Oxford’s board of education has had its eye on the land just south of and adjacent to the high school’s current property for some time.
At its Nov. 27 meeting, the board voted unanimously to enter into a $500,000 purchase agreement with the Bingham Farms-based Burton-Katzman for 13.6 acres of land, starting with a $25,000 security deposit.
Should the board pull out of the purchase agreement in the coming weeks, it will receive that payment back.
The board members don’t have any plans for the land, but feel the purchase is an investment in the district’s future.
“Even if we don’t use this property for brick and mortar, even if we don’t build an actual educational facility building, we can use it for multiple things . . . That is just a good business decision,” said Trustee Heather Shafer. “That’s what a good, effective board does.”
The money used to purchase the land will come out of the district’s general fund, meaning no bond funds will be expended for the purchase. The board is trying to move quickly on the purchase to avoid paying taxes on it for this fiscal year.
Superintendent Tim Throne expects Oxford High as well as the district as a whole to grow, and he thinks the purchase will benefit the district years down the road.
“I would say the main motivation for us looking at this is that this is the last piece of land that actually touches our current facility at the high school,” he said. “It’s my opinion that, a couple of things. One, I think Oxford will continue to grow and two, I don’t see Oxford ever becoming a two high school town. If both of those things are true, then at some point we’re going to need to expand our facilities at the high school.”
Currently, the property has placeholder sanitary sewer and water easements. To make the land buildable in the future, the district is hoping to move both easements to the southern end of the property. The Oxford Township Board will have to approve the relocation of both easements.
“My understanding is that the township is in favor of the schools acquiring the property,” said Gordon VanWieren, a lawyer with Thrun Law Firm, which the district has been working with on this. “Until we have actual proposed routes and courses for the new easements, it’s our thought to meet with the township once we can say here’s where we (want the easements).”
If the easements are approved for relocation, the board expects the retention pond on the property to either shrink in size or change locations. This would make about eight of the 13.6 acres buildable should the district want to erect another building in the area.
Though the district has no plans for the land, board members said it could be used for a number of things. Ideas included a high school expansion, central office space, a building for Oxford Bridges, practice fields and parking.
“At some point down the road a superintendent beyond me and a board beyond us will come back and say, ‘Boy, I’m sure glad that the board back in 2018 took action to get this land to use it however the school may deem necessary,’” Throne said.
The board as a whole was in strong support of the purchase and, whether the land is needed in five years or 15 years. Officials felt they were making a good investment.
“We are investing in the future, I mean with everything,” said Trustee Korey Bailey. “We started off with this property (and) you know, we may not touch this for 10 years, but we’re preparing for it. And it’s a good investment for the school, for future generations.”