New Findings Prompt Additional Hearings On Vacant LEUSD Schools

Circumstances surrounding the vacant schools -- Butterfield Elementary on Grand Avenue in Lakeland Village and Jean Hayman Elementary on Lemon Street in Wildomar -- have changed.

It’s back to the drawing board for two vacant Lake Elsinore Unified School District properties.

“We’re starting over,” LEUSD Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Services Greg Bowers told the Surplus Property 7-11 Advisory Committee Tuesday night.

The committee is a group of community members tasked with providing recommendations to the LEUSD board on what to do with the two surplus properties.

Bowers told the committee Tuesday that circumstances surrounding the vacant schools -- Butterfield Elementary on Grand Avenue in Lakeland Village and Jean Hayman Elementary on Lemon Street in Wildomar -- have changed.

As a result, the committee is now leaning toward selling both properties, which is a shift from earlier discussions. In late January, the committee was considering a recommendation to lease Jean Hayman. But Bowers said a decision by the State Allocation Board involving the Morongo Unified School District in San Bernardino has swayed thinking.

The Jean Hayman site sits on earthquake faults. Morongo Unified has a similarly situated school and sought to appeal the Division of the State Architect’s determination that the site was not inherently dangerous.

In February, the State Allocation Board agreed with Morongo Unified and said the district could forgo housing students at the school. The decision has paved the way for Morongo Unified to possibly sell the site and apply for hardship money to open a replacement school.

Bowers said the State Allocation Board’s finding suggests the same option could be open to the LEUSD regarding the Hayman site.

“The intent would be to open a replacement school in the general Wildomar area” if the Hayman site were sold, he said, noting that an exchange or lease of the property are not off the table.

“The order would be to sell first, then exchange, then lease,” Bowers said.

As for the Butterfield site, the committee had previously indicated it favored recommending the district sell the property, and that appears to still be the case, but new details have complicated the issue.

During the process of getting an updated appraisal on the property, it was discovered that the site is larger than originally thought.

Instead of being a three-parcel site encompassing 17.09 acres, the Butterfield property is actually five parcels totaling 18.53 acres. The district is in the process of cleaning up the ownership snag with the county on the two additional parcels, and Bowers assured the committee the paperwork errors would be corrected.

There are no deed restrictions on any of the five parcels, Bowers clarified.

But even with the added land, the Butterfield site has dropped in value over the last eight months. According to Bowers, last year the property appraised at $3.4 million and has since dropped to $3.18 million.

He also explained that the proposed Lake Elsinore Advanced Pump Storage Project, known as the LEAPS Project, may impact the Butterfield site.

“If we were to lease or sell the property, it would have been an issue,” Bowers said. However, he said that on closer examination it appears the proposed project would not directly affect the site.

“The project appears to be adjacent to the property,” he explained.

Bowers told the committee, however, that dust and construction traffic could still impact the site if the LEAPS Project were to move forward.

It was decided Tuesday that as a result of all the new findings, the committee must start over and once again hear public comments on what to do with the properties.

Bowers said the Riverside County Board of Supervisors has expressed interest in purchasing the site.

Currently, Bowers estimates that the two vacant parcels cost the district approximately $200,000 annually to maintain.

Lake Elsinore resident and Elsinore Hang Gliding Association President Ken Niemi presented the committee with a petition that includes 180 signatures from residents near the Butterfield property. Niemi is asking that a portion of the vacant school site be preserved as open space for the public’s use.

In previous meetings regarding the Butterfield property, Niemi has requested that a portion of the site be preserved as open space for hang gliders who land in the area.

“For the most part, people want to have a park over there,” Niemi said Tuesday.

The committee is expected to hold a public hearing on the surplus properties May 24 at 6 p.m.  A venue has yet to be determined.

(Keep checking the Patch events calendar or the Lake Elsinore Unified School District site for updated information on the upcoming hearing.)



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