VUSD finalizes purchase of 83 acres
Visalia Unified purchases land from Kaweah Delta for $5.49 million for site of sixth high school
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
VISALIA – It will be at least another 15 years before Visalia Unified School District needs a sixth high school, but it already knows where it will be built.
At its Aug. 13 meeting, the Visalia Unified School District board finalized the purchase of 83 acres at the southwest corner of Lovers Lane and Caldwell Avenue. The resolution was the final step to close escrow on the $5.49 million property owned by Kaweah Delta Health Care District and provide a down payment of $20,000.
Robert Groeber, assistant superintendent of administrative services for Visalia Unified, said there are no plans to build another middle school and high school but the district is always looking for land to meet its growth needs. The district did the same thing about 15 years ago when it purchased property on the northwest corner of Riggin Avenue and Akers Street, where Ridgeview Middle School was built and opened in 2016. The district’s fifth high school is slated for adjacent land just west of the middle school.
Similar to the purchase of the land where Ridgeview Middle School and the next high school will be built, Groeber said the district is constantly identifying land outside of the city limits as future school sites.
By buying the land now, Groeber said the district pays significantly less for the property before it has been slated for development and the price goes up. The district will also maintain the ag lease on the property so it will recoup some of the money for the purchase price over the next 15 years or so.
VUSD will use development impact fees to cover the cost of the purchase. Impact fees are charged on property within the district boundaries when it is developed for commercial or residential uses.
The 83 acres was originally planned as a site for the relocation of Kaweah Delta Medical Center more than a decade ago before the hospital decided to stay and reinvest in downtown. Under the terms of the contract, Kaweah Delta retained 20 acres fronting onto Caldwell for a future clinic location but Visalia Unified has first rights if Kaweah Delta decides to sell the property.
Trustees Joy Naylor and Walta Gamoian were somewhat unsure where the money to purchase the land will come from. Groeber explained the money is primarily from General Fund balances that have been placed into a reserve account. The rest of the funding will come from the sale of surplus property the district currently owns. In February, the Superintendent’s Property Advisory Committee designated nearly 100 acres of property as surplus.