center seeks to own part
of Mount Pleasant school building
Community Center proposes to acquire the portion of the building
housing Mount Pleasant Elementary School that it has occupied
since 1989. According to Chris Koyste, the community center's
lawyer, state Senator Harris McDowell has agreed to insert a
provision into the epilogue to this year's capital spending bill
to make that happen.
Delaforum that the arrangement would be akin to subdividing a
structure and the land on which it stands into separately owned
townhouses. Clayton Atley, a member of the community center's
board of directors, said less than a third of the property would
be involved and the transaction would not interfere with the
operation of the school nor the Brandywine School District's
intention to relocate its administrative offices there later
superintendent Mark Holodick said it "would be a little
premature" to comment on the proposal because it has just been
received. A private meeting to discuss details of the proposal
has been scheduled.
"At this point
we're open to all ideas and suggestions," Holodick said.
"Whatever is decided has to be good for both the district and
the community center."
indicated that, after 21 years of close active cooperation and
common interests, the community center has no desire to create
an adversarial relationship with the school district. "We see
this as a good opportunity to create a win-win situation for
both of us," he said.
brought about the decision
to seek separate ownership was receipt in March of notice from
the district that it was going to take the community center's
playground and play field behind its side of the building to
provide parking for employees who will work in the
administrative offices. As Delaforum previously reported, the
district also has sought to negotiate a new lease which, among
other things, would require the community center to pay $1,000 a
month rent. Since it has occupied the east portion of the
building the community center has paid a token $1 a year.
management was taken aback by the manner in which the notice was
presented. "We didn't participate in the decision. ... They just
told us it was going to happen and [asked] when were we going to
move the playground," Atley said.
The district in
2008 reclaimed an area in the basement which required the
community center to renovate another area to accommodate tenants
who had been there at a cost of $18,000, he said. "That was the
first time ever that they moved to take back anything."
The 14-acre Mount
Pleasant property extends along Duncan Road between Philadelphia
Pike and Brandywine Boulevard near the incorporated town of
provision in the legislation, which is commonly referred to as
the state's annual bond bill, would not amount to confiscation,
Koyste explained, because the property is state owned with the
title nominally in the school district's name as an agency of
acquiring clear title to the portion of the property it occupies
would eliminate a long-standing concern. With an annually
renewable lease, the community center could be evicted at any
time. Consequently, it finds it difficult to obtain grants to
finance its activities and to borrow money. "We're
[currently] paying on a loan with 7¼%
interest because we're an unsecured creditor," he said.
The proposed new agreement
provides that, after five years, the district can evict the
community center upon three-year notice.
The current agreement with the
district provides for the community center to fully maintain its
portion of the building and to pay for heat, light and such.
Several years ago the community center, with approval from the
district and financial support from the community, built a $1.5
million addition to the building.
The building was
empty when former state Representative David Ennis arranged for
the community center to receive financial support to relocate
there from what previously had been Edgemoor Elementary School,
which was closed after public school districts were reorganized
following federal court-ordered desegregation in the late 1970s,
Koyste said. "At the time, it was intended as a community
facility," he said.
Pleasant Elementary opened, a mutually beneficial relationship
quickly developed, he said. There is internal connection between
the two entities which allows for such things as members of the
Sellers Senior Center reading to and having other activities with
the young children. The community center also provides before-
and after-school child care.