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George Aznavorian, a businessman who spearheaded the Downtown Moneta and Mayberry Hills residential and commercial subdivisions near Smith Mountain Lake, has offered 35 acres.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
The Bedford County School Board is considering a developer’s offer of a 35-acre tract of land for a new middle school.
The school board may vote tonight on whether to approve a feasibility study on the property located on U.S. 460/U.S. 221 next to the Bedford Area Family YMCA.
The land has been offered by George Aznavorian, a businessman who spearheaded the Downtown Moneta and Mayberry Hills residential and commercial subdivisions near Smith Mountain Lake.
The reversion agreement negotiated by the city of Bedford and the county calls for a new school in the Liberty High School attendance zone to replace Bedford Middle School after the city reverts to a town in July. School officials are aiming for an August 2016 opening for the new school.
The school board has also studied property adjacent to Liberty High School on Virginia 122 and is open to exploring other sites.
Aznavorian, who lives in Moneta, said that he had planned to build a retirement community of patio homes on the property, but had dropped that idea. He is developing the Harmony in Bedford mixed-use project nearby and said that having homes and a school close to one another could spur more economic development on the west side of Bedford.
“This is a renaissance for the west side of town,” he said. “People like to live near schools, so you could expect to see some economic growth.”
He said that the location could be beneficial for both a school and the YMCA, which could offer after-school programs within walking distance for students.
Aznavorian urged the school board to look at his offer during a public hearing Tuesday night. Some board members seemed willing to consider the offer.
“It’s too big of a gift not to look at it,” said Kevin Willis, representative of District 7.
District 6 board member Kelly Harmony said the property on U.S. 460 could be big enough to build a middle school now and potentially a high school later.
Superintendent Douglas Schuch said it is important for the board to first determine which school it wants to build, a new middle school or a new high school.
“I would hate for us to go through all this effort and build the wrong school,” he said.
He added that taking a look at Aznavorian’s land would be a wise investment to determine if building a school there is possible.
Lynchburg-based engineering firm Wiley/Wilson studied the feasibility of locating the new middle school on the current Liberty campus, with the two schools serving students in grades six through 12. Board members and several area residents who spoke at the hearing believed there wouldn’t be enough space for two schools on that site.
All three proposed options in the study called for moving sports fields to a new location in order to make room for the new middle school on the Liberty campus.
Several speakers did favor having the middle school as close to the high school as possible, noting that it allows for the schools to share teachers and facilities.
Mary Jo Boone, executive director at the YMCA and a mother of high school- and middle school-aged children, urged the board to look at Aznavorian’s offer, adding a new school “would have no better neighbor than the Y.”
School board Chairman Gary Hostutler said the board will discuss Aznavorian’s offer tonight and possibly vote on whether to direct Wiley/Wilson to conduct a feasibility study. He said that if the school is to open in 2016, the board needs to act soon.
“We need to make a decision sometime this year,” Hostutler said. “We will have a two-year construction cycle and will need to get architectural plans and get the ball rolling.”
Tom Wilmoth of the Bedford Bulletin contributed to this report.
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