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School district moves ahead with site for new high school project

Wilkes-Barre readers are probably aware that one of the ongoing issues the district has been discussing is where to build a new high school. In 2015, the school board approved a plan to combine Meyers and Coughlin high schools, but it has been a struggle to locate a site for the project since that time.

Initially, the consolidated school was going to be built on the site where Coughlin stood, but late last year, a hearing was held on proposed zoning changes for the project and the plan was rejected by the city zoning board. Some of the other sites that have come under consideration are a plot of land off State Route 115 and a Geisinger Health System site, both in Plains Township.

Earlier this month, however, the school board approved plans for a new site located in Wilkes-Barre Township, a plot owned by Pagnotti Enterprises. The site must still be approved by the Department of Environmental Protection, so it isn’t a done deal. The Department of Environmental Protection’s job will be to conduct environmental testing to ensure the site meets regulatory requirements as there are some concerns.

Back in 2014, the site was the subject of a feasibility study which highlighted certain environmental issues. Among the issues was that the plot has apparently been disturbed by mining activities. Specifically, it had been used to dump soil from deep mining and as a disposal site for culm ash. A previous groundwater analysis conducted between 2005 and 2010 found, however, that there was no contamination.

The cost of the site is estimated at up to $118 million. There is some disagreement about the costs involved in other sites, but the Pagnotti plot is likely going to cost more than the other options.

Certainly, projects like this can take time to get off the ground and there can be multiple hang-ups that cause delays. In our next post, we’ll discuss some of the general steps involved in real estate development and the importance of working with an experienced attorney.

Sources:

The Citizens’ Voice, “W-B Area narrows school site search to Pagnotti parcel in Plains Twp.,” Michael P. Buffer, May 4, 2017.

The Times Leaders, “Zoning hearing on new high school in Wiles-Barre delayed another month,” Jerry Lynott, Oct. 19, 2016. 

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