On hold for now: Deal to sell Sedgefield Middle School land for townhouses

Location of the land Pulte Homes is offering to buy for townhouses.
Location of the land Pulte Homes is offering to buy for townhouses.

A deal between Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Pulte Homes to sell 3.7 acres of land that’s currently part of the Sedgefield Middle School Campus is on hold for at least a month, after county commissioners voted to defer a decision until September.

The CMS board has reached – but not signed – a contract to sell the land for $3.85 million, which it declared surplus property in October. Under state law, Mecklenburg County has the right of first refusal on the property, and commissioners must vote whether to buy the land or pass before anyone else can purchase the tract.

The middle school’s campus totals 24 acres. The northeast corner of Sedgefield’s campus that’s on the table for sale to Pulte abuts Sedgefield Neighborhood Park, and a walking path runs across the parcel to McDonald Avenue. County staff is recommending Mecklenburg decline the right of first refusal and let CMS sell the land (The walking path would remain, they say).

Pulte would use the land to build townhouses in between the school and the adjacent single-family houses on Ideal Way. There are other townhouse developments underway nearby, including Central Living at Ideal Way, and Pulte Homes is developing townhouses in South End and Plaza Midwood.

Neighbors speaking at Mecklenburg County’s regular commission meeting last week said they haven’t had adequate time to understand and respond to the proposal.

“We’ve had an overwhelming response” since the deal became known said Will Johns, president of the Sedgefield Neighborhood Association. “My email’s been blowing up...We truly love our land, our trees, our schools and our public space.”

Some commissioners said they were also surprised.

“The first time I heard about this was when it appeared as an agenda item,” said commission vice-chair Dumont Clarke. “I feel a little bit blindsided as you do by CMS...This is not the first time this concern has come up.”

Others were skeptical of the proposal.

“Right there at the back door of the school?” asked commissioner Vilma Leake. “We always talk about greenway and property for the kids to have some place for the kids to play in the community together. I’m sad the school system is not thinking from that perspective.”

A CMS representative said the school’s fields won’t be impacted by the proposal.

“You can’t change my mind, darling,” responded Leake.

Other commissioners seemed more inclined to decline the right of first refusal.

“It isn’t our job to decide whether it ought to be nice pretty trees or squirrels or anything else. It’s not our job to decide if nature would be better served,” said Bill James.

Commissioner George Dunlap pointed out CMS would likely ask for more money if they didn’t sell the land: “If we don’t let them sell it that’s $3.8 million they’re going to come back to the taxpayers for...That’s a lot of money.”

And commissioner Jim Puckett said he doesn’t think the county will ultimately buy the land from CMS.

“The fact of the matter is we’re not going to have anything to do with it,” said Puckett, who called the delay “a feel-good motion.”

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo