers would be allowed to count the pond in their calculations to take surface water runoff.

The charge for developers to consider the pond as an off-site collection area would go to the city as well as charges for future developers tapping in to the new water main.

Four sets of traffic signals would also be needed at the Dale Road site with access onto Dale Road and County Road 19.

Land to the south of the Dale Road site is owned by 3M. Because there was a dump there, the company, by an agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in the late 50s, maintains water-monitoring wells.

According to a district environmental evaluation of the site, there is no groundwater contamination. There is also a 40-acre buffer between the potential school site and the 3M property.

"The flow of the water is from north to southwest, away from the school site," Vogel said, adding the district would be drawing on city water, not groundwater.

As the district gets closer to a decision, Nelson said an ice-hockey facility would not be built at the new school, with ice time available in Cottage Grove and Woodbury.

The school will not have an activity center as was built on to Woodbury and Park high schools. Instead, a multi-use gymnasium would be built within the school to accommodate the same activities.

Public input is due prior to Oct. 17 by phone, 651-458-6339; and by e-mail at The public may also attend the School Board meeting from 6 to 6:45 p.m. Oct. 17.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600