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Land adjacent to school may be an option for expansion

School Board members are considering whether to acquire 140 acres near Crystal River High School.

On the surface, securing more property for the landlocked school seems a good idea. Crystal River High needs more parking, more ball fields, another access road and room for expansion.

But there are complications.

Much of the property is wetlands and cannot be developed. The land owner, a corporation related to the Tamposi family, wants to give the land to the school system in exchange for relief from $1.4-million in future impact fees.

Board members aren't so willing to give up the money: They have noted that the impact fee dollars might be needed later for construction of a new high school or other school projects.

Earlier this week, School Board attorney Spike Fitzpatrick urged board members to visit the school once students return in August. Seeing the crowding firsthand might help members determine the deal's merits.

The lawyer said he expects to ask the board for a decision by its September meeting.

Crystal River High needs another road providing access into and out of campus. Such a road could be built on that land, connecting the school to Turkey Oak Drive.

Fitzpatrick also noted that, without the extra land, the school would have no place to put portable classrooms to accommodate additional growth.

The district conducted a $50,000 study to examine the property. Fitzpatrick reported that roughly 40 acres right around the school _ the portion of the parcel that would go toward ball fields and parking _ is all wetlands and undevelopable.

Fitzpatrick said about 46 acres of the 150 are pure wetlands where nothing can be done. Still, he said the board must weigh questions about what to do with the bulging Crystal River High School population, the crowding in the other high schools and the financial implications of accepting the deal.

Board member Pat Deutschman said she wondered how the land fit in with the long-range plan currently being developed by a committee of school officials.

Superintendent David Hickey said the land has not been a part of that discussion up to this point. But School Board Chairwoman Patience Nave noted that the committee was meeting again Monday and she would raise the issue then.

Deutschman said she didn't see additional construction in Crystal River as a pressing need. Much of the student growth in the district has been focused in the center of the county in recent years.

"Go over there and take a look at it," Fitzpatrick urged the board. "I just want you to make an informed decision."